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NOV purchased industrial-strength "desert-proof" air conditioners from Technicool for use on specialty oil-and-gas rigs, for more than $3 million. After multiple units failed, NOV, represented by SBPC, sued Technicool in Texas state court. Technicool filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. NOV sought relief from the automatic stay and was allowed to join Technicool’s owner, Furlough, to its state suit. NOV, again represented by SBPC, filed a claim in the bankruptcy case, representing 93 percent of the total claims. After learning that Furlough had formed other companies, the Trustee sought to consolidate the businesses and pierce the corporate veil and to employ SBPC as special counsel under 11 U.S.C. 327(a). Furlough objected, arguing that SBPC’s representation of NOV was a disqualifying “interest adverse to the estate.” In an engagement letter, signed by SBPC, NOV agreed to transfer to the bankruptcy estate funds it recovered from Furlough in state court. The bankruptcy court, district court, and Fifth Circuit held that Furlough lacked standing to object. Furlough cannot show that he was “directly and adversely affected pecuniarily by the order of the bankruptcy court.” SBPC’s appointment does not directly affect whether the bankruptcy court approves NOV’s claim. Under section 327(c), “a person is not disqualified for employment . . . solely because of such person’s employment by or representation of a creditor, unless there is objection by another creditor or the United States trustee, [and] an actual conflict of interest.” View "Furlough v. Cage" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a bankruptcy adversary proceeding, and centered on the ownership of a federal tax refund. The tax refund was issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to United Western Bancorp, Inc. (UWBI), a thrift holding company that had, under the terms of a written “Tax Allocation Agreement,” filed consolidated returns on behalf of itself and several subsidiary corporations. The tax refund was the result, however, of net operating losses incurred by United Western Bank (the Bank), one of UWBI’s subsidiaries. Simon Rodriguez, in his capacity as the Chapter 7 Trustee for the bankruptcy estate of UWBI, initiated this adversary proceeding against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as receiver for the Bank, alleging that the tax refund was owned by UWBI and was thus part of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court agreed and entered summary judgment in favor of the Trustee. The FDIC appealed to the district court, which reversed the decision of the bankruptcy court. The Trustee appealed the district court’s decision. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the tax refund belonged to the FDIC, as receiver for the Bank. Consequently, the Court affirmed the district court and remanded to the bankruptcy court for further proceedings. View "Rodriguez v. FDIC" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a bankruptcy adversary proceeding, and centered on the ownership of a federal tax refund. The tax refund was issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to United Western Bancorp, Inc. (UWBI), a thrift holding company that had, under the terms of a written “Tax Allocation Agreement,” filed consolidated returns on behalf of itself and several subsidiary corporations. The tax refund was the result, however, of net operating losses incurred by United Western Bank (the Bank), one of UWBI’s subsidiaries. Simon Rodriguez, in his capacity as the Chapter 7 Trustee for the bankruptcy estate of UWBI, initiated this adversary proceeding against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as receiver for the Bank, alleging that the tax refund was owned by UWBI and was thus part of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court agreed and entered summary judgment in favor of the Trustee. The FDIC appealed to the district court, which reversed the decision of the bankruptcy court. The Trustee appealed the district court’s decision. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the tax refund belonged to the FDIC, as receiver for the Bank. Consequently, the Court affirmed the district court and remanded to the bankruptcy court for further proceedings. View "Rodriguez v. FDIC" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case against US Steel, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that did not disclose the employment-discrimination claims. The Chapter 7 Trustee was treating the bankruptcy as a “no asset” case. U.S. Steel moved the district court for dismissal. An Eleventh Circuit panel initially affirmed the district court in holding that judicial estoppel required dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Upon rehearing en banc, the Eleventh Circuit overruled precedent “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded for a determination of whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement is an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered, and any other fact relevant to the intent inquiry.” View "Slater v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case against US Steel, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that did not disclose the employment-discrimination claims. The Chapter 7 Trustee was treating the bankruptcy as a “no asset” case. U.S. Steel moved the district court for dismissal. An Eleventh Circuit panel initially affirmed the district court in holding that judicial estoppel required dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Upon rehearing en banc, the Eleventh Circuit overruled precedent “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded for a determination of whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement is an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered, and any other fact relevant to the intent inquiry.” View "Slater v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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An employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “willfully violates” an order from the bankruptcy court discharging the debts of a debtor-taxpayer, as that term is used in 26 U.S.C. 7433(e), when the employee knows of the discharge order and takes an intentional action that violates the order. William Murphy filed a Chapter 7 petition in the bankruptcy court seeking primarily to discharge his tax obligations. The bankruptcy court granted Murphy a discharge. Murphy later successfully filed an adversarial proceeding seeking a declaration that his relevant tax obligations had been discharged. Murphy then filed a complaint against the IRS alleging that one of its employees willfully violated the bankruptcy court’s discharge order by issuing levies against the insurance companies with which he did business in an attempt to collect on his discharged tax obligations. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment for Murphy. The parties eventually entered into a settlement agreement whereby the IRS accepted the summary judgment ruling. After final judgment was entered against the IRS, the IRS appealed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the IRS’s reasonable and good faith belief that the discharge injunction did not apply to its collection efforts was not relevant to determining whether it “willfully violate[d]” the discharge order. View "Internal Revenue Service v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Williams, behind on paying SCCA condominium association fees, filed the first of five, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy petitions so that creditors were stayed from initiating collection. Her scheme was to not make payments required by her Chapter 13 plan so that the court would dismiss the case; SCCA would file eviction and collection suits; Williams would then file a new Chapter 13 petition. After voluntarily dismissing her second bankruptcy petition, Williams signed a deed transferring the condominium to Wilke. A deed recorded weeks later returned title to Williams. Wilke paid nothing and never occupied the condominium but obtained loans secured by the condominium. In her subsequent bankruptcy petitions, Williams failed to disclose the transfers but stated, falsely, that Wilke was a co‐debtor and would contribute toward the mortgage. After dismissing Williams’s fifth petition, the court barred Williams from filing a new petition for 180 days. She again deeded the condominium to Wilke, who filed a bankruptcy petition stating it was his property. The court dismissed the case. Both were charged with bankruptcy fraud, 18 U.S.C. 157. Wilke pled guilty and cooperated. The court limited the defense’s cross-examination of SCCA's board member and attorney about a class action lawsuit Williams had filed against SCCA and about SCCA’s treatment of Williams relative to other tenants, reasoning that the topics were an irrelevant attack on the underlying debt. Williams was convicted. With enhancements for causing a loss of $193, 291 and because the offense involved 10 or more victims, her Guidelines Range was 51–63 months’ imprisonment. The court sentenced her to 46 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the court’s limitation on cross-examination and to the sentencing enhancements. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Trustee and Creditor filed an adversary complaint against Debtors and NonDebtor Defendants, including BIT, seeking a declaration that Debtors were not entitled to a discharge, and to recover assets from the Non-Debtors. Creditor and Trustee later entered into an agreement; Creditor purchased the bankruptcy estate’s claims, except Trustee’s objection to discharge, for $100,000 and a reduction to Creditor’s proof of claim. The court authorized the sale and dismissed the purchased claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Trustee no longer owned and lacked standing to assert them but did not dismiss the 2009 Complaint. Creditor then filed the dismissed claims in the Western District of Tennessee, alleging that the BIT was an alter ego of Debtors, such that its assets should be made available to satisfy claims. The district court dismissed the claims because Tennessee law does not recognize reverse-veil-piercing outside of parent-subsidiary corporate relationships. In 2017, Creditor filed a new bankruptcy court complaint, invoking derivative standing and seeking a declaration that the BIT is a self-settled trust so that its assets are not excluded from bankruptcy estate by 11 U.S.C. 541(c)(2). The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed dismissal. The bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in interpreting the Sale Order to include the claims asserted in the 2017 Complaint or in concluding that Creditor could not pursue the claims asserted in the 2017 Complaint derivatively on Trustee’s behalf. View "In re Blasingame" on Justia Law

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Under 11 U.S.C. 1126(e), a bankruptcy court may not designate claims for bad faith simply because (1) a creditor offers to purchase only a subset of available claims in order to block a plan of reorganization, and/or (2) blocking the plan will adversely impact the remaining creditors. At a minimum, there must be some evidence that a creditor is seeking "to secure some untoward advantage over other creditors for some ulterior motive." In this case, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order affirming the bankruptcy court and vacated the bankruptcy court's order granting a chapter 11 debtor's motion to designate claims for bad faith and preclude the claims from being voted against a plan of reorganization. The panel held that the bankruptcy court erred when it refused to analyze whether Pacific Western acted under an "ulterior motive," beyond its "mere enlightened self interest" in protecting its secured claim. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Pacific Western Bank v. Fagerdala USA" on Justia Law

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Appling owed about $60,000 to his law firm (Lamar), which threatened to withdraw representation and place a lien on its work product. Appling told Lamar that he could cover owed and future legal expenses with an expected tax refund, so Lamar continued representation. Appling used the refund, which was much less than he had stated, for business expenses, but told Lamar he was still waiting for the refund. Lamar completed pending litigation. Appling never paid. Lamar obtained a judgment. Appling filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Lamar initiated an adversary proceeding, arguing that Appling’s debt was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2). Section 523(a)(2)(A) bars discharge of debts arising from “false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud, other than a statement respecting the debtor’s . . . financial condition.” Subparagraph (B) bars discharge of debts arising from a materially false “statement . . . respecting the debtor’s . . . financial condition” if that statement is “in writing.” The Eleventh Circuit found that Appling made a statement “respecting” his “financial condition,” which was not in writing. The Supreme Court affirmed. A statement about a single asset can be a “statement respecting the debtor’s financial condition” under section 523(a)(2). A statement is “respecting” a debtor’s financial condition if it has a direct relation to or impact on the debtor’s overall financial status. A single asset has a direct relation to and impact on aggregate financial condition, so a statement about that asset bears on a debtor’s overall financial condition and can help indicate whether a debtor is solvent or insolvent. View "Lamar, Archer & Cofrin, LLP v. Appling" on Justia Law