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Bankruptcy, Restructuring, and Creditors’ Rights

Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors Rights

Eighth Circuit BAP Addresses Parens Patriae Standing and Laches in Context of Chapter 7

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

In State of North Dakota ex rel. Stenehjem v. Bala (In re Racing Services, Inc.) the Eighth Circuit BAP (Judges Dow, Nail and Shodeen) concluded the North Dakota Attorney General lacked standing to file a chapter 7 proof of claim on behalf of eligible nonprofit organizations, but that its tardy filing of a proof of an assigned claim was not barred by laches or subject to disallowance under section 502(b)(1).

Eighth Circuit Holds Federal Law Controls Award of Pre-Judgment Interest on Judgments for the Value of Transfers Avoided under Section 544(b)

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

In Kelley v. Boosalis (In re Petters Company, Inc.) and Kelley v. Kanios (In re Petters Company, Inc.),[1] the Eighth Circuit (Judges Loken and Benton, with Judge Kelly dissenting in part and concurring in part) held that federal law, not state law, determines whether pre-judgment interest may be awarded on judgments for the value of transfers avoided under section 544(b).  In so doing, the Court split with the Ninth Circuit and the First Circuit BAP.  The Court also interpreted the application of Minnesota’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“MUFTA”) in the context of a Ponzi scheme.

Eighth Circuit Weighs in on North Dakota Law in O&G Case

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

In Slawson Exploration Co., Inc. v. Nine Point Energy, LLC (In re Triangle USA Petroleum Corp.), the Eighth Circuit (Judges Shepherd, Smith, Melloy) held that under North Dakota law, an O&G promote obligation does not run with the land, was not an equitable servitude, and was not a real property interest akin to an overriding royalty.  Slawson and the Debtor’s predecessor, TPC, were O&G production companies who teamed up to lease, develop and drill land in North Dakota.  Under the terms of their agreement (the “EDA”), either party that acquired an O&G leasehold in a specified area of North Dakota was required to offer the other an undivided interest at cost in the proportion specified in the EDA: 70% for Slawson and 30% for TPC.  TPC also agreed to pay “an additional 10% of its share of the drilling, completing, and equipping costs for each well in which TPC elect[ed] to participate” – the “Promote Obligation.”

Guidance for Arizona Banks on the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona banks and their borrowers are facing economic uncertainty. Bankruptcy filings are on the rise, and many eligible borrowers are opting to file under the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA), a new fast-track bankruptcy option that alters lenders’ and other creditors’ rights in certain Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases.

Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Monitor: Objection to IRS Proof of Claim

Objection to IRS Proof of Claim, Filed Before Amendment to Rule 3007 Went Into Effect, Was Properly Mailed Only to IRS

In Nicolaus v. USA (In re Nicolaus), the Eighth Circuit (Judges Stras, Benton and Gras) held that a debtor’s objection to a proof of claim filed by the IRS may properly be served by mail to the IRS, rather than by service on the Attorney General and the local United States Attorney.  The Eighth Circuit’s holding is contrary to that of other courts, including the First Circuit BAP.

Eighth Circuit BAP Addresses What Is Property of the Estate When There Are Multiple Bankruptcies

Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Monitor

In Boisaubin v. Blackwell (In re Boisaubin), the Eighth Circuit BAP (Judges Sanberg, Nail, Saladino) affirmed the Bankruptcy Court’s (Judge Rendlen) orders approving a compromise and denying motions to file documents under seal.  In so doing, the Court addressed whether an asset that was estate property in a prior case by the debtor, but which was never scheduled, becomes estate property in a later case by the same debtor once the first case is reopened and the asset abandoned. The Court answered that the asset becomes part of the second bankruptcy estate even though the asset itself was not the property of the debtor at the time the second case was filed.

Eighth Circuit Affirms Environmental Claims Against Peabody Barred By Confirmed Plan

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

In County of San Mateo, California v. Peabody Energy Corp. (In re Peabody Energy Corp.), the Eighth Circuit (Judges Arnold, Gruender and Shepherd) agreed that the Bankruptcy Court (Judge Schermer) did not abuse its discretion when it held that litigation against Peabody by various California municipalities was barred by the terms of Peabody’s confirmed chapter 11 plan of reorganization.  In so doing, the Court placed particular weight on the presumed intent of the plan drafters in defining exceptions from discharge – a rule of interpretation that may prove significant.

LLC Members Equitably Estopped From Claiming Ownership of LLC Property

Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Monitor

In Richards v. Rabo Agrifinance, LLC (In re Kip and Andrea Richards Family Farm & Ranch, LLC), the Eighth Circuit BAP (Judges Schermer, Shodeen and Sandberg) affirmed the bankruptcy court’s determination that members of a debtor LLC were equitably estopped from claiming ownership of LLC property.

Court May Exercise “Related To” Jurisdiction Over Adversary Complaint By A Creditor Against a Third Party

Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Monitor

Court May Exercise “Related To” Jurisdiction Over Adversary Complaint by a Creditor Against a Third Party; Orders Transfer of Action to State Court Although Action Originally Filed in Federal Court

In Bushman Custom Farming, LLC v. Stillmunkes (In re Stillmunkes), Bankr. N.D. Iowa, 19-01011, d/e 16, April 30, 2020, Judge Thad Collins found the Court had “related to” subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(3) to entertain a non-core adversary proceeding between a creditor and a third party. The Court elected to abstain and ordered the action transferred to an Iowa state court.

Chapter 12 Debtor May Require Turnover of Withheld Pre-Petition Taxes Despite Section 553(a)

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

Judge Thad Collins of Bankr. N.D. Iowa held, as a matter of first impression, that “§ 1232(a) allows family farmers who have capital gains tax debt under Chapter 12 process to require taxing entities to issue a refund of withheld income taxes to the bankruptcy estate.”

Spencer Fane LLP Victorious In Ninth Circuit Case Challenging Collection Letters For Time-Barred Debts

Josh Dickinson (Omaha) and Kersten Holzhueter (Kansas City) recently obtained a victory for a debt buyer in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In Barry Stimpson v. Midland Funding, LLC, the plaintiff alleged that a letter seeking to collect on a time-barred debt violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The letter offered a discount to resolve the debt and contained this language to explain that the debt could not be enforced in court: “The law limits how long you can be sued on a debt and how long a debt can appear on your credit report. Due to the age of this debt, we will not sue you for it or report payment or non-payment of it to a credit bureau.”

Chapter 9 – More than just Orange County and Detroit

A Chapter 9 bankruptcy offers protection to a financially-distressed municipality so that it may develop a plan for addressing its debts. A product of the Great Depression, bankruptcy protection for municipalities was first enacted in 1934.  However, the Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional as an improper interference with the sovereignty of states. See Ashton v. Cameron County Water Improvement Dist. No. 1, 298 U.S. 513 (1936). Congress subsequently passed a revised Municipal Bankruptcy Act in 1937, which was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. See United States v. Bekins, 304 U.S. 27 (1938).

Changes to Chapter 12 Bankruptcy May Increase Farmers’ Ability to Reorganize in Bankruptcy

Farmers attempting to reorganize under Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code may propose selling land as a means of generating cash to pay creditors. This sale creates a large capital gains tax, as the cost basis for the land is likely low. That capital gains tax has priority over general unsecured creditors, and the farmer needs to pay that capital gains tax in full to get a Chapter 12 plan confirmed.

Supreme Court Adopts Restrictive Minority View of Section 546(e) Safe Harbor Regarding Certain Securities Payments

On February 27, 2018, a unanimous Supreme Court held in Merit Management Group, LP v. FTI Consulting, Inc. (link here) that an otherwise-avoidable transfer is not subject to the safe harbor in Section 546(e) (which provides, in relevant part, a trustee may not avoid a transfer that is a “settlement payment . . . made by or to (or for the benefit of) a . . . financial institution” or that “is a transfer made by or to (or for the benefit of) a . . . financial institution . . . in connection with a securities contract”) of the Bankruptcy Code merely because funds flow through covered financial entities.  Rather, the availability of the Section 546(e) safe harbor depends on the particular transfer sought to be avoided.

The Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2018

In January 2018, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bill that would require corporate debtors to file for bankruptcy protection in the district in which their principal assets or principal place of business is located. In other words, the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2018 would eliminate a corporate debtor’s ability to commence a case in its state of incorporation if the state of incorporation is neither the debtor’s principal place of business nor the location of its principal assets. Moreover, the bill would do away with the so-called “Affiliate Rule” that allows corporate debtors to file in any district where an affiliate has a pending bankruptcy case. If signed into law, the act would also put an end to protracted, expensive battles over venue: judges would be required to make a decision on a venue transfer request within fourteen days of the objecting party’s request.

Limited Liability Company Interests as Collateral: Remedies on Default

Various business formations and financial transactions utilize alternative entity forms, such as limited liability companies (“LLC”), limited partnerships, master limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, limited liability limited partnerships—you get the idea. In turn, commercial borrowers may offer—and lenders may request—interests in such entities as collateral. This blog post focuses on LLC membership interests (“LLC Interests”) as collateral.

Proceeds from Insurance Settlement Outside the Scope of Article 9

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the First Circuit recently held that a creditor holding a perfected security interest in accounts and payment intangibles did not have a perfected security interest in the proceeds of an insurance settlement.