A decision in the Delaware District Court allowing nonconsensual third-party releases in plans of liquidation has a surprising origin – the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

In October of 2017, the Weinstein scandal exploded across the nation, bringing to light over 80 sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein saw swift retribution: his businesses, The Weinstein Company Holdings and affiliates (the “Weinstein Debtors”), faced multiple lawsuits and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of 2018. Weinstein himself was arrested two months later. The scandal triggered the #MeToo social justice movement, empowering victims of sexual assault and harassment across the globe to voice their claims. Weinstein was ultimately convicted on two felony counts of sexual assault, and the chapter 11 proceeding involving The Weinstein Debtors is drawing to a close in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court.
Continue Reading Nonconsensual Third-Party Releases Not Limited to Plans of Reorganization

Herrick congratulates its Restructuring & Finance Litigation Group on the success it has enjoyed over the last two years. The team, which now has 18 members and counting, has grown substantially while taking on a variety of complex litigation matters and Chapter 11 Restructurings. Below is a small sampling of our recent work.
Continue Reading Herrick’s Restructuring & Finance Litigation: 2019-2020 In Review

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

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

Introduction

The First Circuit recently ruled in Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters & Trucking Ind. Pension Fund that two investment funds controlled by private equity firm Sun Capital were not part of a “controlled group” with a former portfolio company, Scott Brass, Inc. (“Scott Brass”), and therefore not liable for Scott Brass’s withdrawal liability from a multi-employer pension plan.[1] While this decision ends the decade-long attempt by the New England Teamsters pension fund to hold the Sun Capital funds liable, the opinion is not a repudiation of the principle that private equity funds may constitute a “controlled group” for purposes of pension plan withdrawal liability. Rather, it signals that each case will have to be evaluated on its own facts. So, while the ruling is good news for Sun Capital, the message for investors is that they need to be mindful of pension plan withdrawal liability in structuring private equity acquisitions.
Continue Reading First Circuit Rules that Sun Capital Funds Not Part of “Controlled Group” and Not Liable for Pension Plan Withdrawal Liability