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Pension Plans Retired by Section 1114

By: Courtney Sokol

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama concluded that the Bankruptcy Court had jurisdiction and entered a valid termination of retirement benefits pursuant to Section 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code. Moreover, according to the District Court, it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Appellants' challenge to the Bankruptcy Court's ruling under Section 1113. This ruling allows Walter Energy to terminate collective bargaining agreements with retired coal miners, thus allowing the “necessary” reorganization of the debtor. This suit was an effort by the United Mine Workers of America to preserve the retirement plans of covered employees of Walter Energy, a company seeking a protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. If retiree benefits were not halted the proposed purchaser, Warrior Met Coal, LLC, would not acquire Walter Energy.

Collateral Attacks May Allow Bankruptcy Courts to Alter Final Sale Orders

By: Louis Calabro

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Gunboat International, Ltd., the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina held that section 363(m) of the Bankruptcy Code, which protects a good faith purchaser from a reversal of an order approving a bankruptcy sale, does not apply to collateral attacks on a sale order under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”). In that case, the debtor (“Gunboat”) agreed to sell its interest in the G4—a sailboat model contracted between the debtor and two other parties—to a third party, Mr. Chen. In the months leading up to the sale, The Holland Companies (“Holland”), which held certain exclusive manufacturing and usage rights over the G4, had been negotiating a settlement agreement to buy Gunboat’s interest in the G4. Holland was unaware that Gunboat was attempting to sell Gunboat’s G4 interest to another party and believed that Gunboat should have given Holland an opportunity to make a more attractive offer considering its ongoing attempts to settle. On May 10, 2016, the court entered a final order approving the sale of Gunboat’s assets to Mr. Chen. Thereafter, Holland filed a motion to reconsider with the court under FRCP Rule 60(b); in response, Gunboat opposed.

KEIPs v. KERPs: Court Shows Deference to Chapter 11 Companies to Defend Their Bonus Plans Under BAPCPA

By: Sumaya Restagno

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”), Congress imposed strict limitations on payments made specifically to retain key employees of companies in chapter 11 bankruptcy and narrowed the circumstances under which these payments could be made through the addition of section 503(c). Under section 503(c)(1), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus to certain employees under a Key Employee Retention Plan (“KERP”) upon approval of the court and after a showing that certain required factors have been satisfied. Under section 503(c)(3), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus under a Key Employee Incentive Plan (“KEIP”) to certain employees after they attain certain measurable, difficult-to-reach milestones. Payments under a KEIP are described as being outside the ordinary course of business and are statutorily prohibited unless justified by the facts and circumstances of the case. Many courts have held this standard to be synonymous with the “business judgment” standard that governed KERPS prior to the BAPCPA which is not as strict as the test under 503(c)(1).

Chapter 11 Liquidation and its Effect on Collective Bargaining Agreements

By: Dylan Coyne

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., a Virginia bankruptcy court allowed a coal mining company to reject its collective bargaining agreements thereby permitting the company to sell its revenue generating assets. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (“Alpha”) is the largest coal producing company by volume in the United States and began to sustain severe financial difficulties after the coal industry began to decline in 2011. In an effort to stay afloat, Alpha began to cut costs by freezing wages, laying off employees and reducing benefits for non-union employees in 2013. In its Chapter 11 case, Alpha explored selling its core revenue generating assets to its prepetition lenders (the “Bidders”), who served as a stalking horse for the sale. The Bidders, however, were not willing to assume Alpha’s liabilities to Alpha’s unions as required under the collective bargaining agreement or under the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (the “Coal Act”). Accordingly, Alpha filed a motion for an order rejecting the collective bargaining agreements. Alpha’s unions objected to the request, arguing that §§ 1113 and 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code do not apply to Alpha since Alpha is liquidating and those sections address reorganization, and further that Alpha had not satisfied the elements of those same statutes.

The Relationship between Declaring Bankruptcy and Piercing the Corporate Veil

By: Lauren Gross

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In Music Mix Mobile, LLC v. Newman (In re Stage Presence, Inc.), the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York held that the plaintiffs’ alter ego allegations were sufficient to withstand a defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs, Music Mix Mobile, LLC, et al., alleged they were not paid by Stage Presence Incorporated (a chapter 11 debtor), One for Each Island Ltd. (“OFEI”) and three individual producers of the benefit program: Newman, Weiner, and Marquette for audio, editing, teleprompter, music mixing and other services they provided in connection with the Childhelp program. Among other theories of contract liability against defendants, the plaintiffs asserted that OFEI, Newman, Weiner, and Marquette should jointly share in the contract liabilities of Stage Presence on “alter ego” grounds.

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