Even before chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 2005 to govern cross-border bankruptcy proceedings, the enforceability of a foreign court order approving a restructuring plan that modified or discharged U.S. law-governed debt was well recognized under principles of international comity. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York recently reaffirmed this concept in In re Modern Land (China) Co., Ltd., 641 B.R. 768 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2022).
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
The U.S. Supreme Court in RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank, ___ S. Ct. ___, 2012 WL 1912197 (May 29, 2012), held that a debtor may not confirm a chapter 11 "cramdown" plan that provides for the sale of collateral free and clear of existing liens, but does not permit a secured creditor to credit-bid at the sale. The unanimous ruling written by Justice Scalia (with Justice Kennedy recused) resolved a split among the Third, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits.
On December 12, 2011, the Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari in a case raising the question of whether a debtor's chapter 11 plan is confirmable when it proposes an auction sale of a secured creditor's assets free and clear of liens without permitting that creditor to "credit bid" its claims but instead provides the creditor with the "indubitable equivalent" of its secured claim. RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank, No. 11-166 (cert. granted Dec. 12, 2011).
Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided in In re Lett that objections to a bankruptcy court’s approval of a cram-down chapter 11 plan on the basis of noncompliance with the “absolute priority rule” may be raised for the first time on appeal. The Eleventh Circuit ruled that “[a] bankruptcy court has an independent obligation to ensure that a proposed plan complies with [the] absolute priority rule before ‘cramming’ that plan down upon dissenting creditor classes,” whether or not stakeholders “formally” object on that basis.
In cases under both chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code and its repealed predecessor, section 304, U.S. bankruptcy courts have routinely recognized and enforced orders of foreign bankruptcy and insolvency courts as a matter of international comity. However, U.S. bankruptcy courts sometimes disagree over the precise statutory authority for granting such relief, because the provisions of chapter 15 are not particularly clear on this point in all cases.
In the March/April 2013 edition of the Business Restructuring Review, we reported on an opinion by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York concluding that a chapter 15 debtor’s sale of claims against Bernard Madoff’s defunct brokerage company was not subject to review as an asset sale under section 363(b) of the Bankruptcy Code.
On January 14, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court held in City of Chicago v. Fulton, 592 U.S. __ (2021), that a creditor in possession of a debtor's property does not violate the automatic stay, specifically section 362(a)(3) of the Bankruptcy Code, by retaining the property after the filing of a bankruptcy petition. The Court's decision provides important guidance to bankruptcy courts, practitioners, and parties on the scope of the automatic stay's requirements.
The Situation: For cross-border insolvency matters, parties increasingly depend on court-approved protocols to assist in the management of complex insolvencies involving a debtor or debtors whose assets, liabilities, or operations span international borders.
The Action: Courts in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and some U.S. bankruptcy districts have implemented Guidelines for Communication and Cooperation between Courts in Cross-Border Insolvency Matters.
In the latest chapter of more than a decade of litigation involving efforts to recover fictitious profits paid to certain customers of Bernard Madoff's defunct brokerage firm as part of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in In re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, 976 F.3d 184 (2d Cir.