Category Archives: Safe Harbors

Court Finds Investment Advisor’s Payments to Customers Are Not Exempt From Avoidance Under Section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code

FCStone, a New York-based commodities brokerage firm, was recently ordered to return a transfer of $15.6 million to the bankruptcy estate of Sentinel Management Group. Approximately $1.1 million of this amount constituted a prepetition transfer of proceeds the debtor obtained from the sale of securities, which proceeds the debtor distributed to a certain segment of its customers, including FCStone. Judge James B. Zagel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Grede v. FCStone LLC, No. 09 C 136, 2013 WL 68662 (N.D. Ill. 2013), determined that this prepetition transfer constituted a preference that was not protected under the safe harbor of section 546(e), which immunizes certain settled financial transactions from avoidance.
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SDNY Finds Direct Payments to Shareholders in a LBO Are Safe Harbored Under Section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code

On November 7, 2012, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan for the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York held that payments made in connection with a leveraged buyout to holders of privately held securities were safe harbored under section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code notwithstanding the fact that the payments passed directly from the purchaser to the seller without the use of any financial intermediary. AP Services LLP v. Silva, et al., Case No. 11-03005 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2012). The decision comports with the trend among the United States Courts of Appeal, including the Second Circuit, to interpret section 546(e) broadly, and provides clarity regarding the section’s application to payments made in connection with a LBO that are wired directly to a shareholder’s bank account. Continue reading

SDNY Bankruptcy Court Interprets Section 546(e)’s Safe Harbors in Lehman-JPMorgan Dispute

On April 19, 2012, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York granted in part and denied in part JPMorgan Chase, N.A.’s motion to dismiss an adversary complaint filed by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (“LBHI”) and its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. The Complaint seeks to recover approximately $8.6 billion in prepetition transfers made by LBHI to JPMorgan in the days leading up to LBHI’s bankruptcy. JPMorgan filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that it acted reasonably in requiring additional collateral at a time of great financial risk, and that the transfers that the Plaintiffs sought to unwind are immunized by the safe harbor protections of section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code. Continue reading

Delaware’s Not So Safe Harbors: Third Circuit Bankruptcy Court Declines to Rule that a Payment on a Letter of Credit is an Avoidance-Proof “Settlement Payment”

On March 26, 2012, Judge Mary F. Walrath of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware refused to rule that, as a matter of law, payments made to satisfy a debtor’s obligations under a letter of credit constitute “settlement payments” protected from avoidance under section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code. EPLG I, LLC v. Citibank, National Association et al. (In re Qimonda Richmond, LLC, et al.), No. 09-10589, 2012 Bankr. LEXIS 1264 (Bankr. Del. March 26, 2012). Although the decision helps to clarify the scope of one of the Bankruptcy Code’s most important safe harbor provisions, it has also left some important questions unanswered regarding the scope of section 546(e). Continue reading

News From London: English Court of Appeal Interprets the ISDA Master Agreement

Last week the Court of Appeal of England and Wales handed down its decision in four appeals which raise a number of questions of construction in relation to derivatives in the form of interest rate swaps and forward freight agreements documented under the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. Master Agreement (the “ISDA Master Agreement”). In particular, the decision focuses on the interpretation of section 2(a)(iii) of the ISDA Master Agreement. Continue reading

Dante’s Third Ring: Lehman Investors Bring Adversary Proceeding In SDNY Bankruptcy Court

The battle over the enforceability of priority flip clauses in CDO indentures has entered a new phase. On February 8, 2012, a group of investors led by Belmont Park Investments Pty Ltd. filed an adversary proceeding against Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. and BNY Mellon Corporate Trustee Services Ltd. in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The Investors seek recognition of a judgment entered by the High Court of Justice in England and Wales in Belmont Park Inv. Pty Ltd. & Others v. BNY Corp. Trustee Servs. Ltd., and a declaration that, as a matter of English law, the Investors have priority over LBSF, as swap provider, with respect to shared collateral securing notes issued under Lehman Brothers’ “Dante Programme.” The Investors filed a concurrent motion to withdraw the reference, seeking to remove the adversary proceeding from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to the U.S. District Court. Continue reading

Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of New York Prohibits Triangular Setoff Provided for in Safe Harbored Contract

On October 4, 2011, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that a contractual right of a triangular (non-mutual) setoff was unenforceable in bankruptcy, even though the contract was safe harbored. In re Lehman Brothers, Inc., No. 08-01420 (JMP), 2011 WL 4553015 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Oct. 4, 2011). In doing so, Judge Peck followed prior decisions by the Delaware bankruptcy and district courts in In re SemCrude, L.P., 399 B.R. 388 (Bankr. D. Del. 2009), aff’d, 428 B.R. 590 (D. Del. 2010) and his own decision in In re Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., 433 B.R. 101 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2010) (“Swedbank”). Continue reading

Bankruptcy Bullets – Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors of Quebecor World (USA) Inc. v. Am. United Life Ins. Co. (In re Quebecor World (USA) Inc.), Adv. Proc. No. 08-01417 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y)

On July 27, 2011, in an adversary proceeding brought by the Creditors’ Committee against certain of the Debtor’s noteholders, Bankruptcy Judge James M. Peck held that a $376 million prepetition redemption payment made by the Debtor to noteholders did not constitute an avoidable preference. Instead, the payment was a safe-harbored “settlement payment” under section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code. Continue reading

S.D.N.Y. Bankruptcy Court Continues to Construe Bankruptcy Code’s Safe Harbor Provisions Narrowly

In two recent decisions, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York has interpreted narrowly certain of the Bankruptcy Code’s safe harbor provisions. Continue reading