St. Johns Case Blog

March 10 2010

By: Michael Ryan Diaz
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
 
In ASM Capital, LP v. Ames Department Stores, Inc. (In re Ames Department Stores, Inc.),[1] the Second Circuit held that section 502(d), which disallows claims of a party that has failed to return preferential transfers to the debtor,[2] does not bar payment for administrative expenses under section 503(b).[3] The debtor, Ames Department Stores, Inc. (“Ames”), filed a voluntary petition under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.[4] While in bankruptcy, Ames received a default judgment, for the recovery of preferential transfers,[5] against one of its suppliers, G & A Sales, Inc. (“G & A Sales”).[6] Also facing insolvency, G & A Sales filed a bankruptcy petition and transferred to other entities all of its assets, including two administrative claims against Ames for providing post-petition supplies.[7] These administrative claims were sold to ASM Capital, a distressed-debt investment firm. Meanwhile, Ames’ board of directors eventually decided that liquidation, rather than reorganization, would maximize value for the debtor’s estate.[8] In the midst of liquidation, Ames made distributions for administrative expenses to certain claimants, but withheld payment to ASM Capital on the ground that section 502(d) disallows administrative expense claims that were acquired from a party who had failed to return any preferential transfer or its equivalent value. ASM Capital responded by filing a motion in the bankruptcy court to order the debtor to pay ASM Capital its administrative expense claims. ASM Capital argued that section 502(d) does not apply to administrative expense claims, but the bankruptcy court rejected this argument and denied the motion.[9] Although the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling,[10] the Second Circuit reversed and held that section 502(d) does not apply to administrative expense claims.[11] 
March 9 2010
By: Bertrand J. Choe
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
 
In In re Arclin U.S. Holding, Inc.,[1] the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware held that a company, subsequent to its chapter 11 petition, was required to continue health insurance premium payments made to a former employee pursuant to a severance agreement. In so doing, the court limited protections for debtors under section 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code,[2] which requires chapter 11 business debtors to continue “retiree benefit” payments post-petition. Six months prior to filing its chapter 11 petition, Arclin U.S. Holding, Inc. (“Arclin” or “debtors”) instituted a reduction in its work force, whereby thirty-nine of its employees, including Steve Phillips, were terminated. Phillips was given a severance package including separation pay, car allowance, and payment of his health insurance premiums. Upon filing for bankruptcy, Arclin discontinued its payments to Phillips, at which point Phillips brought the present suit. The court looked to the plain meaning of section 1114(a), which requires, inter alia, that for benefits to be considered “retiree benefits,” they must be both medical in nature and for retirees.[3] Since the benefits to Phillips included payments for health insurance, the court deemed them to be “medical” within the meaning of section 1114(a). The court further deemed the payments to be for retirees because of Arclin’s own description of the payments as “an early retirement package.”[4]
 
March 9 2010
By: Jacklyn A. Serpico
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
 
Federal law continues to have a disparate impact on same-sex couples filing bankruptcy petitions. In In re Roll,[1] the debtors, Roll and Currie, were a same-sex couple that filed separate bankruptcy petitions under chapter 7. They were residing together in the same household, along with Roll’s adult niece. The United States Trustee moved to dismiss the debtors’ separate petitions pursuant to section 707(b)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code based on the presumption of abuse of chapter 7.[2] The United States Trustee argued that, despite filing separate petitions noting their own individual finances, the couple’s finances were in fact shared, and thus, the debtors “should be treated as a single economic unit.”[3] The United States Trustee argued that the debtors’ combined income was sufficient to pay off their debts, and as such, their individual petitions listing insufficient separate finances constituted an abuse of chapter 7.[4] Yet, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin denied the motion to dismiss because the United States Trustee failed to meet the evidentiary burden demonstrating the debtors’ income and expenses to support a finding of abuse.[5] The court further discussed that the totality of the circumstances did not support a finding of abuse merely because the couple lived together, shared certain resources, and together had the potential ability to pay creditors.[6] More importantly, in emphasizing that only married persons may file joint petitions,[7] the court noted that same-sex marriages are prohibited under the Wisconsin Constitution and that federal law prohibits a federal court from recognizing any such marriage.[8] Consequently, the court reasoned that Roll and Currie had no choice but to file separately, and thus, have their income assessed independently of one another for purposes of determining abuse under chapter 7.
 
March 9 2010
By: Timothy Poydenis
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
 
The Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware recently held in In re Sportsman’s Warehouse, Inc., that landlords who seek payment of administrative claims for stub rent, the rent for the period from the petition date through the first of the following month, are not per se entitled to an administrative priority.[1] In this case, Sportsman’s Warehouse, a retail sporting goods store, filed for bankruptcy under chapter 11 on March 21, 2009. Sportsman’s Warehouse was renting the warehouse in which it operated its business. Despite the fact that rent was due and payable on the first of each month, Sportsman Warehouse failed to pay the rent due on March 1, 2009. Consequently, the landlord sought the allowance and immediate payment of the unpaid stub rent for the period from March 21, 2009, through March 31, 2009.[2] Although the court recently held that a debtor’s post-petition use and occupancy of leased premises, per se, creates an administrative claim,[3] the court held that its previous holding was a “misapplication of the law and will no longer be followed by this Court.”[4] Rather, the court held that a case-by-case analysis “must” be used to determine the amount of the benefit to the estate. The result of that determination will provide the amount of payment the landlord is entitled to as an administrative claim under section 503(b).
June 10 2009

By: Michael Buccino

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

In SLW Capital, LLC v. Mansaray-Ruffin (In re Mansaray-Ruffin), the Third Circuit held that a creditor’s lien could not be avoided through the confirmation of a Chapter 13 plan that treated the claim as an unsecured claim.

[1]

  Notwithstanding the importance of finality in bankruptcy proceedings and statutory language binding creditors to the terms of a confirmed plan, since the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure require an adversary proceeding to invalidate liens, the order confirming the confirmed plan was not res judicata with respect to the status of the creditor’s lien.

[2]

 

April 22 2009

By: Valerie Sokha

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

The derivatives provisions of the 2005 BAPCPA amendments greatly enlarged the scope of the financial contracts that are shielded from traditional bankruptcy limitations such as the automatic stay and the prohibition on ipso facto clauses.  Those exceptions were reaffirmed in a strong anti-debtor opinion in American Home Mortgage, Holdings, Inc. v. Lehman Brothers Inc.

[1]

Although Lehman may now regret its victory since it is a debtor in its own bankruptcy case, it succeeded in defeating a number of theories that might have limited the scope of the exceptions.  In an opinion relying in part on the market protection policy reflected by the exceptions, the Delaware Bankruptcy Court adopted a liberal definition of “repurchase agreement” that turned mostly on the intention of the parties as stated in the four corners of their agreement.

 

April 21 2009

By: Anna Drynda

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

Recently, the United States Bankruptcy Court for District of New Jersey in In re Kara Homes, Inc. held that affiliated Chapter 11 debtors, each owning separate real estate development projects for the construction of single family residences and condominiums, qualified as single asset real estate (“SARE”) cases, a holding that allowed the lenders expedited relief from automatic stay.

[1]

  The case focused on whether the debtors conducted “substantial business” other than operating the real property sufficient to exclude them from the SARE provisions.

[2]

  Adopting a “pragmatic approach,” the Court held that even if the business activities would qualify had the debtors performed them for third parties, such activities when performed for the debtor itself, or one of its affiliates, do not constitute substantial business.

[3]

  The residential home building business, although involving real estate, arguably has more similarity to a manufacturing operation than to the on-going property management operations of many SARE debtors.  The Kara Homes approach makes it very difficult for real estate developers to reorganize in bankruptcy.

April 20 2009

By: Caitlin Cline

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

Drawing a distinction between Chapter 11 plans and section 363 sales, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in General Electric Capital Corp. v. Future Media Productions, Inc.

[1]

that when an oversecured creditor is paid off through a section 363 sale, it is entitled to enforce a default interest rate provision and is not limited to the pre-default rate.  In contrast, if payment is made through a confirmed plan, the debtor may “cure” the default under section 1124 and avoid the default interest rate.

[2]

April 16 2009

By: Craig Kavanagh

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

Recently, the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court, in In re Bursztyn,

[1]

held that Fourth Amendment limitations applied to a trustee’s conduct in seeking to search a debtor’s residence with the intention of seizing undisclosed assets.  However, the Court reasoned that, by filing bankruptcy, the debtor had reduced her reasonable expectations of privacy

[2]

and the Court held that the trustee’s actions did not exceed the Fourth Amendment standards of reasonableness.

[3]

In Bursztyn, based on an investigation of court records of the debtor's recent divorce, the trustee suspected that the debtor was hiding valuable jewelry and artwork that was not listed in the debtor’s bankruptcy petition or financial affairs statements.

[4]

The trustee requested from the Court, ex parte, an order allowing her to search the debtor’s home with the hopes of obtaining the art and jewelry that now belonged to the estate.

[5]

The Court granted authorization, and the United States Marshals Service and the trustee served the order upon the debtor at her residence, and proceeded to search her bedroom and closets.

[6]

The search uncovered nearly two hundred pieces of fine jewelry and ten works of art, valued at nearly $250,000.

[7]

Claiming that the search and seizure violated her Fourth Amendment rights, the debtor sought to suppress all evidence uncovered by the trustee’s search.

[8]

April 15 2009

By: Thomas Scappaticci Jr.

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

 

The decision in Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Knupfer (In re PW)

[1]

cast doubt on the ability of a senior secured creditor to take title free and clear of junior liens under section 363(f) of the Bankruptcy Code.  In Clear Channel, the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that “[s]ection  363(f) of the Bankruptcy Code [does not] permit a secured creditor to credit bid its debt and purchase estate property, taking title free and clear of valid, non consenting junior liens.”

[2]

  The Court noted the split in cases interpreting the section 363(f)(3) ground for free and clear sales, but followed the more restrictive line that limits such sales to situations where the sale proceeds exceeded the face amount of all liens,

[3]

thus making it unavailable in cases where the junior liens are undersecured.  The Court’s interpretation section 363(f)(5) was more novel in nature, holding that a “cram down” is not a legal proceeding under that provision.

[4]

 The truly novel aspect of the opinion, however, was its holding that the section 363(m) statutory mootness provision applied only to the sale itself, and did not shield the section 363(f) free and clear aspect of the sale.

[5]

  This holding seems to allow a junior lien creditor to attack, post sale, virtually any sale that does not fully satisfy its claim.