Are bankruptcy doors now opening for cannabis companies? A decision last week from a California bankruptcy court indicates perhaps so, at least for cannabis companies that are no longer operating.

Factual Background

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On October 19th, the Wall Street Journal reported that the electric vehicle startup Mullen Automotive Inc., gained court approval to buy an Indiana manufacturing plant and assets from Electric Last Mile Solutions for $92 million. Such deal, which boosted Mullen’s share prices by 64%, includes Electric Last Mile Solutions’ manufacturing plant in Mishawaka, Indiana and its inventory and intellectual property.

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The ability of a bankruptcy trustee or chapter 11 debtor-in-possession ("DIP") to assume, assume and assign, or reject executory contracts and unexpired leases is an important tool designed to promote a "fresh start" for debtors and to maximize the value of the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of all stakeholders. However, the Bankruptcy Code establishes strict requirements for the assumption or assignment of contracts and leases.

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A modification of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan on the eve of the hearing on confirmation of that plan requires re-solicitation of votes and re-voting if the modification materially and adversely affects a class of claims or interests, i.e., equity holders, according to the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion in In re America-CV Station Group, Inc., 56 F.4th 1302 (11th Cir. Jan. 5, 2023).

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In a provocative demonstration that it scrutinizes all types of transactions, no matter their origin, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) has reportedly been vetting the proposed $1 billion sale of bankrupt crypto lender Voyager Digital’s assets to Binance.US. Voyager Digital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2022, and, after an initial agreement to sell its assets to FTX crumbled, Binance.US provided Voyager Digital with the winning offer for its assets in December 2022. But, after the sale’s announcement on December 30, 2022, the U.S.

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In In re Nine West LBO Securities Litigation (Case No. 20-2941) (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2020), a federal district court denied in part a motion to dismiss claims brought by the Nine West liquidating trustee against former directors (the "Defendants") of The Jones Group, Inc. (the "Company"), Nine West's predecessor, for, among other things, (i) breaches of their fiduciary duties of care and loyalty, and (ii) aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duties. The litigation arises from the 2014 LBO of the Company by a private equity sponsor ("Buyer").

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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposed its first comprehensive overhaul of its bankruptcy rules since 1983. The recommended new rules do not substantively change anything but codify many CFTC interpretations and views developed over 40 years and refresh references to means of communication and recordkeeping practices to reflect current norms.

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In the recent decision of Paragon Offshore, No. 16-10386 (CSS), 2021 (Bankr. D. Del. June 28, 2021), the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the court) addressed the issue of whether the Office of the United States Trustee (OUST) could collect its quarterly fees against assets that were previously transferred to a litigation trust (the litigation trust) free and clear of any and all claims, liens and other encumbrances pursuant to a confirmed plan of liquidation.

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On Monday, March 10, 2014, the companies that own and operate the Sbarro pizza chain, Sbarro LLC and 33 affiliates, filed for bankruptcy reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code.  The Sbarro companies operate 217 restaurants in the U.S. and there are 582 franchised restaurants, 176 in the U.S. and 406 at international locations.

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In 2022, there were several high-profile crypto bankruptcy filings. A big question in these cases is whether there will be any money to satisfy unsecured creditor claims. If there are funds to distribute, then the creditors’ claims will become more valuable, and the cases will become even more interesting.

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