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Secured Credit

Bankruptcy Court’s Interpretation of Parties’ Contracts Expands Scope of Preference Avoidance

By: Stephanie Hung

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staffer

In In Re Omni Enterprises, an Alaska Bankruptcy Court held that a bank may enforce the security interest of a prior loan that has already been repaid to cure a new loan that is in default. In 2009, a borrower entered into a loan agreement with a bank for $1.3 million. The loan was partly secured by the borrower’s deposit accounts. After the 2009 loan was repaid, the borrower entered into a new loan agreement with the same bank for $2.6 million. The new loan was secured by, among other things, the borrower’s equipment, furnishings, and fixtures, but did not explicitly include the deposit accounts. In 2015, the borrower defaulted on the loan and the bank swept the deposit accounts, causing the borrower to file for chapter 7 under the Bankruptcy Code. According to the bank, it continued to have a lien on the deposit accounts notwithstanding the repayment of the 2009 loan. The borrower’s trustee then filed suit in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Alaska. The Court ultimately agreed with the bank’s interpretation of the loan agreements, and held that the sweeping of the deposit accounts was permissible.

No Exceptions: How Government Creditors are Not Exempt from Article 9’s Perfection Requirements

By: Thomas Sica

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Recently, in Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC v. Capital Community Economic/Industrial Development Corporation, the Supreme Court of Kentucky held that a governmental-entity creditor must comply with Article 9 of the UCC’s perfection requirement in order to ensure that such creditor’s lien has priority over subsequent security interests. In Delphi, a governmental-entity creditor and a manufacturer entered into a “lease” covering certain equipment, which provided that the manufacturer would own the equipment upon making the final payment. A private creditor subsequently extended credit to the manufacturer and perfected a security interest in all of the manufacturer’s personal property to secure the loan. After the manufacturer defaulted on the loan, the private creditor filed an action to enforce its lien against all of the manufacturer’s personal property, including the “leased” equipment. First, the governmental creditor argued that the manufacturer did not own the equipment because it was leased. The court, however, swiftly dismissed this argument because the governmental creditor’s interest in the equipment was better defined as a security interest than an ownership interest. Second, the governmental creditor opposed the private creditor’s action, arguing that KRS § 355.9-109(4)(q) excused them from perfecting their security interest because the statute excluded “a transfer by a government or governmental subdivision or agency.” In response, the private creditor argued that KRS § 355.9-109(4)(q) did not excuse the governmental-entity creditor’s compliance with Article 9’s perfection requirements because that statute only applied to situations where the governmental unit was the debtor or borrower. The trial court ruled in favor of the governmental creditor and the intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court of Kentucky, however, reversed and directed a verdict for the private creditor.

An Oversecured Creditor’s Post-Petition Attorneys’ Fees: Determined by Federal Law or State Law?

Charles Lazo

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff


Recently, in Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. 804 Congress, L.L.C. (In re 804 Congress, L.L.C.),[i] the Fifth Circuit held that federal law governs an oversecured creditor’s recovery of post-petition attorneys’ fees from the proceeds from the sale of the creditor’s collateral.[ii] In In re 804 Congress, L.L.C., a bank financed the debtor’s purchase of an office building.[iii] The loan was secured by a deed of trust.[iv] The deed of trust provided, among other things, that the debtor was required to pay the bank it attorneys’ fees following a foreclosure of the property.[v] After the bank scheduled a foreclosure sale of the property, the debtor filed for bankruptcy.[vi] Subsequently, the bankruptcy court granted the bank’s motion for relief from the automatic stay in order to complete the non-judicial foreclosure sale.[vii] Following the sale, the bankruptcy court exercised jurisdiction over the sales proceeds, and therefore, the bank filed proofs of claim for the amount it was owed under the deed of trust.[viii] The debtor objected to the bank’s proofs of claims and moved to require the trustee under the deed of trust to distribute the principal and interest due the bank and a second-lien holder and to pay the remaining amount to the debtor pending resolution of the claims against those funds.[ix] The bankruptcy court ruled that (1) the second-lien holder was entitled to be paid in full, (2) the bank was entitled to full payment except for the attorneys’ fees because the bank did not file the “proper application for [the] fees” and “provided no supporting documentation or testimony that the fees were reasonable”[x] under section 506(b),[xi] and (3) the trustee was entitled to a fee in the amount equal to twenty hours at her hourly rate instead of five percent of the total sale price.[xii] On appeal, “[t]he district court remanded ‘for further proceedings with instructions that [trustee] disburse the foreclosure-sale proceeds in accordance with Texas law and the [d]eed of [t]rust.’”[xiii] On appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the bank argued that state law governed its recovery of attorneys’ and other fees from the sale proceeds or, in the alternative, that the attorney fees should be recoverable under section 502.[xiv] The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court, concluding that “[b]ased on this record, [the court could not] say that the bankruptcy court erred in finding under [section] 506(b) that the amount of attorneys’ fees [the bank] sought [were] not substantiated and therefore [were] not shown to be reasonable.”[xv] Further, since it was unclear whether the issue had been raised below, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case to the bankruptcy court to determine whether the bank was entitled to an unsecured claim for its attorneys’ fees under section 502.[xvi]