Stephen Selbst is the co-chair of Herrick's Restructuring & Finance Litigation Group. He has more than 30 years of experience representing debtors, creditors, official committees, distressed investors and asset purchasers in bankruptcies and out-of-court restructurings. Stephen advises clients from a wide range of industries, including financial services, telecommunications, government agencies and real estate. A skilled commercial litigator, Stephen also has significant experience in district and state courts, where he regularly represents clients in separate litigation arising out of bankruptcy.  He also advises clients on structured finance and derivative transactions.

He is a frequent lecturer on bankruptcy and restructuring topics and has published articles and book chapters on bankruptcy-related topics. He has been frequently quoted in newspaper articles on insolvency related topics and has appeared on CNBC.

On August 11, 2020, the Second Circuit addressed the long-standing question of whether flip clauses are enforceable in bankruptcy. Affirming a Southern District of New York decision, the Court found in Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. v. Bank of America N.A. that flip clauses are protected under the safe harbor and therefore enforceable in bankruptcy.[1] Investors should take comfort that this decision puts the final nail in the coffin of the earlier controversial decisions in the Lehman Brothers chapter 11 proceedings that had ruled such provisions unenforceable.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Does Not Flip Flop on Enforceability of Flip Clauses

Dan Kamensky, the founder and principal of the prominent hedge fund, Marble Ridge Capital LP and Marble Ridge Master Fund LP (“Marble Ridge”), was arrested on Thursday, September 3, 2020, by the FBI, the most recent development in a dramatic chain of events in the Chapter 11 proceedings of retailer Neiman Marcus. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Kamensky’s criminal charges stem from his attempt to pressure a rival bidder to abandon its higher bid for assets in the Neiman Marcus bankruptcy – which would have allowed Marble Ridge to purchase the assets at a lower price – and then pressuring the rival to cover up the scheme.[1] Mr. Kamensky faces one count each of securities fraud, wire fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice.[2] If convicted, Mr. Kamensky faces up to 50 years in prison. Also on September 3, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Mr. Kamensky alleging violations of the federal securities laws and seeking permanent injunctive relief and civil money penalties.[3] Mr. Kamensky appeared in federal court yesterday afternoon, at which the terms of his pretrial release were set, including a $250,000 bond. At the time of this article, a spokesman for Mr. Kamensky has declined to comment.
Continue Reading Hedge Fund Founder Faces Criminal and SEC Charges Based on Alleged Misconduct in Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy

In In re Pace Industries, LLC, Judge Mary Walrath of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware denied a motion to dismiss a chapter 11 where the debtor circumvented a preferred stockholder’s blocking rights by filing bankruptcy petitions without the preferred stockholder’s consent.[1] Judge Walrath ruled, in a decision that has not yet been published, that she was “prepared to be the first court” to find a stockholder’s blocking rights were invalid. Judge Walrath held that use of a blocking right to preclude access to bankruptcy relief was against public policy, and that a stockholder in possession of such a right has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation, and not its own interests. This decision suggests that blocking rights, which are commonly used in structured finance and real estate transactions to prohibit voluntary bankruptcy filings, may not always be effective.
Continue Reading Delaware Bankruptcy Court Voids Preferred Stockholder’s Right to Block Bankruptcy Filing

Introduction:

New York bankruptcy courts have long adhered to the 2007 ruling by the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (the “Bankruptcy Court”) in In re Enron Corp., 379 B.R. 425 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (“Enron”), which held that Section 502(d) “disallowance taint” – the possibility that a bankruptcy claim may be disallowed if the claimholder received an avoidable, yet unpaid transfer – would not follow a claim that was sold, rather than assigned. However, an April 22, 2020 ruling by Judge Sean H. Lane in the case In re Firestar Diamond, Inc., 615 B.R. 161 (“Firestar Diamond”) reverses course, holding that a debtor could assert defenses against buyers of claims to the same extent that it had claims or defenses against the original owner of the claim.[1] Holding that disallowance taint travels with the claim, Judge Lane’s opinion effectively puts the onus on a would-be buyer to conduct diligence into the potential for a claim’s reduction, compensate for the risk in negotiating the purchase price for the claim, prepare for a future indemnity claim against the original seller, or otherwise protect its purchase.
Continue Reading S.D.N.Y. Bankruptcy Court Pivots from Enron; Holds “Disallowance Taint” Transfers With Purchased Claim in Firestar Diamond Case

Introduction

Creditors of an insolvent debtor may avoid certain transfers as fraudulent conveyances under state or federal law. A fraudulent conveyance is a transfer made without the transferor receiving adequate consideration and which satisfies one of three insolvency conditions: 1) the transferor was insolvent when the transfer was made; 2) the transferor was rendered insolvent by the transfer; or 3) the transferor was left with unreasonably small capital to carry on his/her or its business.[1]
Continue Reading S.D.N.Y. Bankruptcy Court Holds that Allegedly Fraudulent Conveyances are Safe Harbored Under Section 546(e) and Provides a New Avenue of Defense

The general rule is that when a corporation or other business entity buys the assets of another entity, it does not assume the liabilities of the seller. But in New Nello Operating Co., LLC v. CompressAir, 19A-CC-603 (Ind. Ct. App. March 2, 2020), the court applied the de facto merger exception and held the buyer company (“New Nello”), which had acquired the assets through a foreclosure under the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”), responsible for the seller’s (“Old Nello”) debt. The facts illustrate why the court imposed liability on New Nello and provide guidance on how to avoid this result.
Continue Reading Distress Buyer in UCC Foreclosure Sale Held Liable for Seller’s Debts Under De Facto Merger Doctrine

In Rodriguez v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.the United States Supreme Court ruled on February 25, 2020, that a $4.1 million tax refund belonged to the bankruptcy estate of a failed Colorado bank’s parent company, United Western Bancorp, Inc. (“UWBI”), rather than to its subsidiary, United Western Bank (the “Bank”). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) is the receiver for the Bank.
Continue Reading The Importance of Clear Tax Allocation Agreements

On March 15, 2020, Ample Hills Holdings, Inc. and its affiliates (“Ample Hills”) commenced bankruptcy proceedings, seeking to sell substantially all of the company’s assets under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Ample Hills is a beloved Brooklyn-based ice cream company that currently operates 10 stores primarily in the metropolitan New York area and a state-of-the-art factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Ample Hills intends to find a purchaser, who will enhance the founders’ vision for the playful brand, preserve jobs, and maximize the value of the company’s assets.
Continue Reading Beloved Home-Grown Ice Cream Company, Ample Hills, Seeks a Buyer

On January 13, 2020, the Supreme Court denied petitions for writ of certiorari on the question of whether payments on municipal bonds secured by special revenues are required during the issuer’s bankruptcy. Special revenue bonds are paid from pledged revenues generated from a specific activity. The case arose because after the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Agency (PRHTA) commenced its municipal reorganization case in 2017, it refused to make a July 2017 payment of $219 million, arguing that the automatic stay of the Bankruptcy Code precluded such payments. That dispute followed actions by Puerto Rico’s governor and legislature in 2015 and 2016, in which they had diverted PRHTA’s special revenues, which consisted of tolls, motor fuels, taxes and other transportation-related revenues, for payment of the Commonwealth’s other obligations.
Continue Reading Bond Market Shaken (Not Stirred) As Supreme Court Declines To Hear Puerto Rico Municipal Bonds Dispute