Real Estate

Forward Contracts Preference Exception Broadly Construed

By: Brian P. King

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff    

Broadly interpreting the forward contracts definition, the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in Lightfoot v. MXEnergy, Inc.[1] held, for the first time, that a requirements contract to provide energy to a purchaser, absent a specific quantity, was a ‘forward’ contract.[2]  As a result, payments made under that contract were not avoidable as preferences pursuant to 11 U.S.C § 547[3] because they were deemed to be settlement payments[4] related to a forward contract.  The issue arose under an agreement between MBS Management Services, Inc. (“MBS” or the “Buyer”), a real-estate management company and MXEnergy, Inc. (“MX” or the “Supplier”) who agreed to supply all of the energy requirements for apartments managed by MBS.   Following MBS’s bankruptcy filing,[5] the court appointed trustee, Lightfoot, initiated an adversary proceeding to avoid payments made by the Buyer to the Supplier on the basis that those payments were preferences under 11 U.S.C § 547.[6]  The defendants asserted that, as a forward contract merchant,[7] the payments made by MBS were settlement payments made pursuant to a forward contract and, as such, they could not be avoided under section 547 based on the limitations set forth in 11 U.S.C § 546(e).[8]  The court agreed.