Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
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After the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme collapsed, Picard was appointed under the Securities Investor Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78aaa (SIPA), as the liquidation trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS). The Act established a priority system to make customers of failed brokerages whole before other general creditors. Where customer property is insufficient to satisfy customers' claims, the trustee may recover property transferred by the debtor that would have been customer property but for the transfer if and to the extent that the transfer is void or voidable under the Bankruptcy Code. 15 U.S.C. 78fff–2(c)(3). The provisions of the Bankruptcy Code apply only to the extent that they are consistent with SIPA.Picard attempted to recover transfers of money that the defendants had received from BLMIS in excess of their principal investments. The defendants are BLMIS customers who were unaware of the fraud but profited from it by receiving what they thought were legitimate profits; the funds were actually other customers' money. The Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Picard. The Bankruptcy Code affirmative defense that permits a transferee who takes an interest of the debtor in property "for value and in good faith" to retain the transfer to the extent of the value given does not apply in this SIPA liquidation. The transfers were not "for value" and recovery would not violate the two-year limitation. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment affirming the bankruptcy court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss in an action arising out of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The bankruptcy court held that, in the context of synthetic collateralized debt obligations, certain "Priority Provisions" that subordinated LBSF's payment priority to claims of the Noteholder defendants are enforceable by virtue of section 560 of the Bankruptcy Code, which exempts "swap agreements" from the Code's prohibition of "ipso facto clauses."Like the district court, the court held that, even if the Priority Provisions were ipso facto clauses, their enforcement was nevertheless permissible under the section 560 safe harbor. The court explained that the Priority Provisions are incorporated by reference into the swap agreements and thus, for the purposes of section 560, are considered to be part of a swap agreement; the contractual right to liquidate included distributions made pursuant to Noteholder priority; the Trustees exercised a contractual right to effect liquidation when they distributed the proceeds of the sold Collateral; and, in doing so, the Trustees exercised the rights of a swap participant. Because the Priority of Payments clauses are enforceable under the Code, the court held that LBSF's state-law claims also fail. Finally, the district court and bankruptcy court correctly concluded that LBSF is not entitled to declaratory relief. View "Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. v. Bank of America N.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Bankruptcy
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The Second Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's order capping appellant's claim for certain incentive payments promised by his former employer pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 502(b)(7), which limits employee claims for damages "resulting from the termination of an employment contract."The court held that appellant's right to receive the payments was accelerated as a result of his termination, and thus section 502(b)(7) applied to his claim. In this case, pursuant to appellant's contract, portions of the incentive bonuses were not in fact due prior to termination, but were accelerated as the contract expressly provides. Therefore, the court held that the plain language of section 502(b)(7) requires that the court apply it to cap appellant's claim for accelerated payments. View "In Re: 21st Century Oncology Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Violation of a bankruptcy court discharge order is not an arbitrable dispute. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying appellants' motions to compel arbitration of a dispute with two debtors who previously held credit card accounts managed by appellants. Appellants argued that debtors were obliged to arbitrate the dispute concerning whether appellants violated the bankruptcy court's discharge orders when they failed to correct the status of debtors' credit card debt on their credit reports.Though the text and history of the Bankruptcy Code are ambiguous as to whether Congress intended to displace the Federal Arbitration Act in this context, the court held that circuit precedent is clear that the two statutes are in inherent conflict on this issue. In Anderson v. Credit One Bank, N.A., 884 F.3d 382 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 139 S. Ct. 144 (2018), the court refused to enforce the parties' arbitration agreement, finding that Congress did not intend for disputes over the violation of a discharge order to be arbitrable. View "Belton v. GE Capital Retail Bank" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision vacating the bankruptcy court's determination concerning whether General Motors assumed liability, through a judicial admission, for claims like appellant's. Appellant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New GM after his wife was involved in an accident that left her incapacitated. She was driving a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, a vehicle manufactured by Old GM, which allegedly had a faulty ignition switch.The Second Circuit held that for a statement to constitute a judicial admission, it must be intentional, clear, and unambiguous. In this case, the court held that the inadvertent inclusion of language from an outdated, non-operative version of a sale agreement was not intentional, clear, and unambiguous, and thus was not a judicial admission. Therefore, General Motors was not bound by the language. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co. (Pillars)" on Justia Law

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Representatives of certain unsecured creditors of the Chapter 11 debtor Tribune Company appealed the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss their state law, constructive fraudulent conveyance claims brought against Tribune's former shareholders. The district court held that appellants lacked statutory standing under the Bankruptcy Code.The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of appellants' state law, constructive fraudulent conveyance claims on preemption grounds rather than standing grounds. The court held that appellants were not barred by the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay provision from bringing claims while avoidance proceedings against the same transfers brought by a party exercising the powers of a bankruptcy trustee on an intentional fraud theory are ongoing, because appellants have been freed from its restrictions by orders of the bankruptcy court and by debtors' confirmed reorganization plan. However, the court held that appellants' claims were preempted by section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, because this section shields certain transactions from a bankruptcy trustee's avoidance powers, including, inter alia, transfers by or to a financial institution in connection with a securities contract, except through an intentional fraudulent conveyance claim. View "In re: Tribune Company Fraudulent Conveyance Litigation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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This case arose out of the 2009 bankruptcy of Old GM, which resulted in a sale under 11 U.S.C. 363 of the bulk of its assets to a new entity that has continued the business (the new General Motors). The New General Motors assumed the liability of Old GM with respect to post‐Sale accidents involving automobiles manufactured by Old GM. The claims assumed included those by persons who did not transact business with Old GM, such as individuals who never owned Old GM vehicles and persons who bought Old GM cars after the Sale. At issue was whether the New General Motors was liable for punitive damages with respect to such claims.The Second Circuit held that the new General Motors did not contractually assume liability for punitive damages in its predecessor's bankruptcy sale, and thus the Post-Closing Accident Plaintiffs may not assert claims for punitive damages based on the predecessor's conduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's decision on the issue of punitive damages. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's orders affirming the bankruptcy court's award of monetary sanctions pursuant to its inherent power. Appellant filed a Chapter 7 petition in bankruptcy court for his client but ultimately failed to prosecute the case. The bankruptcy court then issued multiple orders to show cause, which appellant failed to comply with, and then the bankruptcy court ultimately sanctioned him.The court held, as a matter of first impression, that bankruptcy courts possess inherent power to sanction attorneys in appropriate circumstances. In this case, appellant's challenges to the bankruptcy court's exercise of that power failed for the reasons set forth in a separately-filed summary order. View "In re: Alba Sanchez" on Justia Law

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Debtors appealed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's order deeming nondischargeable a prior default judgment against debtors in favor of plaintiffs in the Eastern District Judgment. The lower courts had relied in part on the preclusive effect of the Eastern District Judgment, which arose from a dispute between the families regarding two real estate projects.While a default judgment generally lacks preclusive effect because the underlying merits of the case are not actually litigated, the Second Circuit held that where, as here, the default judgment is entered as a sanction, it may be afforded preclusive effect. The court also held that the lower courts erred in treating the Eastern District Judgment as a whole, rather than analyzing each of the two underlying debts for nondischargeability separately. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in part. View "In re: Stuart Scott Snyder" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's order requiring the law firm to remit $59,432 to the trustee of debtor's bankruptcy estate. The amount the law firm was ordered to remit was part of the proceeds of an unauthorized post-petition transfer by the debtor of the estate's property. The court held that the trustee's recovery of a portion of the Thompson Loan from the law firm did not constitute a double recovery in violation of 11 U.S.C. 550(d). View "In re: Alice Phillips Belmonte" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy