Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
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The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified two questions of state law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. White Star Petroleum, LLC, along with its wholly-owned subsidiary, White Star Petroleum II, LLC were engaged in the business of exploring, acquiring, drilling, and producing oil and natural gas, either as an operator or non-operating working interest owner of various leaseholds across Oklahoma. In 2019, several of White Star's unpaid vendors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against White Star. White Star and its affiliates filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. During the bankruptcy proceedings, 78 unpaid vendors filed adversary proceedings seeking adjudication of statutory lien claims under 42 O.S. 144 against White Star's interests in various wells and establishment of trust fund claims under 42 O.S. 144.2. These proceedings were stayed when White Star initiated two adversary proceedings of its own. The first sought adjudication of the priority, validity, and value of approximately 2,000 mechanic's and materialman's liens ("M&M liens") asserted by the 78 unpaid vendors over various interests held by White Star. The second sought an order of the Bankruptcy Court directing several first purchasers of oil and gas to turn over to White Star approximately 2 million dollars, which were being held in suspense after the purchasers received statutory lien notices from the M&M lien claimants. The Bankruptcy Court certified the questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to aid in the resolution of these two adversary proceedings. The federal court asked: (1) were the "trust funds" created by Title 42 O.S. 144.2 limited to obligations due non-operator joint working interest owners, or did such funds include payments due holders of mechanic's and materialmen's liens arising under and perfected by Title 42 O.S. 144?; and (2) did the Oil and Gas Owners' Lien Act of 2010, grant an operator and non-operator working interest owners a lien in proceeds from purchasers of oil and gas which is prior and superior to any claim of the holder of a mechanic's and materialmen's lien asserted under Title 42 O.S. 144? The Supreme Court found that answering both questions would have been dispositive of issues pending in the underlying bankruptcy proceedings and that there was then no controlling law on the subject matter of either question. The Court answered both questions in the negative: funds which must be held in trust for payment of lienable claims pursuant to 42 O.S. 144.2 were not exclusively limited to joint-interest billing payments received by operators for services rendered by the lienholders; the Oil and Gas Owners' Lien Act did not grant operators and non-operating working interest owners a lien in proceeds from the sale of oil and gas which is prior and superior to any claim of the holder of a mechanic's and materialman's lien asserted under 42 O.S. 144. View "White Star Petroleum v. MUFG Union Bank" on Justia Law

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Boardman, LLC, a custom heavy metal fabricator, employed Debtor Eddie Joe Adams as a sales representative for approximately 33 years. Adams and his employer entered into an Employment Agreement in 2013 (Original Agreement). The Original Agreement covered a period of ten years (until January 1, 2023) and compensated Adams through regular salary, bonuses, and severance. On January 1, 2014, Adams and his employer entered into the First Amendment to the Original Agreement (First Amendment) that included an additional performance incentive in the form of a "Deferred Bonus." In 2017, Adams executed an Amended and Restated Employment Agreement (Restated Agreement), which had a term until January 1, 2020. On January 1, 2019, the Deferred Bonus fully vested, and on October 31, 2019, Adams filed a voluntary chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Boardman, LLC did not renew the Restated Agreement, and it expired on January 1, 2020. Adams received his first payment of $41,634.14, less withholding tax, under the Deferred Bonus on January 2, 2020. In his bankruptcy filings, Adams claimed the Deferred Bonus (payable over 5 years) as exempt under 31 O.S.2011, section 1(A)(20). The Bankruptcy Trustee Susan Manchester (Trustee) objected to the exemption. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified a question of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court concerning whether the Deferred Bonus was exempt. The Supreme Court determined this was a question of first impression, and concluded the deferred bonus was not exempt as "retirement plan or arrangement qualified for tax exemption or deferment purposes" as required to be exempt under 31 O.S.2011, section 1(A)(20). View "In re: Adams" on Justia Law

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Hub Partners XXVI, Ltd. filed a foreclosure action against Thomas Barnett. The district court granted Hub a money and foreclosure judgment. Barnett filed for bankruptcy. During the bankruptcy, Barnett made court-approved payments to Hub. Barnett failed to pay the debt in full, and the bankruptcy court dismissed his bankruptcy. Over a month after the dismissal, Hub issued an execution on the pre-bankruptcy judgment. Barnett objected to the execution arguing the judgment was dormant pursuant to 12 O.S. 735, since more than five years had passed and Hub had not renewed the judgment. The district court agreed and granted Barnett's motion to release the dormant judgment and vacate the execution and sale order. Hub appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve: (1) whether Hub's foreclosure judgment was dormant; and (2) whether the mortgage at issue merged with the foreclosure judgment. The Supreme Court held the 2011 foreclosure judgment was dormant, but the mortgage lien did not merge into the foreclosure judgment and continues to secure Barnett's obligation owed to Hub. View "Hub Partners XXVI, Ltd. v. Barnett" on Justia Law