On May 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided Wellness International Network, Ltd. v. Sharif—another case addressing issues raised in the wake of the Court’s “narrow” Stern v. Marshall decision. While the case clarified some of the jurisdictional issues raised by litigants post-Stern, many issues remain and each Justice seems more content than the next to decide these issues on the narrowest grounds possible. Continue Reading
When a defendant in a lawsuit files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will not necessarily have jurisdiction over the pending litigation. The court must determine that the case is either “core” or “related” to the bankruptcy. In Ammini v. Labgold (In re Labgold), Case No. 14-01043, decided on June 16, 2015, the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that it no longer had jurisdiction to adjudicate litigation involving the debtor—even though the litigation fell within the court’s “core” jurisdiction when first brought to the bankruptcy court—in part because the debtor/defendant had been denied a discharge under the Bankruptcy Code. The bankruptcy court therefore dismissed the adversary proceeding against the debtor/defendant and directed the plaintiffs to proceed with the case in state court. Continue Reading
In Nobel Group, Inc. v. Cathay Bank (In re Nobel Group, Inc.), the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California reviewed the scope of its jurisdiction post-confirmation and held that, notwithstanding plan provisions stating the contrary, the court did not have jurisdiction over the reorganized debtor’s claims asserted against its previously secured creditor. Continue Reading
Circuit courts are divided as to whether provisions of a bankruptcy plan of reorganization may release a non-debtor from creditors’ claims over the objection of a non-consenting creditor (i.e. non-consensual third-party releases). A majority of courts will permit non-consensual third-party releases under certain limited circumstances. This issue has been in the news recently with speculation that the treatment of non-consensual third-party releases was a contributing factor in the decision by the debtors in the Caesars bankruptcy cases to file for bankruptcy in the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois (which is located in the Seventh Circuit—a circuit that permits non-consensual third-party releases and applies a less stringent test).
In a March 12th decision, the Eleventh Circuit addressed the issue of non-consensual third-party releases in the case of SE Property Holdings, LLC v. Seaside Engineering & Surveying, Inc., (In re Seaside Engineering & Surveying, Inc.). In its decision affirming the approval of a plan of reorganization that provided for a non-consensual third-party release, the Eleventh Circuit provided a refresher on the circuit split and joined the majority of courts that permit these releases under limited circumstances. Continue Reading
Fraudulent transfer statutes were enacted to protect creditors from improper depletion of a debtor’s assets. They generally accomplish this goal by allowing creditors (or a bankruptcy estate representative) to avoid transactions that are either actually or constructively fraudulent as to creditors, and to recover some or all of the proceeds of the transaction. For example, if a leveraged buyout leaves a company insolvent, amounts paid to pre-buyout shareholders may be clawed back in a constructive fraudulent transfer action, even if those shareholders had nothing to do with orchestrating the buyout.
However, many fraudulent transfer laws contain special protections to limit clawbacks from innocent parties. For example, section 550 of the Bankruptcy Code, which governs recoveries under the federal avoidance actions, provides that a plaintiff may not recover from a subsequent transferee that “takes for value . . ., in good faith, and without knowledge of the voidability of the transfer avoided.”
Legions of cases have addressed what constitutes “value” under the Bankruptcy Code and analogous state law fraudulent transfer actions. Far fewer have directly addressed who must benefit from this “value” for the defense to be available. In the recent case of Janvey v. The Golf Channel, Inc., the 5th Circuit addressed precisely that question. Continue Reading
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently passed on a chance to join numerous other federal and state jurisdictions in rejecting “deepening insolvency” as an independent tort, leaving the doctrine weakened, but still technically viable in the significant bankruptcy arena. However, in In re Lemington Home for the Aged, the Court did strongly indicate that the doctrine’s days are numbered, noting that its recognition of deepening insolvency as a tort “is problematic, and at the earliest appropriate opportunity . . . should be revisited.”
History of the Doctrine
Deepening insolvency refers to the wrongful prolongation of a corporation’s life, theoretically resulting in increased debt and lower recoveries for creditors. Whether deepening insolvency constitutes an independent cause of action has long been a controversial issue. The rise and fall of deepening insolvency, which the Third Circuit called a once “plausible argument gaining increasing acceptance,” but “has since been widely repudiated,” is interesting and instructive.
On February 24, 2014, Chadbourne’s New York office hosted an expert panel to discuss the future of municipal restructurings. The panel brought together judges and other experts with experience in two of the largest municipal restructurings to date: Jefferson County, Alabama and the City of Detroit, Michigan.
On January 23, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit recognized the res judicata effect of provisions contained in a bankruptcy plan of reorganization that released all claims against a third-party guarantor. In deciding In re FFS Data, Inc., the court examined (i) the plain language of the plan provisions to determine whether a particular claim was included in the stated releases and (ii) whether the requirements for res judicata were met such that the confirmation order should be given preclusive effect.
Chadbourne released its Winter 2015 International Restructuring NewsWire this week.
Find the following topics (and more) in the Winter 2015 issue:
- The Year in Review: U.S. Bankruptcy and Restructuring Matters
- Think Twice Before Entering into a Pre-Filing Restructuring Support Agreement
- Review of Chapter 15 Cases in 2014: Relief Available to a Foreign Representative
- Stern v. Marshall: A “Narrow” Decision Still Causing Jurisdictional Mayhem Three Years Later
- Trademark Licensees May be Afforded Special Protections in the Licensor’s Bankruptcy
- Are Secured Claim Purchasers Under Attack?
To read the NewsWire, click here.
On January 14, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in Wellness International Network, Limited v. Sharif, a case that gives SCOTUS the opportunity to finally clarify the constitutional limits of bankruptcy courts’ decision-making power raised by its 2011 decision in Stern v. Marshall. But as we saw with last year’s decision in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison, just because SCOTUS has an opportunity to resolve Stern uncertainty and restore clarity to bankruptcy litigation does not mean that it will do so. It therefore remains an open question whether clarity will be restored to bankruptcy litigation or whether Sharif, like Arkison, will be resolved on narrow grounds that leave the most important Stern questions unanswered and fodder for further litigation.