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Novak was the sole shareholder of CMCG. By 2008, CMCG’s solvency was questionable. In 2012 Novak committed suicide, leaving CMCG to Comess, who filed a voluntary Chapter 7 petition weeks later. For four years before the bankruptcy filing, Comess and Hathaway, another friend of Novak’s, had received significant payments from CMCG, though they were not employees. Hathaway received $45,400.81; she runs a small yoga studio and her email correspondence indicated that the payments were personal gifts. The trustee brought an avoidance action and sought discovery sanctions against Hathaway. The bankruptcy judge determined that the women had received money from CMCG while it was insolvent, that Novak typically failed to record the transactions, that CMCG did not receive reasonably equivalent value in exchange, and that the transfers were voidable under 11 U.S.C. 548 and the Illinois Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (IUFTA), which applied under section 544(b)(1) because CMCG had unsecured creditors at the time of the conveyances, the IRS and a credit-card company. The judge declined to impose sanctions for Hathaway’s failure to respond to interrogatories and produce tax returns but imposed sanctions ($11,187.25) for Hathaway’s delay and failure to comply with court orders concerning emails causing the Trustee to expend additional time and resources. The district judge and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments concerning trial exhibits for evaluating CMCG's financial health; challenging the finding that CMCG did not receive reasonably equivalent value; and that CMCG did not have IUFTA “creditors.” The court noted Hathaway's violations of appellate procedure. View "Fox v. Hathaway" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment determining that SMC's claim against debtor was nondischargeable. The panel held that the bankruptcy court's finding that SMC was the proper party holding the claim against debtor was not clearly erroneous. In this case, the bankruptcy court permissibly viewed the evidence as demonstrating that Vinco was only acting on SMC's behalf and that SMC was the real party in interest. View "SMC Holdings v. McCann" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's grant of the city's motion for summary judgment and denial of debtor's motion for summary judgment in an adversary proceeding alleging that the city violated the automatic stay by refusing to release the warrant for her arrest and refusing to release her driver's license without payment of the fine. The panel held that debtor failed to identify any post-petition action by the city that would be in violation of the stay. The panel agreed with the bankruptcy court that the city was not required to issue a compliance letter regarding debtor's driver’s license. Therefore, debtor failed to show that the city's inaction regarding the compliance letter has somehow led to her inability to obtain a driver's license. Finally, the panel agreed with the city that the reference in the bankruptcy court's order to a driver's license being property of the estate was taken out of context by debtor and was not a factor in the bankruptcy court's decision. View "Edwards v. City of Ferguson" on Justia Law

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The Debtors each owed debts to the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). Dennis owed $7,962.25 for overpayments made to her under the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program; Halbert owed for overpayments made to her under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Debtors each filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court in each case held that the overpayment debts were not priority domestic support obligations, 11 U.S.C. 547(c)(7). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Debtors do not owe DHS money for support payments; they owe DHS because they received money they were not statutorily entitled to. Because such a payment is not in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support, this is merely an overpayment of benefits and the debt is subject to avoidance in bankruptcy. View "Halbert v. Dimas" on Justia Law

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Brooks, Debtor's CEO, was charged with financial crimes. In class action and derivative lawsuits, Debtor proposed a global settlement that indemnified Brooks for liability under the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 15 U.S.C. 7243. Cohen, Debtor’s former General Counsel and a shareholder, claimed that the indemnification was unlawful. The district court approved the settlement, Cohen, represented by CLM, appealed. The Second Circuit vacated, noting that the EDNY would determine CLM’s attorneys’ fees award. Debtor initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Debtor’s liquidation plan, with a trustee to pursue Debtor’s interest in recouping its losses from the ongoing actions. Brooks died in prison. Because his appeal had not concluded, some of his convictions and restitution obligations were abated. Stakeholders negotiated a second global settlement agreement, under which $142 million of Brooks’ restrained assets were to be distributed to his victims; $70 million has been remitted to Debtor. The Bankruptcy Court awarded CLM fees for the SOX 304 claim; the amount would be determined if Debtor received any funds on account of the claim. CLM’s Fee Appeal remains pending at the district court. CLM requested a $25 million reserve for payment of its fees. The Bankruptcy Court ordered Debtor to set aside $5 million. CLM’s Fee Reserve Appeal remains pending. CLM then moved, unsuccessfully, for a stay of Second Settlement Agreement distributions. In its Stay Denial Appeal, CLM’s motion requesting a stay of distributions was denied. The Third Circuit affirmed. The $5 million reserve is sufficient. A $5 million attorneys’ fees award for 1,502.2 hours of legal work totaling $549,472.61 of documented fees would yield an hourly rate of $3,328.45 and a lodestar multiplier of over nine. In common fund cases where attorneys’ fees are calculated using the lodestar method, multiples from one to four are the norm. View "SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP" on Justia Law

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Great Plains Royalty Corp. appealed the dismissal of its complaint and deciding ownership of certain real property in favor of Earl Schwartz Co. (“ESCO”); Basin Minerals, LLC; SunBehm Gas, Inc.; and other defendants. In 1968, Great Plains’ creditors initiated a bankruptcy case by filing an involuntary petition under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The bankruptcy court ruled Great Plains was “a bankrupt,” and the case was converted to a liquidation proceeding under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The trustee received permission to sell the estate’s assets, an auction sale was held, and Earl Schwartz was the winning bidder. An order confirming sale of the assets was entered; the order stated Schwartz entered into an agreement with SunBehm to purchase certain properties in the bankruptcy estate, and title was transferred on those properties directly from the estate to SunBehm. The trustee did not collect sufficient funds from the auction to pay all creditors in full. The bankruptcy case was closed in 1974. In 2013, the bankruptcy case was reopened, and a successor trustee was appointed. The successor trustee collected funds sufficient to pay “a 100 percent dividend” to the estate’s creditors, and he attempted to disburse the funds to the unpaid creditors. While the case was open various adversary proceedings were brought, including some to determine ownership of certain properties. Some of the adversary proceedings were decided, and others were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The bankruptcy court discharged the trustee and closed the bankruptcy case in May 2016. In December 2016, Great Plains sued ESCO, Basin, and SunBehm to quiet title to oil, gas, and other minerals in and under three properties located in McKenzie County, North Dakota. ESCO and Basin were successors in interest to Schwartz. Great Plains argued the district court erred by finding the bankruptcy trustee intended to sell all of Great Plains’ assets, including those not listed in the auction sale notice, to Earl Schwartz. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s decision to quiet title in favor of the defendants was based on its misapplications of the law and findings that were not supported by the evidence. The Court considered the remaining issues and arguments and concluded they were either without merit or are unnecessary to its decision. Because the court’s findings were clearly erroneous, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgment deciding ownership of certain properties and dismissing Great Plains’ complaint with prejudice. The matter was remanded for further proceedings to determine the parties’ claims and ownership of the properties. View "Great Plains Royalty Corporation v. Earl Schwartz Company, et al." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's holding that the bankruptcy court erred in dismissing a post-confirmation attempt by the Oklahoma State Treasurer to obtain the right to unclaimed royalty payments owed by the oil and gas debtor. The court held that res judicata barred the claim because the Treasurer sat on its rights during the entire Chapter 11 process. In this case, the Treasurer failed to participate in the bankruptcy case and object to or appeal the plan's disposition of the Oklahoma unclaimed property in the normal course. Accordingly, the court reinstated the bankruptcy court's dismissal of the Treasurer's case. View "Linn Operating, Inc. v. Oklahoma State Treasurer" on Justia Law

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Chicago's Code permits the city to immobilize and impound a vehicle if its owner has three or more “final determinations of liability,” or two final determinations that are over a year old, “for parking, standing, compliance, automated traffic law enforcement system, or automated speed enforcement system violation[s].” Fines range from $25 to $500. Failure to pay the fine within 25 days automatically doubles the penalty. After a vehicle is impounded, the owner is further subjected to towing and storage fees and to the city’s costs and attorney’s fees. A 2016 amendment created a possessory lien in favor of the city in the amount required to obtain the vehicle's release. Chicago began refusing to release impounded vehicles to debtors who had filed Chapter 13 petitions. In each of four consolidated cases, the bankruptcy courts each held that Chicago violated the automatic stay by “exercising control” over bankruptcy estate property and that none of the exceptions to the stay applied. The courts ordered the city to return debtors’ vehicles and imposed sanctions for violating the stay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it addressed the issue in 2009 and held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor’s vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. View "City of Chicago v. Fulton" on Justia Law

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Debtors sought sanctions against Kreisler, alleging that the law firm violated the automatic stay arising from their bankruptcy petition by filing a lien against Lorraine’s home. The couple had voluntarily dismissed a prior bankruptcy petition just a few months earlier, so the bankruptcy judge denied their motion based on 11 U.S.C. 362(c)(3), which lifts the automatic stay after 30 days in the case of a successive petition. Bankruptcy courts are divided over the proper interpretation of section 362(c)(3), so the judge certified her order for direct appeal but the Debtors never filed a petition for permission to appeal as required by Rule 8006(g) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. Rule 8006(g) is a mandatory claim-processing rule, and if properly invoked, it must be enforced. Because Kreisler properly objected, the appeal must be dismissed. View "Wade v. Kreisler Law, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Linn Lender's post-petition default interest and held that a reasonable person would not understand the reference to Linn Lender Claims in Article III.B.3 of the bankruptcy plan and the definition of the term "Linn Lender Claims" in Article I.A.114 to incorporate by reference the post-default interest rates set forth in the proofs of claim and credit agreement. The court held that, given the availability of post-petition default interest was specifically reserved when the Final Cash Collateral Order was entered, and that the bankruptcy plan itself contained an Article entitled "No Postpetition or Default Interest on Claims," failure to make specific mention of "default interest" in Article III.B.3 indicated that the parties intended the omission. View "UMB Bank, NA v. Linn Energy, LLC" on Justia Law