Ben Feder

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Square Peg / Round Hole – The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Authority of U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

The judicial power of the United States is vested in courts created under Article III of the Constitution. However, Congress created the current bankruptcy court system over 40 years ago pursuant to Article I of the Constitution rather than under Article III.  The Supreme Court has long held that Article I courts are limited to … Continue Reading

Delaware Judge Rejects Challenge to Payment of Fees for Indenture Trustee in Southeastern Grocers Chapter 11 Case

Southeastern Grocers (operator of the Winn-Dixie, Bi Lo and Harvey’s supermarket chains) recently completed a successful restructuring of its balance sheet through a “prepackaged” chapter 11 case in the District of Delaware. As part of the deal with the holders of its unsecured bonds, the company agreed that under the plan of reorganization it would … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Displays More Pragmatic Approach to the Bankruptcy Code in Merit Management v. FTI Consulting

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Merit Management Group, LP v. FTI Consulting, Inc. has appropriately drawn significant attention.  The Court, by narrowing the “safe harbor” provision of Section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, has opened the door for representatives of bankruptcy estates to use the avoidance powers of the Bankruptcy Code to seek to … Continue Reading

A Patent Law Dispute Before the Supreme Court This Term Could Have a Major Impact on U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a patent dispute case, Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC.  Although the case has nothing to do with bankruptcy law, its outcome could have a substantial impact on bankruptcy practice and litigation. Oil States Energy concerns the limits of Congress’s ability to create courts … Continue Reading

Judge Silverstein’s Opinion in Millennium Lab Holdings Threatens to Bring Clarity and Common Sense to Debate Regarding Constitutional Power of Bankruptcy Courts

In December 2015, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Laurie Silverstein of the District of Delaware confirmed a plan of reorganization in the Millennium Lab Holdings chapter 11 case that included the non-consensual release of certain claims against various non-debtor third parties.  Earlier this year, ruling on an appeal from that decision, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard … Continue Reading

Fees for Defending Fees – Recent Rulings Permit Contractual Circumvention of Supreme Court’s Baker Botts v. Asarco Decision

The Supreme Court two years ago ruled in Baker Botts v. Asarco that bankruptcy professionals entitled to compensation from a debtor’s bankruptcy estate had no statutory right to be compensated for time spent defending against objections to their fee applications.  Since then, “estate professionals,” i.e., those retained in a bankruptcy case by a trustee, debtor … Continue Reading

Could Supreme Court Case on Debt Recharacterization Provide a Pathway Out of the Stern v. Marshall Maze?

The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in PEM Entities LLC v. Levin, in which it will decide whether federal or a state law should apply when a debt claim held by a debtor’s insider is sought to be recharacterized in bankruptcy as a capital contribution and treated as equity.  The case raises important questions about … Continue Reading

Millennium Lab Holdings – Ruling on Third Party Releases Highlights Continuing Constitutional Questions Regarding Power of Bankruptcy Courts

In Millennium Lab Holdings, Delaware District Court Judge Leonard Stark, on an appeal from a bankruptcy court order confirming a plan of reorganization, recently upheld a challenge to the bankruptcy court’s constitutional authority to release claims against non-debtor third parties under the plan.  Judge Stark’s opinion demonstrates the extent to which the constitutional questions raised … Continue Reading

Jevic Could Be the Most Consequential Chapter 11 Decision in Many Years

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp. during the new term that began last week.  The questions it presents are relatively simple.  First, can a bankruptcy court, in dismissing a case under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, permit parties to “structure” the dismissal to include substantive provisions regarding the … Continue Reading

Landlords Beware: Lease Terminations May Be Voidable In Bankruptcy

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently handed down a decision with significant implications for landlords contemplating lease termination agreements with distressed tenants. Ruling on a direct appeal in the chapter 11 case In re Great Lakes Quick Lube LP, the court held that a lease termination agreement between a landlord and a financially distressed … Continue Reading

Ruling on Pipeline Agreements in Sabine Chapter 11 Case Indicates Battles That Lie Ahead in Energy Company Bankruptcy Cases

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman ruled last week in the chapter 11 case of Sabine Oil & Gas that Sabine could utilize the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to “reject” certain agreements with pipeline operators.  This decision will permit Sabine to walk away from its obligations under the agreements and leave the pipeline operators with nothing but … Continue Reading

Delaware Bankruptcy Judge Rejects Effort to Circumvent Supreme Court’s Asarco Decision

The Supreme Court’s decision last term in Baker Botts v. Asarco, in which the Court ruled that professionals that are paid from a debtor’s bankruptcy estate cannot be compensated for time spent defending their fee applications, continues to rankle bankruptcy practitioners.  Moreover, a recent decision in a Delaware bankruptcy case shows that the impact of … Continue Reading

Were the Energy Future Holdings and Caesars Chapter 11 Cases Just Saved by K Street Lobbyists?

Bankruptcy and restructuring professionals usually do not need to be political junkies. Amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, and the accompanying machinations of the Congressional legislative process, typically occur at a glacial pace, and such changes nearly always affect future rather than current chapter 11 cases.  However, the federal tax and spending bill approved by Congress … Continue Reading

GM Judge Nuances His Earlier Rulings and Sets Out Permissible Ignition Switch Lawsuits

At a hearing in late August, Judge Robert Gerber expressed his annoyance with both sides in the ongoing battle to determine whether General Motors LLC (“New GM”), the entity formed in 2009 to acquire the assets of General Motors Corporation (“Old GM”), is shielded from lawsuits based on ignition switch defects in cars manufactured prior … Continue Reading

Energy Future Holdings – Kicking a Very Large Can Down the Road

Energy Future Holdings (“EFH” or “Debtors”) has cleared all of the preliminary hurdles in its path as it moves towards the confirmation of its plan of reorganization (the “Plan”). Last week Judge Christopher Sontchi of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the Debtors’ disclosure statement in support of the Plan, … Continue Reading

Energy Future Holdings – Another Major Success for Chapter 11 Mediation?

Mediation has become an invaluable tool in large chapter 11 cases. Traditionally viewed as a means for resolving discrete disputes between a debtor’s estate and an adversary party, in recent years mediation in certain complex cases has evolved into a multi-party undertaking involving claimants from all levels of a debtor’s capital structure, with the ambitious … Continue Reading

Baker Botts v. Asarco: The Supreme Court Shows Again That It Really Doesn’t Understand Corporate Bankruptcy Cases

The Supreme Court has not handled its recent major bankruptcy decisions well. The jurisdictional confusion engendered by its 2011 decision in Stern v. Marshall was only partially clarified by this term’s opinion in Wellness International Network v. Sharif. The Court’s ruling this week in Baker Botts v. Asarco, while narrower, stands as another example of … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Decides to Maintain the Viability of the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, But a Key Question Remains Unresolved

Four years ago, in Stern v. Marshall, the Supreme Court stunned many observers by re-visiting separation of powers issues regarding the jurisdiction of the United States bankruptcy courts that most legal scholars had viewed as long settled. Stern significantly reduced the authority of bankruptcy courts, and bankruptcy judges and practitioners both have since been grappling … Continue Reading
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