U.S. companies that engage in business in multiple jurisdictions should be mindful of a recent decision by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. In the Chapter 15 case of Energy Coal S.P.A., the bankruptcy court held that U.S. choice of law and forum selection provisions in a contract with a non-U.S. company did not override the terms of a foreign restructuring plan that was approved by a foreign court. The court stated that it is “appropriate to expect U.S. creditors to file and litigate their claims in a foreign main bankruptcy case.” See In re Energy Coal S.P.A., Case No. 15-12048 (Bankr. D. Del. Jan. 02, 2018). Continue Reading
Woodbridge Group of Companies, a luxury real-estate developer, filed for chapter 11 reorganization on December 4, 2017. Woodbridge and its 200-plus affiliates operated a sprawling, complex real estate enterprise that focused on the acquisition and development of high-end properties.
Although the company estimates the value of its properties to be nearly $1 billion, it asserts it was forced to seek chapter 11 protection due to increasing operational and regulatory costs combined with an inability to access new capital. Woodbridge’s inability to recapitalize outside of chapter 11 is due, at least in part, to questionable capital-raising practices and the attendant regulatory scrutiny.
Woodbridge’s Private Fundraising Practices Questioned By Regulators
Woodbridge historically raised capital through a “private fundraising operation” that has spawned more than 20 inquiries by state regulators and an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (which is seeking information from Woodbridge, its affiliates, and its insiders). Since 2012, Woodbridge and its affiliates had financed their expansion by offering short-term notes to individual investors promising substantial returns. Typically, the notes were issued by a Woodbridge affiliate and were described as being ultimately secured by a first-priority lien on valuable real property. More than $750 million of these notes—held by nearly 9,000 investors—were outstanding when Woodbridge filed for bankruptcy. Continue Reading
Last week, the Second Circuit established an “efficient market”-based approach for calculating cramdown interest rates. Adopting a test established by the Sixth Circuit, the Second Circuit held that courts must apply a market interest rate where an efficient market exists. See Momentive Performance Materials Inc. v. BOKF, NA (In the Matter of: MPM Silicones, L.L.C.), — F.3d —-, 2017 WL 4700314, No. 15-1682, (2d Cir. Oct. 20, 2017). The decision will be welcomed by secured creditors (and distressed investors) who previously could be forced to accept replacement debt with below-market interest rates under a chapter 11 plan. Lower “formula”-based interest rates are still possible in the Second Circuit, but only where a market does not exist for comparable new debt.
Norton Rose Fulbright released its Restructuring Newswire for the Fall 2017. Find the following topics in this issue:
- Supreme Court to decide scope of safe harbor protections against avoidance claims
- Extraterritoriality and the Bankruptcy Code: the uncertain reach of the US avoiding powers
- Sales of inventory: Third Circuit clarifies the meaning of “received” under section 503(b)(9) of the Bankruptcy Code
- Chapter 15 developments: United States enforce Canadian restructuring plans
To read the Newswire, click here.
A bankruptcy filing by one company does not necessarily mean that its affiliates will also file for bankruptcy. It is common for a financially distressed company to file for bankruptcy while its financially sound affiliates continue business operations in the ordinary course. The bad news, however, is that a court may disregard a company’s decision not to file for bankruptcy in connection with an affiliate bankruptcy filing if the company is managed and operated in a manner that disregards the corporate separateness between it and affiliates(s) that have filed for bankruptcy. Consequently, the assets of a non-debtor company may be made available to satisfy creditors of affiliates in the bankruptcy cases of those affiliates. However, the good news is that while such “substantive consolidation” of non-debtors with debtors is possible, it is generally unlikely. Indeed, if a single creditor of the non-debtor company will be harmed by the substantive consolidation of such company with affiliates in bankruptcy, the risk of such substantive consolidation becomes relatively remote. This scenario recently played out in a case pending in the Western District of Oklahoma. See In re Stewart, Adv. No. 16-1117, Doc. No. 163 (Bankr. W.D. Okla. Aug. 17, 2017). Continue Reading
Last month, the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District Of New York overruled an objection to proposed substantive consolidation provisions included in the plan of reorganization for Republic Airways Holdings Inc. See In re Republic Airways Holdings Inc., 565 B.R. 710 (Bankr S.D.N.Y. 2017). The bankruptcy court’s ruling provides a good refresher on the requirements of substantive consolidation in the Second Circuit. More importantly, the decision shows the importance that diligence plays not only at the time a lender/creditor enters into a transaction with its borrower, but also later on if both the borrower and the borrower’s guarantor end up in bankruptcy. Continue Reading
Earlier today, in Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp., the Supreme Court put an end to “structured dismissals” that allow a debtor to leave bankruptcy while circumventing the Bankruptcy Code’s creditor payment priority scheme.
A Chapter 11 debtor generally has three options for exiting bankruptcy: (1) a confirmed plan of reorganization (or liquidation); (2) conversion to Chapter 7 and liquidation of the debtor’s estate; or (3) dismissal of the bankruptcy case entirely. Chapters 11 and 7 both broadly require the debtor’s estate to make distributions to creditors in accordance with a statutorily mandated order of priorities (although Chapter 11 provides more flexibility than Chapter 7 in this respect). Continue Reading
Serving on a court-appointed bankruptcy committee can come with many benefits, and the list just got a little longer. In Blixseth v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit held that committee members enjoy some of the same protections as trustees when it comes to potential attacks for actions taken during a bankruptcy case. Applying the Barton doctrine, the court held that a committee member could not be sued outside the bankruptcy court for actions taken in its committee member capacity without bankruptcy court approval.
In the late 1990s, Timothy Blixseth (“Blixseth”) and Edra Blixseth (“Edra”), then husband and wife, developed the Yellowstone Mountain Club (together with its subsidiaries and related entities, “Yellowstone”), an exclusive ski and golf resort in Montana that caters to the “ultra-wealthy.” Blixseth was advised by his lawyer, Stephen Brown (“Brown”), in his business activities and, later, in his divorce from Edra. As part of the divorce, Edra received the Yellowstone companies. Continue Reading
A recent decision by Judge Sontchi in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware casts some light on the methods that representatives of non-U.S. debtors can—and can’t—use to track down those who owe such debtors money.
The Representatives of the Irish liquidation proceeding for Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited (“IBRC”) obtained recognition of the Irish proceeding under Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code on December 18, 2013. Following that recognition, the Representatives sought to use the discovery mechanisms available in the United States to gain access to the contents of a Yahoo email account maintained in the name of “Abdullah Rasimov.” IBRC is owed approximately €2.8 billion for loans it advanced to companies owned or controlled by Seán Quinn and his five adult children. Based on anonymous tips and confidential discovery conducted before the English High Court, the Representatives believe that the Rasimov account is associated with Séan Quinn’s attempts to evade repayment of the €2.8 billion. Continue Reading
Under the Bankruptcy Code, a creditor may be reimbursed its actual and necessary expenses in making a “substantial contribution” in a chapter 9 or 11 case. Whether a creditor has made a substantial contribution is a question of fact, but generally requires that a creditor demonstrate a tangible benefit to the estate. It is unlikely that a creditor would “throw good money after bad” and attempt to make a substantial contribution in a chapter 7 case where creditor recoveries are typically limited to pennies on the dollar. There may nevertheless be instances where a creditor’s actions substantially contribute to a chapter 7 case and yield an increase recovery for all creditors. Despite the lack of express authority to reimburse such expenses as an administrative expense outside of chapter 9 or 11, a divided United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently concluded that a creditor could be awarded its expenses that substantially benefit a chapter 7 estate. See In re Connolly North America, LLC, No. 13-2489 (6th Cir. Sept. 21, 2015). Continue Reading