Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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7th Circuit Court Seal

Smith v. Sipi, LLC
7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Docket 15-1166 Date:Jan. 20, 2016

In this case from right in our neighborhood – Joliet, Illinois – the Bankruptcy Court and 7th Circuit agree that using the market value of property instead of its artificially low disposal price in a tax sale reflects the real intent of both Bankruptcy law and Illinois law. At the same time, both Courts agree that one taking from a tax-sale buyer is entitled to bona fide purchaser protection.

Background

The Smiths lived in a single-family home in Joliet, Illinois. In 2004 Mrs. Smith inherited the property. While living there in 2000, she and her husband failed to pay the real estate taxes, giving rise to a tax lien in favor of Will County. At a 2001 auction, SIPI purchased the tax lien and paid the delinquent taxes of $4,046.26 plus costs.Mrs. Smith did not redeem that tax obligation and SIPI recorded its Tax Deed in 2005; ultimately selling the property to Midwest for $50,000.

Procedural History

In 2007 the Smiths filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy protection and successfully sought to avoid the Tax Sale. Both the Bankruptcy Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that under the terms of 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(B) the property was not transferred for reasonably equivalent value. However, both Courts did find that Midwest was a “subsequent transferee in good faith” (i.e. a bona fide purchaser) entitled to retain the value of the property it had purchased.

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BK Ct. ND IL EDAmerican Eagle vs. Friedman, 13-AP-01199

Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ill., Eastern Div.  Opinion: December 29, 2015.

JACK B. SCHMETTERER, Bankruptcy Judge.

This case resulted in a Summary Judgment finding despite the assertion by the Debtor-Defendant of his 5th Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination.

Specifically, this Adversary Case arose from the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filed by Arthur Friedman (“Debtor”). Creditor-Plaintiff, American Eagle Bank (the “Plaintiff) filed a 3-count Complaint to determine the dischargeability of debt as follows:

Count I  –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A)
Count II –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)
Count III-  per 11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(3) and (a)(5)
Count IV- per  11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(2), (4),(5) and (7)

Count IV was added in the Amended Complaint. The Debtor answered both the Complaint and the Amended Complaint.

On August 4, 2015 the Plaintiff served Requests for Admission pursuant to Fed.R.Bankr.P.7036. The Debtor never responded, and the Plaintiff brought a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count IV, alleging that the unanswered Requests were deemed admitted under Fed.R.Civ.P.36(a)(3). The Court agreed, and Summary Judgment was granted on Count IV.

I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Subject matter jurisdiction is proper in the Bankruptcy Court per 28 U.S.C. §1334, and this is a “core proceeding” under 28 U.S.C. §§157(b)(2)(A), (I), and (O) since it seeks to determine the dischargeability of a debt. Therefore, it “stems from the bankruptcy itself” and may be decided by a Bankruptcy Court (See: Stern v. Marshall, 131 S.Ct. 2594, 2618 (2011)).

II. UNCONTESTED FACTS

The Plaintiff filed a Statement of Material Facts as required by Local Rules, but the Debtor failed to file an opposing statement; thus “[a]ll material facts in [Plaintiff’s] statement…[were] deemed admitted.” Accordingly, the following was taken from the Plaintiff’s Statement of Material Facts, Debtor’s Answers, and the Requests for Admission:

Debtor was a principal and the president of Prestige Leasing (“Prestige”). Before filing, the Debtor was party to a lawsuit that was settled in his favor. As a result, the Debtor received $75,000 annually, minus attorneys’ fees.  Payments were made to Prestige until it was closed in 2011. After that time, payments were made to the Debtor. In his Answers the Debtor admitted as much, and that payments were received within a year of filing bankruptcy.

Moreover since the Debtor did not respond to the Requests for Admission within the 30-day time limit prescribed by the rules, the resulting admission could be deemed a violation of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Therefore, the Court’s inquiry began with a discussion of the Debtor’s Fifth Amendment rights.

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7th Circuit Court Seal

EAR vs. Brandt/Brandt vs. Horseshoe Hammond, 14‐2174
Appeal from District Court (ND IL ED) 12‐cv‐00271
Decided Oct. 13, 2015

Introduction

In an Adversary Proceeding in the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy case of Equipment Acquisition Resources (EAR), Plan Administrator William Brandt (Brand) sought to avoid and recover the so-called “fraudulent transfers” made to EAR’s founder that he subsequently lost gambling at Horseshoe Casino.

Facts

EAR was established in 1997 to manufacture and refurbish machinery for use in creating technology products. Beginning in 2005 however, it also began defrauding creditors through crooked equipment financing activities. As a result, founder Sheldon Player and a company Officer named Malone pocketed about $17 Million each.

It was not until September 2009 that an outside forensic accounting firm hired by EAR’s Board of Directors detected the fraud. In response to the revelation about the wrongdoing, the company’s Board and all Officers resigned. EAR’s shareholders then elected William Brandt as the sole Board Member and Chief Restructuring Officer. Shortly thereafter the company sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.

Procedural History

Brandt filed an Adversary proceeding against Player and Malone in the Chapter 11 case pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 544, 548, and 550 to avoid and recover the transfers made to them. Brandt prevailed, then had to collect from Horseshoe.

In the ensuing case in the District Court, Horseshoe moved for Summary Judgment under the aegis of the statutory “Good Faith” defense in 11 U.S.C. 550(b)(1). Horseshoe prevailed in the District Court.

Brandt appealed the District Court’s ruling, arguing that it had misinterpreted §550(b)(1) and, in addition, it should have granted his prior Motion to Compel production of documents related to investigations conducted by Horseshoe concerning Player.

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Seymour vs. Collins, 2015 IL 118432

Supreme Court of Illinois, September 24, 2015

In Seymour the Illinois Supreme Court addresses whether action, or inaction, in connection with a Federal case such as a Bankruptcy, should give rise to estoppel in connection with a State cause such as personal injury. The Answer is something of a surprise.

Facts

In 2008 the Seymours filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition. 2 years into their Plan or Reorganization, they filed a personal injury action based on a 2010 automobile accident. In 2010 they successfully moved to modify their Plan; reducing their monthly payments because Mr. Seymour was unable to work due to the accident and the couple’s sole source of income was now workers’ compensation.

Procedural Background

Despite having moved to modify their Plan, the Seymours never officially apprised the Bankruptcy Court that their circumstances changed; nor did they amend their Bankruptcy Schedules. On that basis, the Defendants in the State Court case were able to secure summary judgment using an estoppel argument. The notion was that since the Debtors failed to advise the Bankruptcy Court of their case, they should not be permitted to proceed in State Court Continue reading

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7th Circuit Court Seal

Duff v. Central Sleep Diagnostics, LLC
7 Cir. U.S. Court of Appeals Docket No. 13-3837 Opinion September 10, 2015

Original Claim
Investors in Central Sleep sued the company as well as Dachman, its promoter, and others. Their claims included fraud, the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conversion, fraudulent conveyance, civil conspiracy, and securities fraud. Dachman was also singled out for fraudulent conduct; he spent stolen investor funds on a tattoo parlor, vacations, cruises, a new Land Rover, rare books, personal stock trading, and gambling. The Judge ordered Central Sleep into receivership and issued a stay against “all civil legal proceedings” involving Defendants.

Attorney Claim
Attorney Goodman had represented the Defendants and obtained a judgment for his unpaid legal fees. He submitted a claim to the Receiver for that amount; but also filed a lien on the proceeds of Dachmans’ separate State Court medical malpractice suit. Neither Goodman nor the Dachmans informed the Receiver or Judge about those proceedings. When the Receiver learned of the malpractice suit he immediately recovered the settlement proceeds and proposed a distribution plan. Goodman objected to the plan and argued that unlike the other creditors he was entitled him to full – rather than pro rata – payment.
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7th Circuit Court Seal

Unsecured Creditors’ Comm. v. Ind. Family & Soc.Servs. Admin.
7 Cir. Court of Appeals Case No.14-2420 Date August 28, 2015

Facts
Hospital had to pay a state-imposed Hospital Assessment Fee (HAF) as part of the new Indiana program to increase Medicaid reimbursements. After the Hospital failed to pay its HAF, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) began withholding Medicaid reimbursements. This lead to cashflow problems at the Hospital, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on June 19, 2012. On June 19, 2012 the Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. FSSA continued to withhold reimbursements in satisfaction of its HAF debt.

Procedural History
The Hospital filed an adversary complaint against FSSA claiming that the HAF was a pre-petition claim subject to the Automatic Stay. The Bankruptcy Court agreed, and ruled the HAF was an “act to collect, assess, or recover a claim against the debtor that arose before the commencement of the case” per 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(6) that was subject to the stay. The Court ordered FSSA to repay the full amount it had withheld. The District Court reversed as to the HAF for fiscal year 2013.

Ruling
The 7th Circuit reversed, finding that the 2013 HAF, like the 2012 HAF, is a prepetition claim subject to the Automatic Stay. FSSA was aware of its claims against the Hospital—for both fiscal years 2012 and 2013—well before it filed for bankruptcy

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7th Circuit Court SealSchwartz v. Barclays Capital, Inc.
7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Docket 15-1416 Date: Aug 24, 2015

Facts
Schwartz was hired as an executive by Barclays Bank. As a perk, Barclays lent Schwartz $400,000 and promised to forgive the loan in 7 installments on the anniversary of his start date. Soon after that period started to run Schwartz was fired, making the unforgiven principal immediately due and payable. ‘

Schwartz refused to pay so the matter went to Arbitration. The Arbitrator sided with Barclays and ordered Schwartz to pay $568,568 which included Attorneys’ Fees and interest. Following the Arbitration decision Schwartz sought Chapter 7 protection.

Between the announcement of the award and the filing of Schwartz’s Petition, he and his wife spent thousands on non-essential consumer goods and services such as tickets to Disney World, private school tuition, and a monthly payment for a Range Rover. Barclays moved to dismiss the case.

Procedural History
The Bankruptcy Court dismissed Schwartz’ Chapter 7 Petition pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 707(a) “for cause.” Schwartz appealed to the District Court and, eventually, to the 7th Circuit – which Affirmed.

Opinion
The 7th Circuit found that the phrase “for cause” as used in the Bankruptcy Code embraces conduct that, even if not a violation of required procedures, avoids repayment of a debt without an adequate reason. In other words, the case was dismissed because the Schwartzes failed to pay as much of their indebtedness as they could.

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Baker Botts L.L.P. v. ASARCO LLC, 14-109 (Jun 15) U.S. Sup.Ct.

Background

ASARCO hired the plaintiff law firms to assist it in carrying out its duties as a Chapter 11 Debtor in Possession (DiP) per 11 U.S.C. 327(a). When ASARCO emerged from Bankruptcy the law firms filed Fee Applications pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 330(a)(1), which permits the Bankruptcy Court to “award …reasonable compensation for actual, necessary services” by professionals.

Lower Court Rulings

ASARCO objected to the Fee Applications brought by its Attorneys. The Bankruptcy Court rejected ASARCO’s objections and went on to award fees for time spent defending the Fee Applications. On appeal from the Bankruptcy Court Order, The District Court held that the Law Firms could be awarded fees for defending their Fee Applications. On appeal from the District Court’s Order, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Continue reading

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7th Circuit Court Seal

Carhart v. Carhart-Halaska Int’l, LLC 14-2968 (Jun 08)(7th Cir.)

Background

Federal Case

Carhart and Halaska own CHI. CHI terminated sales agent MRO. MRO filed a Federal suit for breach of contract. Carhart bought MRO’s Federal claim for $150,000 and became nominal Plaintiff. That lawsuit was actually against a company of which he was 1/2 owner.

State Case

Halaska sued Carhart in Wisconsin State Court, alleging that Carhart had breached his fiduciary duty by becoming the Plaintiff in the MRO Federal case, by writing checks against CHI accounts without approval, by depositing payments owed to CHI into Carhart’s account, and by withholding accounting and financial information.  The Wisconsin State Court appointed a Receiver, who informed the Federal court that CHI had no assets with which to pay a lawyer and consented to the entry of a $242,000 default judgment (the sum sought by Carhart), giving Carhart a profit of $92,000 on the purchase. Continue reading

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BoA v. Caulkett, 13–1421 (Jun 1) Supreme Court of the United States

Background

This case came to the Supreme Court due to a Circuit split on the issue of “Lien Stripping.” In this pair of cases the Debtors both filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases, owned houses encumbered with senior mortgages and “underwater” junior mortgages held by the Petitioner banks. Because the amount owed on each senior mortgage was greater than each house’s current market value, the Banks would have received nothing if they foreclosed on the junior liens (i.e. underwater).

Debtors sought to void their junior mortgage liens under the terms of Bankruptcy Code §506, which provides that “To the extent that a lien secures a claim against the debtor that is not an allowed secured claim, such lien is void.” 11 USC §506(d). In each case, the Bankruptcy Court granted the Debtor’s respective motions, and both the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

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