By: Corey Trail
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
In In re Monticello Real Estate Investments, LLC, a bankruptcy court held that a creditor did not act in bad faith when it purchased unsecured debt from another creditor in order to have the votes necessary to veto a debtor’s reorganization plan. In Monticello, the debtor was a realty investor that took out a $1.185 million loan to finance the purchase of an office center. After the debtor failed to satisfy the loan by its five year maturity date, the bank and the debtor entered into two loan modifications that extended the maturity date of the loan. The debtor soon failed to adhere to the loan modifications and the bank began foreclosure proceedings. In response, the debtor filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy petition and requested authority to use cash collateral. The court granted the debtor’s request and instructed the parties to submit an agreed upon order authorizing the use of cash collateral that set forth a tentative agreement to restructure the bank’s debt. As part of the agreement, the bank required the debtor to sign two promissory notes that it claimed contained “standard loan documents.” However, the debtor rejected the standard loan forms and responded with a modified loan agreement, which the bank rejected. The debtor filed the new agreement (“the Plan”) without the required new loan documents. The court issued a second cash collateral order, which was again dependent on the execution of new loan documents. Subsequently, the court scheduled a hearing to confirm the Plan. Both the bank and a credit card company filed claims against the debtor. In order to ensure that the debtor’s Plan was not able to acquire the requisite amount of votes, the bank purchased the claim from the credit card company to obtain enough votes to block the Plan’s confirmation. The bank explained that had the Plan been confirmed, the FDIC would negatively rate the debt. The debtor moved to have the bank’s ballots designated pursuant to 11 U.S.C. section 1126(e), stating that the bank’s desire to dictate the terms of the new loan documents, the cessation of negotiation on the new terms before the expiration deadline, and the purchasing of other claims exhibited a lack of good faith required by the statute. The court however, disagreed, finding that because the execution of a new loan agreement on the bank’s terms was crucial to protecting the bank’s interests, the purchase of other claims to ensure that the Plan would not receive the necessary votes was not in bad faith.