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The CARES Act: Changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code

On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. Among other things, the CARES Act made some important changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Specifically, the CARES Act modified subchapter V of the bankruptcy code to make it more widely available to small businesses. The Small Business Reorganization Act (SBRA), which became effective on Feb. 19, 2020, created subchapter V. It was enacted to eliminate hindrances that might deter a small business from reorganizing under chapter 11.…

Expanding the Defense of Ordinary Course and Widening the Range of Acceptable Payments During the Historical Period

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Unsecured Creditors Committee of Sparrer Sausage Co., Inc. v. Jason’s Foods, Inc., 2016 WL 3213090 (7th Cir. June 10, 2016) expanded the scope of the ordinary course defense in a bankruptcy preference action.  This case provides an excellent road map for a creditors’ rights attorney defending a preference suit and suggests arguments for increasing the payments a creditor can retain even if those payments were made during the 90-day preference period.

Here are the facts in Jason’s Foods.  During the 90-day preference period, the debtor paid invoices it received from Jason’s Foods totaling about $587,000.00.  The Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed suit asking the bankruptcy court to avoid all payments made within the 90-day preference period.  The bankruptcy court ruled that prior to the preference period, the debtor generally paid the invoices to Jason’s Foods within 16 to 28 days.  Accordingly, of the 23 invoices paid during the preference period, 12 were within the range and 11 were outside the range.  Thus, the bankruptcy court concluded that $306,110.23 of the payments were not made in the ordinary course.  The issue for the Seventh Circuit was whether the bankruptcy court set the …

Supreme Court Enhances Creditor’s Right to Bar Debtor’s Discharge of Debts-Expanding Reach of Actual Fraud and Shareholder’s Liability

Until the recent U. S. Supreme Court’s decision in Husky International Electronics, Inc. v. Ritz, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1581, 194 L.Ed.2d 655, 84 U.S. L.W. 4270 (2016),  there was disagreement in the circuit courts regarding whether a debtor in bankruptcy could be denied a discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) where the evidence of wrongdoing proved the debtor committed actual fraud, but there was no evidence that the debtor made a misrepresentation to the creditor seeking to bar the discharge.  For example, assume you represent a supplier who has a judgment against an insolvent company.  Assume further that you discover that the company’s major shareholder fraudulently transferred assets of the company to other entities which resulted in the company’s insolvency.  Accordingly, you file a piercing-the-corporate-veil claim against the shareholder and obtain a judgment.  However, before you can collect on the piercing claim, the shareholder files for bankruptcy protection.  You file an adversary proceeding seeking an order denying the discharge of the shareholder’s debt based on the fraudulent transfer scheme and the piercing-the-corporate-veil claim.  The shareholder counters and argues that the debt is nevertheless subject to discharge because § 523(a)(2)(A) requires evidence that the debt was obtained by …

Ohio Revised Code §1301.401 – A Powerful Tool for Lenders with a Defective Mortgage

For years, it was generally accepted that mortgage creditors and bankruptcy trustees could assert the status of a bona fide purchaser and treat a defectively notarized mortgage as if that mortgage did not exist.  On February 16, 2016, our Supreme Court provided clarity regarding the legal effects of R.C. §1301.401 and provided protection to lenders regardless of whether their mortgages were defective.

In Re Messer, 2016-Ohio-510 was a referral to the Ohio Supreme Court from the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  Mr. and Mrs. Messer (the “Messers”) owned real property in Ohio.  In order to finance the purchase of the property, the Messers executed and delivered a mortgage to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (“MERS”) as nominee for M/I Financial Corp.  The mortgage was later assigned to JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”).  Although the mortgage was correctly signed by the Messers, the notary failed to certify the mortgage acknowledgment, although the notary did notarize other documents at the time of the closing.  The Franklin County Recorder accepted and recorded the mortgage on December 4, 2007.

On September 19, 2013, about six years after the defective mortgage was recorded, the Messers filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. The …

STRUCTURED DISMISSAL OF CHAPTER 11 CASES AND THE INVOLUNTARILY SUBORDINATED CREDITOR: Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors v. CIT Group/Bus. Credit Inc. (In re Jevic Holding Corp.), 787 F.3d 173 (3d Cir. 2015)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit plays a uniquely important role in the development of the bankruptcy laws.  The liberal venue rule for bankruptcy cases set out in 28 U.S.C. § 1408 has led to the disproportionate filing of large and mega chapter 11 bankruptcy cases being filed in the District of Delaware.  The decisions of the Third Circuit are binding on the District Court and Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.  Consequently, the decisions of the Third Circuit govern that disproportionate number of large and mega chapter 11 cases.  Furthermore, because the bankruptcy court decisions in these mega cases often involve greater dollar amounts, they are more likely to be appealed, which can result in the Third Circuit being one of the few circuit courts to address a given issue.

In Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. CIT Group/Business Credit Inc. (In re Jevic Holding Corp.), 787 F.3d 173 (3d Cir. 2015), the Third Circuit recently considered the propriety of a “structured dismissal” of a chapter 11 case that provided for a distribution of estate assets contrary to the distributional scheme set out in the Bankruptcy Code.  In Jevic, the debtor was …

Examining the Enforceability of Prepetition Waivers of the Automatic Stay

Recently, a bankruptcy court for the district of Puerto Rico held that a debtor’s waiver of the automatic stay contained in a pre-petition forbearance agreement was enforceable. In re Triple A & R Capital Inv., Inc., 519 B.R. 581 (Bankr. D.P.R. 2014). Unfortunately, the case adds little to the debate over the enforceability of pre-petition agreements impacting bankruptcy rights for one simple reason — the court’s holding was premised on the fact that the pre-petition forbearance agreement waiving the automatic stay was enforceable because the debtor, as part of a post-petition stipulation permitting the use of cash collateral, had ratified and agreed to be bound by the forbearance agreement.

Nonetheless, the court did briefly look at the treatment of pre-petition waivers of the automatic stay lacking post-petition ratification. Its examination provides a good opportunity to review the state of the law on this issue.

Before deciding the issue on its ratification grounds, the court noted that bankruptcy courts that have examined the enforceability of pre-petition waivers of the automatic stay:

[H]ave used different approaches with conflicting results. Three basic approaches have emerged: (1) uphold the stay waiver in broad unqualified terms on the basis of freedom of contract; (2) …

Law v. Siegel, __ U.S. ___, 134 S.CT. 1188 (2014): The Supreme Court Addresses the Scope of the “All Writs” Provision in the Bankruptcy Code

The Bankruptcy Code has approximately 275 different sections. The number of its subsections and subparagraphs is well into the thousands. It is impossible to select the “most significant” provision in the Bankruptcy Code, but among the candidates for that title is certainly § 105 of the Code.

Section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code provides in part that “The court may issue any order, process, or judgment that is necessary to carry out the provisions of this title.” The importance of this “all writs” provision is obvious. It specifically authorizes bankruptcy courts to make the rest of the Bankruptcy Code effective, even if Congress has not specifically included in the other provision of the Code any directive that puts those provisions into motion. When the Bankruptcy Code addresses an issue, § 105 (a) is available to ensure that the issue can be resolved and the solution implemented.

The Supreme Court recently took on the task on determining the limits of the reach of § 105(a) in the case of Law v. Siegel. In Siegel, Stephen Law filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004. Among the listed assets in the case was Law’s house in California. Law valued the house …

In re McKenzie, 737 f.3d 1034 (6th cir. 2013) Extending the Deadline for Trustees to Attack Preferences: The Sixth Circuit’s Life Jacket for Tardy Trustees

It is often said that the acid test of a security interest or lien on property is the bankruptcy of the property owner. If that person or entity files a bankruptcy petition, the bankruptcy trustee has a number of options to challenge or even avoid certain liens. A lien that is not properly perfected is subject to attack by a trustee under both the “strong-arm clause” (Bankruptcy Code § 544) and the preference provisions (Bankruptcy Code § 547). If the lien is avoided, the property can then be sold and the proceeds distributed to the unsecured creditors. The trustee must act timely, however, if he or she is to be successful in avoiding the lien. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed the timeliness of a trustee’s actions against the holder of an allegedly unperfected lien on a debtor’s property. Its conclusion raises several important questions regarding the timeliness of trustees’ actions to challenge the propriety of a secured creditor’s claim.

In In re McKenzie, 737 F.3d 1034 (6th Cir. 2013), the debtor granted a security interest in certain of his property to secure his obligation to pay fees to his attorneys. Among the assets pledged as security …

The Sixth Circuit Holds that Bankruptcy Courts Lack the Inherent Power to Award “Serious Non-Compensatory Punitive Damages”

Nearly 30 years after enactment of the Bankruptcy Amendments and Federal Judgeship Act of 1984 and establishment of the current bankruptcy court structure, courts are still struggling to understand the bounds of a bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction and power. Unfortunately for one recent appellant, a bankruptcy court’s power to enter punitive damages is not as great as it had hoped.

In Adell v. Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, LLP (In re John Richards Homes Building Company, LLC), Case Nos. 12-2012, 12-2013, 12-2014, and 12-2015 (6th Cir. Nov. 20, 2013) (unpublished),1 the Sixth Circuit held that neither 11 U.S.C. § 105 nor the inherent powers of a bankruptcy court permit a bankruptcy court to enter “serious noncompensatory punitive damages.”2 The bankruptcy court in Adell had entered an award of sanctions in the amount $2.8 million as a consequence of a party’s continuing pattern of abuse of the judicial process in evading a prior monetary judgment entered against him by the bankruptcy court. As the bankruptcy court had found, this pattern of abuse included repeated instances of perjury, active participation with related entities in falsely responding to garnishments and filing an “unnecessary and abusive bankruptcy petition.”…

Who Owns Oil and Gas When People (or Businesses) Go Bankrupt?

Businesses active in Ohio’s current oil and gas boom should be aware of how oil and gas leases are treated in bankruptcy. Unsettled Ohio law regarding whether a debtor owns unextracted oil and gas as part of the debtor’s real property can make this a difficult issue. This eBook discusses recent court opinions and examines the question of just who owns unextracted oil and gas in a bankruptcy context. Download Oil and Gas Leases in Bankruptcy.…

A False Sense of Security: Fictitious Checks and Fraudulent Transfers

When a person “pays” a debt with a fictitious check, someone other than the bad guy usually ends up losing. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed such a situation in White Family Cos., Inc., v. Slone (In re Dayton Title Agency, Inc.), Case Nos. 12-3265;3359, July 31, 2013. In Dayton Title, the accused bad guy was Krishan Chari. Chari operated a real estate business in which he bought and sold commercial properties.

Those purchases were often accomplished through the use of short-term bridge loans. In September of 1999, Chari received two such loans totaling approximately $4.8 million which were intended to enable him to complete the purchase and sale of a specific property. The loans came due on Oct. 3, 1999, and Chari gave checks to repay the two creditors. Unfortunately, the checks were dishonored for insufficient funds. Chari then wrote a new check that was payable to Dayton Title Agency (DTA). DTA deposited the check in its account that was supposed to include trust funds. It then, in violation of its own procedures, issued two checks to Chari’s lenders.

Presumably, this form of transaction was intended to provide added assurances to the two lenders by “running …

What Goes Up … Quick Glance #3 at Ohio Oil and Gas Leases in Bankruptcy

As with our prior posts on oil and gas leases in bankruptcy (located here and here), this post presents another thorny issue – namely, “Is an oil and gas lease a lease at all?”

Whether an oil and gas lease is a “lease” is significant in the bankruptcy context, because the Bankruptcy Code has several provisions regarding the treatment of leases.

This post considers two cases that interpret 11 U.S.C. § 365(d)(4), which provides that unless the bankruptcy court orders an extension, “an unexpired lease of nonresidential real property under which the debtor is the lessee shall be deemed rejected, and the trustee shall immediately surrender that nonresidential real property to the lessor, if the trustee does not assume or reject the unexpired lease by … the date that is 120 days after the date of the order for relief [(typically, the commencement of the case)]….” The Code further provides that “the rejection of an … unexpired lease of the debtor constitutes a breach of such contract or lease … immediately before the date of the filing of the petition.” …

What Goes Up…Quick Glance #2 at Ohio Oil and Gas Leases in Bankruptcy

As Ohio enjoys its latest boom in oil and gas exploration, it is important to understand how oil and gas leases are treated in bankruptcy.  The importance of these issues are underscored by the frequency with which the courts confront them; hence we visit again this unsettled area and consider further the question of the ownership of unextracted oil and gas in a bankruptcy context.

In the recent case of In re Cassetto, 475 B.R. 874 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2012), a bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Ohio examined whether a bankruptcy trustee charged with administering the assets of an individual chapter 7 debtor could enter into an oil and gas lease despite the debtor’s objections, and, if so, whether the debtor’s homestead exemption would apply to the signing bonus for such lease.

The lease the trustee sought to enter into had a five year term and would permit the extraction of oil and gas in exchange for a $3,900 per acre signing bonus and royalties of 17.5% of the value of any oil and gas produced from the property.  The trustee sought to enter into the lease, receive the signing bonus and thereafter abandon the lease to …

What Goes Up …A Quick Glance at Ohio Oil and Gas Leases in Bankruptcy

As Ohio enjoys its latest boom in oil and gas exploration, it is important to understand how oil and gas leases are treated in bankruptcy. Unsettled Ohio law regarding whether a debtor owns unextracted oil and gas as part of the debtor’s real property can make this a difficult issue. 

In In re Loveday, No. 10-64110, 2012 WL 1565479 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio May 2, 2012), the Northern District of Ohio examined whether a Chapter 13 debtor had properly included in his bankruptcy schedules his interest in unextracted oil and gas relating to the debtor’s real property. Whether the debtor’s oil and gas rights were properly scheduled was a significant factor in determining whether the debtor could retain the proceeds of the sale of his oil and gas rights. But more importantly, for the companies who sought to purchase the debtor’s oil and gas rights, knowing whether such rights were properly scheduled was necessary to determine whether the debtor had unfettered authority to sell his oil and gas rights without court approval.…

In re: Tracy Broadcasting Corporation

Secured creditors of borrowers holding Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") broadcasting licenses, as well as such borrowers seeking credit, will be reassured by a recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, In re: Tracy Broadcasting Corporation, released October 16, 2012. The Tenth Circuit has joined other courts in upholding the priority of a creditor’s security interest over that of unsecured creditors in the post-bankruptcy sale proceeds of an FCC broadcasting license. The decision reversed the decisions of lower courts and held that "a security interest in the proceeds of a license attaches when the licensee enters into the security agreement, regardless of whether a sale [of the license] is contemplated at that time."

In 2008, Tracy Broadcasting (the "Debtor") issued a promissory note in favor of Valley Bank & Trust Company (the "Secured Creditor") and secured such obligations with various assets, including its general intangibles and the proceeds of such collateral. In 2009, the Debtor filed a Chapter 11 petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado. An unsecured creditor of the Debtor brought an adversary action to determine the extent of the Secured Creditor’s security interest in the proceeds of the sale of …

Part Seven

This article is Part Seven in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find previous articles in this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment; Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default; Default by a Customer: Knowledge is Power; What to Consider When Non-Payment Leads to Litigation and Post-Judgement Remedies. Please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box on the left, or check back weekly for additional articles in the series.

This posting will provide a general overview of bankruptcy law for the non-lawyer, including what it means to be "bankrupt," the types of bankruptcy, and bankruptcy issues for creditors, particularly for sellers of goods or services.

Bankruptcy Structure
Bankruptcy Code is federal law- it was created by, and is amended by the U.S. Congress. In theory, the same laws and rules apply wherever you file bankruptcy in this country, however it does happen that different Bankruptcy Courts around the country interpret the same statute differently. When this happens, the cases are appealed. If the U. S. Courts of Appeals reach different conclusions about the same statute, it is possible that the U.S. …

Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default

This article is Part Two in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find Part One of this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment. Please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box on the left, or check back weekly for additional articles in the series. 

With the recent economic slowdown in many sectors and the parade of corrupt corporate executives on the evening news, corporate managers are more sensitive than ever to signs of troubled business practices and how those practices affect outstanding receivables.  Many distressed businesses display early warning signs of impending trouble, including some or all of the following:

  • Lack of a sound business plan- The company may not have a plan or may have expanded past the vision of it original business plan.
  • Ineffective management style- The management of a small company that has experienced rapid growth may not be able to delegate authority effectively. 
  • Poor lender/vendor relationships- The company may not respond quickly or fully to its vendor’s request for financial information or may actively hide information from its vendors.
  • Change in market conditions- The market for the company’s product may


Health care lenders and others evaluating or relying on the financial strength of a healthcare provider need to think about the potential recoupment and setoff of claims against Medicare/Medicaid receivables of the provider. 


Recoupment, which is the netting of two related claims which is the function of a single, unitary transaction between the parties, occurs in the normal course of business and is not stayed by the automatic stay in a bankruptcy proceeding. For example, if Party A sells 100 widgets to Party B, and Party B discovers that four of the widgets were not delivered, Party B will deduct (recoup) the invoice amount of each unit in making payment to Party A.

In dealing with Medicare/Medicaid recoupment issues in bankruptcy, two general approaches have been taken by the Circuit Courts of Appeal with respect to the netting of overpayments against accounts due to the provider.

In the Third Circuit, which includes Delaware, the Court has applied an integrated transaction test, which means generally that any recoupment of Medicare/Medicaid payments is viewed as yearly payments and therefore the government can only recoup overpayments against payments due for a single year. Most of the Circuit Courts have adopted a “logical relationship test” …

Secured Lenders Have a Right to Credit Bid in Bankruptcy — At Least in the Seventh Circuit

Breaking with the Third Circuit and the Fifth Circuit, on June 28, 2011, the Seventh Circuit held that a debtor’s plan of reorganization that provides for the sale of the debtor’s assets free and clear of an existing security interest may only be confirmed over the objection of its secured creditor if the plan’s sale procedure permits the secured creditor to credit bid its secured debt for the assets being sold. River Road Hotel Partners, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank, — F.3d –, Nos. 10-3597 & 10-3598 (7th Cir. June 28, 2011).

The circuit split centers on the Bankruptcy Code’s provisions that only permit the confirmation of a plan of reorganization over the objection of a creditor class (a so called "cram down") where the plan’s treatment of such class is "fair and equitable." When the objecting class consists of secured creditors, the Bankruptcy Code requires that such fair and equitable treatment include provisions whereby either: (A) the secured creditor retains its liens in its collateral whether such collateral is retained by the debtor or transferred to another party and the secured creditor receives a specified level of cash payments under the plan, 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b)(2)(A)(i); (B) the secured …

Recent Decision Limits Utilization of Non-Consenting Secured Creditor’s Cash Collateral

The ability of a single asset real estate debtor in a bankruptcy case to utilize a non-consenting secured creditor’s cash collateral has been limited by a recent decision from the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth Circuit in In re Buttermilk Towne Center, LLC, 2010 FED App. 0010P (B.A.P. 6th Cir. 2010).

Under 11 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2), a pre-petition security interest in rents extends to rents generated by a debtor post-petition. Further, 11 U.S.C. § 363 provides that a debtor can only use the cash collateral of a non-consenting secured creditor if the creditor is deemed to be "adequately protected." Prior to Buttermilk, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the unpublished decision of Stearns Bldg. v. WHBCF Real Estate (In re Stearns Bldg.), 165 F.3d 28 (6th Cir. 1998), in which the Sixth Circuit held that a secured creditor was not adequately protected when a single asset real estate debtor only offered to provide the creditor with a replacement lien on post-petition rents that were encumbered by the secured creditor’s pre-petition lien. Many courts in the Sixth Circuit have failed to follow the unpublished decision of Stearns Building, and rather have held that a pre-petition secured creditor is …