As discussed in previous installments of this White Paper series, the Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act (the “Bill”)1 proposes a comprehensive statutory and regulatory framework in an effort to bring stability to the digital asset market. One area of proposed change relates to how digital assets and digital asset exchanges would be treated in bankruptcy. If enacted, the Bill would significantly alter the status quo from a bankruptcy perspective
OVERVIEW OF DIGITAL ASSETS IN BANKRUPTCY
In Stern v. Marshall, 131 S. Ct. 2594 (2011), the estate of Vickie Lynn Marshall, a.k.a. Anna Nicole Smith, lost by a 5-4 margin Round 2 of its Supreme Court bout with the estate of E. Pierce Marshall in a contest over Vickie's rights to a portion of the fortune of her late husband, billionaire J. Howard Marshall II. The dollar figures in dispute, amounting to more than $400 million, and the celebrity status of the original (and now deceased) litigants may grab headlines.
In In re Fisker Automotive Holdings, Inc., 2014 BL 13998 (Bankr. D. Del. Jan. 17, 2014), leave to app. denied, 2014 BL 33749 (D. Del. Feb. 7, 2014), certification denied, 2014 BL 37766 (D. Del. Feb. 12, 2014), a Delaware bankruptcy court limited a creditor's ability to credit bid its debt in connection with the sale of a hybrid car manufacturer's assets.
Affirming the bankruptcy and district courts below, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in In re Federal-Mogul Global Inc., 684 F.3d 355 (3d Cir. 2012), held that a debtor could assign insurance policies to an asbestos trust established under section 524(g) of the Bankruptcy Code, notwithstanding anti-assignment provisions in the policies and applicable state law.
Asbestos Trusts in Bankruptcy
In a case of first impression, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in In re American Home Mortg. Holdings, Inc., 637 F.3d 246 (3d Cir. 2011), held that, for purposes of section 562 of the Bankruptcy Code, a discounted cash flow analysis was a “commercially reasonable determinant” of value for the liquidation of mortgage loans in a repurchase transaction.
Protections added to the Bankruptcy Code in 1988 that give some intellectual property (“IP”) licensees the right to continued use of licensed property notwithstanding rejection of the underlying license agreement do not expressly apply to trademark licenses. As a consequence, a trademark licensee faces a great deal of uncertainty concerning its ability to continue using a licensed trademark if the licensor files for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy protection under Section 365 does not give brand owners/debtor-licensors the unilateral right to rescind trademark licensing agreements.
An important aspect of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, 48 U.S.C. §§ 2101–2241 ("PROMESA")—the temporary stay of creditor collection efforts that came into effect upon its enactment—was the subject of a ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In Peaje Investments LLC v. García-Padilla, 845 F.3d 505 (1st Cir. 2017), the First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part a lower court order denying two motions for relief from the PROMESA stay.
Only a handful of courts have had an opportunity to address the ramifications of rejection of a trademark license since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handed down its landmark decision in Sunbeam Prods., Inc. v. Chicago Am. Manuf., LLC, 686 F.3d 372 (7th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 790 (2012). A bankruptcy appellate panel for the First Circuit recently did so in Mission Prod. Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology LLC (In re Tempnology LLC), 559 B.R. 809 (B.A.P. 1st Cir. 2016).
In Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Ams. v. Large Private Beneficial Owners (In re Tribune Co. Fraudulent Conveyance Litig.), 818 F.3d 98 (2d Cir. 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the “safe harbor” under section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code for settlement payments and for payments made in connection with securities contracts preempted claims under state law by creditors to avoid as fraudulent transfers pre-bankruptcy payments made to shareholders in connection with a leveraged buyout (“LBO”) of the debtor.