Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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In 2010, EFIH borrowed $4 billion at a 10% interest rate, issuing notes secured by its assets; the Indenture states that EFIH may redeem the notes for the principal amount plus a “make-whole premium” and accrued, unpaid interest. It contains an acceleration provision that makes “all outstanding Notes . . . due and payable immediately” if EFIH files for bankruptcy. Interest rates dropped. Refinancing outside of bankruptcy would have required EFIH to pay the make-whole premium. EFIH disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission a “proposal [whereby] . . . EFIH would file for bankruptcy and refinance the notes without paying any make-whole amount.” EFIH later filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions, seeking leave to borrow funds to pay off the notes and to offer a settlement to note-holders who agreed to waive the make-whole. The Trustee sought a declaration that refinancing would trigger the make-whole premium and that it could rescind the acceleration without violating the automatic stay. The Bankruptcy Court granted EFIH’s motion to refinance. EFIH paid off the notes and refinanced at a much lower interest rate; the make-whole would have been approximately $431 million. The Bankruptcy Court and district court concluded that no make-whole premium was due and that the noteholders could not rescind acceleration. The Third Circuit reversed. The premium, meant to give the lenders the interest yield they expect, does not fall away because the full principal amount becomes due and the noteholders are barred from rescinding acceleration of debt. View "In re: Energy Future Holdings Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Free, as the sole proprietor of Electra Lighting, filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition. He also owns Freedom Firearms, selling WWII-era guns. After Free fell behind on payments on business-related properties, the lender purchased them in foreclosure; Free purportedly filed for bankruptcy in an effort to “stay” the sale and “work out an agreement.” He had sufficient assets to pay his debts. He then hid assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Bankruptcy Court. Free was eventually convicted for multiple counts of bankruptcy fraud. His creditors received 100 cents on the dollar. The Sentencing Guidelines increase a fraudster’s recommended sentence based on the amount of loss he causes, or intends to cause. The district court treated the estimated value of the assets that Free concealed and the amount of debt sought to be discharged as the relevant “loss” under the Guidelines. The Third Circuit vacated. On remand, the court must determine whether Free intended to cause a loss to his creditors or what he sought to gain from committing the crime. Free will not necessarily receive a lower sentence on remand. Free’s repeated lying to the Bankruptcy Court and his manifest disrespect for the judicial system may merit an upward variance from the Guidelines. View "United States v. Free" on Justia Law

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Rosenberg is the “principal architect” NMI and NMI Holding, which are affiliated with limited partnerships (LPs) that operate medical imaging centers. To finance the purchase of medical imaging equipment, the LPs entered into leases with DVI entities. DVI Financial was the initial servicer of the leases and U.S. Bank acted as trustee. When DVI Financial entered bankruptcy in 2004, Lyon acquired the servicing contracts. During state court litigation over money owed under the leases, DVI filed involuntary bankruptcy petitions against Rosenberg, NMI, and NMI Holding. The bankruptcy court dismissed the petitions because the DVI entities were not Rosenberg’s creditors. Rosenberg then filed an adversary action under 11 U.S.C. 303(i), alleging bad faith filing. Rosenberg obtained awards of fees and costs, $1.1 million in compensatory damages, and $5 million in punitive damages. Rosenberg’s wife, the Rosenberg Trust, and other Rosenberg Affiliates then sought damages based on the involuntary bankruptcy petitions, alleging tortious interference with contracts and business relationships. NMI Real Estate Partnerships owned the medical imaging facilities subject to mortgages. Rosenberg Affiliates alleged that the involuntary bankruptcy filings were intended to cause those Partnerships to default on their underlying mortgages; all but one of the properties have been lost. The district court dismissed, finding the claim preempted by the Bankruptcy Code. The Third Circuit reversed, stating that section 303(i) does not preempt the state law claims of nondebtors predicated on the filing of an involuntary bankruptcy petition. View "Rosenberg v. DVI Receivables XVII LLC" on Justia Law
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Net Pay managed clients’ payrolls and handled their employment taxes pursuant to a “Payroll Services Agreement,” which required clients to provide their employee payroll information and gave clients the option of authorizing Net Pay to transfer funds from their bank accounts into Net Pay’s account and to remit those funds to the clients’ employees, the IRS, and other taxing authorities. The Agreement established an independent contractor relationship between Net Pay and its clients. About three months before it filed its Chapter 7 petition, Net Pay transferred $32,297 on behalf of Altus; $5,338 on behalf of HealthCare Systems; $1,143 on behalf of Project Services; $352.84 for an unknown client; and $281.13 for another unknown client. The next day, Net Pay informed its clients that it was ceasing operations. The trustee for Net Pay sought to recover the five payments, arguing that they were avoidable preferential transfers, 11 U.S.C. 547(b). The district court concluded that four of the transfers were not subject to recovery, being below the minimum amount established by law ($5,850), and that distinct transfers may be aggregated only if “‘transactionally related’ to the same debt.” Because the IRS applied the entire $32,297 toward Altus’s trust fund tax obligations, the court held that the payment was not avoidable. The Third Circuit affirmed. Net Pay lacked an equitable interest in the Altus funds by operation of 26 U.S.C. 7501(a). View "In Re: Net Pay Solutions Inc" on Justia Law
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WI buys furniture wholesale. OEC provided WI with non-vessel-operating common carrier transportation services. WI signed an Application for Credit that granted a security interest in WI property in OEC’s possession, custody or control or en route. As required by federal law, OEC also publishes a tariff with the Federal Maritime Commission, which provides for a Carrier’s lien. WI filed voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions. OEC sought relief from the automatic stay, arguing that it was a secured creditor with a possessory maritime lien. OEC documented debts of $458,251 for freight and related charges due on containers in OEC’s possession and $994,705 for freight and related charges on goods for which OEC had previously provided services. The estimated value of WIs’ goods in OEC’s possession was $1,926,363. WI filed an adversary proceeding, seeking release of the goods. The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of WI, citing 11 U.S.C. 542. The district court affirmed, holding that OEC did not possess a valid maritime lien on Pre-petition Goods. The Third Circuit reversed, noting the strong presumption that OEC did not waive its maritime liens on the Prepetition Goods, the clear documentation that the parties intended such liens to survive delivery, the familiar principle that a maritime lien may attach to property substituted for the original object of the lien, and the parties’ general freedom to modify or extend existing liens by contract. View "In re: World Imports LTD" on Justia Law

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Wettach was a partner at theTitus law firm, which rented space from Trizec under a long-term lease. After the firm's 1999 dissolution, Trizec filed suit against Titus’s former partners for unpaid rent. The Pennsylvania court found the partners jointly and severally liable for more than $2,700,000. Before that court entered final judgment Wettach filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, listing $3,551,500 in assets, including $2,951,500 in personal property, retirement accounts, insurance, and a checking account held by the entireties with his wife. Wettach claimed all of this property as exempt, primarily relying on the exemption for property held by the entireties, 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(1), (3)(B). Wettach joined another law firm and earned wages that the firm directly deposited into the entireties account. The Trustee claimed that these deposits constituted recoverable fraudulent transfers. Before the bankruptcy court could rule, the case was reassigned. The parties consented to the court issuing findings without a new trial. The court ruled in favor of the Trustee, awarding $428,868.12, plus $37,139.01 in interest. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to allocation of the burdens of persuasion and production on the fraudulent transfer claims; evidentiary findings; and a legal determination that the deposit of wages into an account held by the entireties constituted “transfer” of an “asset” under Pennsylvania state law. View "In re: Wettach" on Justia Law
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The Debtors own the Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal casino. The union represents 1,136 employees. The 2011 collective bargaining agreement was to remain in effect through September 14, 2014 and continue in full force and effect from year to year thereafter, unless either party served 60 days written notice of its intention to terminate, modify, or amend. In March 2014, the Debtors gave notice of their “intention to terminate, modify or amend” and sought to begin negotiations. The Union initially declined. On August 20 the parties met. The Debtors emphasized their critical financial situation. No agreement was reached. The Debtors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On September 11, the Debtors asked the Union to extend the term of the CBA. The Union refused. The CBA expired. On September 17, the Debtors sent the Union a proposal with supporting documentation. After meetings, the Debtors successfully moved, under section 1113, to reject the CBA and implement the terms of the Debtors’ last proposal, asserting that rejection of the CBA was necessary to the reorganization.While 11 U.S.C. 1103 allows a debtor to terminate a CBA under certain circumstances, the National Labor Relations Act prohibits an employer from unilaterally changing CBA terms even after its expiration; key terms of an expired CBA continue to govern until the parties reach a new agreement or bargain to impasse. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding section 1113 does not distinguish between the terms of an unexpired CBA and terms that continue to govern after the CBA expires. View "In re: Trump Entm't Resorts" on Justia Law

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Day’s company, Forever Green, sells artificial turf playing fields. It sued its competitor, ProGreen, for $5 million for diversion of corporate assets (Bucks County Action). Dawson, an owner of ProGreen and a former Forever Green sales representative, would be liable if damages are awarded. Dawson sued Forever Green for unpaid commissions and wages (Louisiana Action). Years later, the Louisiana court entered a consent judgment ( about $300,000) in favor of Dawson, which was not paid. Meanwhile, the Bucks County parties agreed to arbitrate. Weeks after the consent judgment entered, ProGreen moved to terminate arbitration, arguing that Forever Green was insolvent and that Day lacked “ability or desire to pay the Arbitrator’s fees and expenses.” Dawson obtained a writ of execution against the arbitrator. Recognizing that he was adverse to Dawson, the arbitrator suspended the arbitration until the fee issue was resolved. Forever Green sued to reinstate the arbitration. Dawson and a law firm that was owed $206,000 from Forever Green, filed an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition against Forever Green, which satisfied the statutory criteria, 11 U.S.C. 303(b). The Bankruptcy Court dismissed the filing as being in bad faith. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that bad faith provides a basis for dismissal independent of the statutory criteria for filing. View "Forever Green Athletic Fields, Inc. v. Dawson" on Justia Law
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Revel opened an Atlantic City resort-casino, costing $2.4 billion. Revel entered into a 10-year lease with IDEA to run two nightclubs and a beach club. IDEA contributed $16 million of the projected cost of construction in addition to monthly rental payments. The Casino did not turn a profit. Revel filed a “Chapter 22” bankruptcy, seeking permission to sell its assets free of all liens and interests (including leases). The Bankruptcy Court approved and set an auction date. IDEA, concerned that the proposed sale would eliminate the value of its lease notwithstanding its $16 million investment, filed objections. No qualified buyer appeared. The court postponed the auction. A month later, Revel closed the Casino’s doors and barred tenants, IDEA gave notice that it intended to continue operating its beach club and nightclub and expected Revel to honor its obligations to provide uninterrupted utility service. In the meantime Polo agreed to buy the Casino for $90 million. Days before the sale hearing, Revel replied to IDEA’s objections. IDEA appealed an unfavorable order and sought a stay pending appeal, noting that, if the decision were not stayed, its appeal would be moot under 11 U.S.C. 363(m) once the sale closed. The district court denied the motion. The Third Circuit reversed, staying that part of the order that allowed Revel to sell the Casino free of IDEA’s lease. View "In re: Revel AC Inc" on Justia Law

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LifeCare operated 27 long-term acute care hospitals with about 4,500 employees.Hurricane Katrina destroyed three of its facilities. It had $484 million debt; approximately $355 million was secured. Secured lenders wanted to purchase the company outright and offered to credit $320 million of the debt as LifeCare’s only alternative to liquidation under Chapter 7. The secured lender group, LLC2, put funds in escrow to pay legal and accounting fees. LifeCare filed for bankruptcy one day later, obtained permission to sell assets under 11 U.S.C. 363(b)(1), abd marketed its assets to more than 106 potential parties. LLC2 was selected as the successful bidder. The Committee of Unsecured Creditors and U.S. government—neither of which would recover anything through the sale— objected to the transfer as a “veiled foreclosure.” In exchange for the Committee dropping its objections, LLC2 deposited $3.5 million in trust for general unsecured creditors. The Bankruptcy Court approved the sale. Deeming the administrative fee monies escrowed by LLC2 not to be estate property, the court held that the government had no claim to it. The Third Circuit affirmed. Payments by an 11 U.S.C. 363 purchaser (LLC2) need not be distributed according to the Code’s creditor-payment hierarchy where no cash changed hands other than that deposited in escrow for professional fees and paid directly to the unsecured creditors. The payments neither went into nor came out of the bankruptcy estate. View "In re: ICL Holding Co., Inc." on Justia Law
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