U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE LIMITS BANKRUPTCY COURTS' POWERS ON CLAIMS FOR FRAUDULENT TRANSFERS
U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, ruling yesterday in a case involving the Refco litigation trust, said that bankruptcy judges do not have the power to make final rulings on claims for fraudulent transfers and unjust enrichment, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Stern v. Marshall case, Bloomberg News reported today. Bankruptcy judges can only issue reports and recommendations to district judges, Rakoff said in the Refco opinion. In their requests to have cases moved from bankruptcy court to district court, some Madoff defendants have cited Stern, which stopped the former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith’s heirs from collecting millions of dollars from Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall's estate and put district judges in control of more bankruptcy issues. Judge Rakoff, who let the New York Mets owners move their dispute with the Madoff liquidator to his court, received more than 400 requests during the week ended April 2 from companies sued by trustee Irving Picard. Those seeking to move cases included HSBC Holdings Plc, UniCredit SpA and Merrill Lynch, as well as former spouses of Madoff's sons. The transfer of cases has undercut Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland's power to reverse some fraudulent transfers and limited Picard's ability to collect money to pay victims of Madoff’s $52 billion Ponzi scheme, the largest in U.S. history. This month, Rakoff sent 84 lawsuits against investors back to bankruptcy court, limiting the trustee to trying to take back two years of fake Ponzi profits rather than six years of payouts from the scheme. Read more.
WITNESSES AT HOUSE HEARING SAY ASBESTOS TRUST FUNDS NEED GREATER TRANSPARENCY TO PREVENT FRAUD
The congressionally created system of asbestos trust funds needs greater transparency to prevent potential fraud, a series of witnesses told the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law at a hearing examining H.R. 4369, the "Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2012," BusinessInsurance.com reported today. The bill, which was introduced in April by Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), would require federal asbestos bankruptcy trusts under §524(g) to make quarterly public reports about claims, payouts and other activities to bankruptcy courts. S. Todd Brown, an associate professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School, said that fraudulent claims paid out in secret by trust administrators threaten the ability of the trust to handle future claims, and nothing in the bill requires more information than is required in bankruptcies every day. Marc Scarcella, manager at Bates White Economic Consulting, testified that transparency in the operation of the asbestos trusts is "critical" and that the measure would provide a "cost-effective, efficient" way to deal with claims. Charles Siegel, a partner in the Dallas-based law firm of Waters Kraus & Paul L.L.P. who represents claimants in mass tort cases, testified against the bill, saying that H.R. 4369 was "designed to slow down the payment of claims" to people suffering from mesothelioma. Siegel said that if the bill becomes law, it would impose "onerous" administrative burdens on the trusts. Click here to read the prepared witness statements.
NEW CFPB RULES MAY CURTAIL SOME FEES IN MORTGAGES
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said that it planned to propose tighter mortgage lending regulations that would limit the ability of banks and mortgage brokers to charge certain transaction fees, the New York Times reported today. Bureau officials said that the rules, which were released yesterday ahead of formal introduction this summer, would ban mortgage companies from charging origination fees that vary with the amount of the loan. The consumer bureau also said that it would require that lenders offer a reduced interest rate when a consumer opted to pay upfront discount points and would require lenders to offer a loan option without points. During the financial crisis, some lenders charged the points without lowering the interest rate. Changing that rule, the bureau believes, will make it easier for consumers to weigh offers from multiple lenders. Click here to read the CFPB's press release.
VOLCKER DEFENDS RULE BARRING BANKS FROM PROPRIETARY TRADING
Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, defended the regulatory rule that bears his name, telling the Senate Banking Committee yesterday that the Volcker Rule was a "solid step toward reining in" banks that are considered too big to fail, the New York Times’ DealBook blog reported yesterday. Volcker has championed efforts to bar banks from trading with their own money, a practice known as proprietary trading, which is outlawed under the new policy. The Volcker Rule, a crucial component of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul law, was rooted in his belief that banks should not place risky bets while enjoying government deposit insurance and other backing. Volcker argued yesterday that his namesake rule would make a serious dent, not only in outsize risk-taking, but in the likelihood of future Wall Street bailouts. Read more.
REGISTER FOR THE LABOR & EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE'S "EVOLVING LABOR ISSUES IN CHAPTER 11" WEBINAR
Make sure to mark your calendars for May 23 from 2-3 p.m. ET for the ABI Labor and Employment Committee's "Evolving Labor Issues in Chapter 11" Webinar. A panel of experts will be discussing recent developments in several large complex bankruptcy cases, including Hostess, Kodak, Nortel and American Airlines. The expert panel includes Babette A. Ceccotti of Cohen, Weiss & Simon LLP (New York), former chief counsel of the PBGC Jeffrey B. Cohen of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC (Washington, D.C.), Marc Kieselstein of Kirkland & Ellis LLP (New York) and Ron E. Meisler of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
Issues to be discussed include:
• Hostess' efforts to eliminate their multi-employer pension plan contribution liability through motions to reject their labor agreements under Section 1113.
• Kodak's attempt to terminate retiree health benefits.
• The effect of the automatic stay upon efforts by the U.K. Pension Protection Fund and the U.K. Nortel Pension Plan to enforce its powers under the U.K. Pensions Act.
• American Airlines' efforts to reduce legacy costs in bankruptcy.
U.S. TRUSTEE PROGRAM RE-OPENS COMMENT PERIOD ON PROPOSED GUIDELINES FOR ATTORNEY COMPENSATION IN LARGE CHAPTER 11 CASES
The U.S. Trustee Program has re-opened the comment period until May 21, 2012, on proposed guidelines for reviewing applications for attorney compensation in large chapter 11 cases ("fee guidelines"). The USTP also scheduled a public meeting for June 4, 2012, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. on the proposed fee guidelines. Click here for more information on submitting comments or attending the public hearing.
JUNE 5 WEBINAR WILL EXAMINE HOW TO HANDLE AN ADMINISTRATIVELY INSOLVENT ESTATE
Panelists from one of the top-rated sessions at the 2011 Winter Leadership Conference are going to reconvene for an ABI and West LegalEd Center webinar on June 5 titled "Handling the Administratively Insolvent Estate- What to Do When Your Chapter 11 Goes South?" CLE credit will be available for the webinar that will last from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET.
• Robert J. Feinstein of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP (New York)
• Cathy Rae Hershcopf of Cooley LLP (New York)
• Robert L. LeHane of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP (New York)
Robert J. Keach of Bernstein Shur (Portland, Maine) will be the moderator for the webinar.
The webinar costs $115 and purchase provides online access for 180 days. If you are purchasing a live webcast, you will receive complimentary access to the on demand version for 180 days once it becomes available. Click here for more information.
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: GORDON V. OFFICIAL COMMITTEE OF UNSECURED CREDITORS (IN RE ROYAL MANOR MANAGEMENT, INC.; 6TH CIR.)
Summarized by Dean Langdon of DelCotto Law Group PLLC
In an opinion not recommended for full-text publication, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed decisions by the District Court and Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio that denied creditors' claim and their motion to file a new claim.
Nearly 500 appellate opinions are summarized on Volo typically within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.
NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: CHAPTER 15 OFFERS SAFE HARBOR BUT NOT COMPLETE REFUGE FROM FOREIGN COURT RULINGS
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A blog post discusses a recent decision out of the Southern District of Florida regarding a shipping reorganization, SNP Boat Serv. S.A. v. Hotel Le St. James, in which the district court found that the bankruptcy court abused its discretion in not properly granting comity to a foreign reorganization proceeding.
Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.
ABI Quick Poll The debtor-in-possession model has proven too susceptible to abuse; a trustee should be appointed in every chapter 11 case, at least as a check on a DIP with more limited management authority.Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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