Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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Pursuit, managed by its founders, Schepis and Canelas, created and was the general partner in two funds to “acquire securities for trading and investment appreciation.” They invested in offshore entities formed in the Cayman Islands. Pursuit voluntarily petitioned for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2014, after it became liable for legal judgments of $5 million. Pursuit listed no assets but indicated that it had a “[p]otential indemnification claim” against one of the funds it managed and claims connected to other cases. Financial statements revealed that Pursuit’s 2011 gross income, $645,571.22 from one fund, was transferred to Pursuit’s members in 2013. Creditors Group claimed Schepis and Canelas enriched themselves at the expense of creditors and sought avoidance, 11 U.S.C. 544, 547, 548. The Trustee obtained court approval of an agreement to “settle, transfer and assign” the avoidance claim and other potential claims. The Pursuit Parties objected, seeking to purchase the claims themselves. The Trustee sold the claims to Creditors Group for $180,001. The Bankruptcy Court approved the sale. The Pursuit Parties did not seek a stay. Creditors Group sued on the claims in the Bankruptcy Court. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an appeal as moot under 11 U.S.C. 363(m), because the Pursuit Parties the requested remedy, if entered, would affect the validity of the sale. View "In re: Pursuit Capital Management" on Justia Law

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Represented by Folkenflik, Plaintiffs, victims of Bressman’s manipulation of stock prices, brought civil securities fraud and RICO claims against Bressman and others. Bressman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs then filed the adversary complaint. The civil securities fraud and RICO claims continued against Bressman’s co-defendants. In 1998, some of those claims were settled for $6,250,000. Folkenflik received the funds. The approved Settlement Agreement included a confidentiality order. Months later, Plaintiffs sought a default judgment against Bressman. Folkenflik submitted an affidavit that indicated that the damages totaled $5,195,081, provided a comprehensive account of the underlying proceedings, but did not mention the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a default judgment against Bressman. Plaintiffs later sought RICO damages and attorneys’ fees, again not mentioning the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a RICO judgment for treble damages: $15,585,243 plus $910,855.93 in attorneys’ fees. More than 10 years later, Folkenflik learned that Bressman might receive $10 million, and filed ex parte applications on behalf of Plaintiffs to appoint a receiver to search for and seize Bressman’s assets. Searches and seizures were executed. Flolkenflik did not disclose the settlement and made misleading representations to the courts and Bressman’s attorney. When the courts learned about the settlement, the orders were vacated and the seized materials returned. The bankruptcy court found that Folkenflik’s conduct constituted fraud on the court, vacated the default judgment, and dismissed the adversary complaint with prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Bressman’s motion was not barred by laches. Folkenflik’s failure to disclose the settlement constituted intentional fraud. Even if he believed that the confidentiality order prohibited him from disclosing the existence of the Agreement, he could have so stated in his affidavit and asked the courts for guidance. View "In re: Bressman" on Justia Law

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J&S sought Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The estate's largest asset was an Altoona, Pennsylvania building, in which Phoenician previously operated a restaurant. Trustee Swope rejected Phoenician’s lease to facilitate the building's sale. Phoenician attempted to remove property from the closed restaurant; Swope objected. After learning that Phoenician had canceled its insurance and that heating could be an issue with anticipated frigid weather, Swope met with Phoenician’s principal, Obeid and a contractor. Obeid gave Swope a key to the premises; the contractor recommended that the thermostat be set to 60 degrees. Obeid did not do so, the pipes burst, and the property flooded. A disaster restoration company refused to work on the property. Swope asked for another meeting to assess the damage. Obeid demanded that the meeting be rescheduled and held without J&S's principal, Focht; Swope declined, tried to inspect the premises, and discovered the key Obeid had given her did not work. Focht then had the locks changed. Swope retained the only key and provided both parties with only “supervised access.” Phoenician unsuccessfully sought to regain possession. The court indicated that Swope was protected by the automatic stay, which precluded Phoenician from interfering with the property, and dismissed Phoenician’s suit against Swope under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for wrongful eviction, claiming Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The Third Circuit agreed that Swope was entitled to qualified immunity and took appropriate action to preserve the Estate Property without violating clearly-established law. View "J & S Properties, LLC v. Phoenician Meditteranean Villa, LLC" on Justia Law

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When Eclipse, a jet aircraft manufacturer, declared bankruptcy in November 2008, it reached an agreement to sell the company to its largest shareholder, ETIRC, which would have allowed Eclipse to continue its operations. The sale required significant funding from VEB, a state-owned Russian Bank. The funding never materialized. For a month, Eclipse waited for the deal to go through with almost daily assurances that the funding was imminent. Delays were attributed to Prime Minister Putin needing “to think about it.” Eventually, Eclipse was forced to cease operations and notify its workers that a prior furlough had been converted into a layoff. Eclipse’s employees filed a class action complaint as an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court alleging that Eclipse’s failure to give them 60 days’ notice before the layoff violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109, and asserting that Eclipse could invoke neither the Act’s “faltering company” exception nor its “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception. The Bankruptcy Court rejected the employees’ claims on summary judgment, holding that the “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception barred WARN Act liability. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Eclipse demonstrated that its closing was not probable until the day that it occurred. View "In re: AE Liquidation, Inc." on Justia Law

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SemGroup purchased oil from producers and resold it to downstream purchasers. It also traded financial options contracts for the right to buy or sell oil at a fixed price on a future date. At the end of the fiscal year preceding bankruptcy, SemGroup’s revenues were $13.2 billion. SemGroup’s operating companies purchased oil from thousands of wells in several states and from thousands of oil producers, including from Appellants, producers in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The producers took no actions to protect themselves in case 11 of SemGroup’s insolvency. The downstream purchasers did; in the case of default, they could set off the amount they owed SemGroup for oil by the amount SemGroup would owe them for the value of the outstanding futures trades. When SemGroup filed for bankruptcy, the downstream purchasers were paid in full while the oil producers were paid only in part. The producers argued that local laws gave them automatically perfected security interests or trust rights in the oil that ended up in the hands of the downstream purchasers. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the downstream purchasers; parties who took precautions against insolvency do not act as insurers to those who took none. View "In re: SemCrude LP" on Justia Law

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The creditors shipped goods via common carrier from China to World Imports in the U.S. “free on board” at the port of origin. One shipment left Shanghai on May 26, 2013; World took physical possession of the goods in the U.S. on June 21. Other goods were shipped from Xiamen on May 17, May 31, and June 7, 2013, and were accepted in the U.S. within 20 days of the day on which World filed its Chapter 11 petition. The creditors filed Allowance and Payment of Administrative Expense Claims, 11 U.S.C. 503(b)(9), allowable if: the vendor sold ‘goods’ to the debtor; the goods were "received" by the debtor within 20 days before the bankruptcy filing; and the goods were sold in the ordinary course of business. Section 503(b)(9) does not define "received." The Bankruptcy Court rejected an argument that the UCC should govern and looked to the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). The CISG does not define “received,” so the court looked to international commercial terms (Incoterms) incorporated into the CISG. Although no Incoterm defines “received,” the incoterm governing FOB contracts indicates that the risk transfers to the buyer when the seller delivers the goods to the common carrier. The Bankruptcy Court and the district court found that the goods were “constructively received” when shipped and denied the creditors’ motions. The Third Circuit reversed; the word “received” in 11 U.S.C. 503(b)(9) requires physical possession. View "In re: World Imports Ltd" on Justia Law

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Raymond and Sandra have lived in their Ambler, Pennsylvania home since 1993. They took on a mortgage from AmeriChoice. They fell behind on their payments. In 2012, AmeriChoice filed a foreclosure action; AmeriChoice obtained a default judgment. AmeriChoice scheduled a sheriff’s sale. The day before that sale, Raymond, acting alone, filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, triggering the automatic stay and preventing the sale. The case was dismissed six months later after Raymond failed to make payments. AmeriChoice rescheduled the sale. On the rescheduled date, Raymond filed a second Chapter 13 petition. The Bankruptcy Court granted relief from the stay. On the second rescheduled date, Sandra filed her Chapter 13 petition. Days later the court dismissed Sandra’s petition for failure to obtain prepetition credit counseling. In Raymond’s second case, AmeriChoice moved (11 U.S.C. 1307(c)) to either convert Raymond’s case to Chapter 7 or dismiss, arguing bad faith use of bankruptcy. Raymond unsuccessfully moved to postpone a hearing and the day before the hearing sought dismissal under section 1307(b). Raymond did not appear at the hearing. The court dismissed Raymond’s case, stating that he was “not permitted to file another bankruptcy case without express permission.” Sandra was subsequently enjoined from filing bankruptcy for 180 days. The Third Circuit vacated. While a bankruptcy court may issue a filing injunction while approving a section 1307(b) voluntary dismissal, the injunction against Raymond, beyond what had been requested, was not supported by reasoning. View "In re: Ross" on Justia Law

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Debtors filed a voluntary Chapter 13 petition. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed a plan that required payments of $2,485 each month for 60 months. Later, because of an increase in mortgage payments, the plan was amended to increase the payments to $3,017 for the remainder of the 60-month period. Debtors made consistent payments and, after 60 months, had paid $174,104, slightly exceeding their projected plan base. The Trustee subsequently moved to dismiss the case under 11 U.S.C. 1307(c), alleging that Debtors still owed $1,123 to complete their plan base. Debtors cured the arrears within 16 days. The motion had been joined by an unsecured creditor, who claimed that the plan and the Code required completion within 60 months. The Bankruptcy Court agreed that the failure to completely fund the plan base within 60 months was a material default constituting cause for dismissal, but found that the default was not the result of Debtors' unreasonable delay, that Debtors promptly corrected the deficiency, and that the delay did not significantly alter the timing of distributions. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed and rejected an adversary proceeding, objecting to the discharge. Bankruptcy courts have discretion to grant a brief grace period and discharge debtors who cure an arrearage in their plan shortly after the expiration of the plan term. View "In re: Klaas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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IRS Form 1040, filed after the IRS made an assessment of the taxpayer’s liability, did not constitute “returns” for purposes of determining the dischargeability in bankruptcy of tax debts under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(1)(B). Giacchi filed his tax returns on time for the years 2000, 2001, and 2002 years after they were due and after the IRS had assessed a liability against him. In 2010, Giacchi filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; in 2012 he filed a Chapter 13 petition and brought an adversary proceeding seeking a judgment that his tax liability for the years in question had been discharged in the Chapter 7 proceeding. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s order denying the discharge. The tax debt was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(1)(B) because Giacchi had failed to file tax returns for 2000, 2001, and 2002, and Giacchi’s belatedly filed documents were not “returns” within the meaning of section 523(a)(1)(B) and other applicable law. View "Giacchi v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Tax Law

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The Lansaws operated a daycare in space leased from Zokaites. After they entered into a new lease with a different landlord, but before they moved, Zokaites served them with a Notice for Distraint, claiming a lien against personal property for unpaid rent. The following day, the Lansaws filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay, 11 U.S.C. 362(a). Zokaites’s attorney was notified of the filing on August 17, 2006. On August 21, Zokaites and his attorney entered the daycare during business hours, by following a parent, and photographed the Lansaws’ personal property. On August 27, Zokaites entered after business hours, using his key, then padlocked the doors, leaving a note stating that Zokaites would not unchain the doors unless Mrs. Lansaw’s mother agreed that she had not been assaulted by Zokaites, the Lansaws reaffirmed their lease with Zokaites, and the Lansaws ceased removing property from the daycare. The Lansaws removed the chains and slept in the building. Zokaites locked the door from the outside and left with the Lansaws’ keys. The Lansaws called the police. Meanwhile, Zokaites attorney communicated by phone and letter with the new landlord, stating that, if the new lease was not terminated, Zokaites would sue the new landlord. In an adversary proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court awarded the Lansaws attorney fees ($2,600), emotional-distress damages ($7,500) and punitive damages ($40,000) under 11 U.S.C. 362(k)(1). The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Section 362(k)(1) authorizes the award of emotional-distress damages; the Lansaws presented sufficient evidence to support the award. View "In re: Lansaw" on Justia Law