On March 22, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Court) granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Motion for Default Judgment and entered a default judgment against Powhatan Energy Fund, LLC (Powhatan Energy Fund). The Court awarded FERC $3,465,108 in disgorgement and $16,800,000 in civil penalties.
In a unanimous decision handed down on Feb. 22, 2023, the Supreme Court reinforced one of the Bankruptcy Code’s important creditor protections. In Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, No. 21-908, 598 U.S. ___ (2023), the Court confirmed, in an opinion authored by Justice Barrett, that the Bankruptcy Code bars the discharge by individual debtors of debts fraudulently obtained by the debtor’s agent or business partner.
The ramifications of uneven increases to fees in chapter 11 bankruptcies continue to ripple through federal courts.
The Bankruptcy Code gives special protections to licensees of intellectual property when a debtor, as licensor, seeks to reject the license. However, the Bankruptcy Code does not include trademarks in its definition of “intellectual property.” So, are licensees of trademarks given any protection when debtors reject trademark licenses? If the Supreme Court grants a recent petition for writ of certiorari, we may get an answer.
Banks, insurance brokers, and other agents can breathe a sigh of relief as the Fourth Circuit enabled the “mere conduit” defense to survive another day. The Fourth Circuit has long recognized the proposition that an avoidable transfer cannot be recovered, pursuant to section 550(a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code, from a transferee who acted as a “mere conduit” for another party having the direct business relationship with the debtor.
The inclusion of third-party releases in plan of reorganization can be a particularly contentious aspect of the plan confirmation process. Debtors seeking such releases typically face opposition from affected creditors and scrutiny from bankruptcy courts that consider such releases prone to abuse.
Professional compensation is often a contentious issue in bankruptcy, as we have previously discussed.
InGrayson Consulting, Inc. v. Wachovia Securities, LLC (In re Derivium Capital LLC), 716 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2013), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit examined whether certain securities transferred and payments made during the course of a Ponzi scheme could be avoided as fraudulent transfers under sections 544 and 548 of the Bankruptcy Code. The court upheld a judgment denying avoidance of pre-bankruptcy transfers of securities because the debtor did not have an “interest” in the securities at the time of the transfers.
A judgment creditor who is considering filing an involuntary bankruptcy petition against a debtor should consult venue-specific controlling law if the debtor has appealed the judgment. Depending on the jurisdiction, the debtor’s appeal may or may not be a factor for the bankruptcy court to consider in determining whether the creditor’s claim meets the involuntary petition requirements of the Bankruptcy Code.
Trademark licensees won a victory on July 9, 2012, when the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in Sunbeam Products, Inc. v. Chicago American Manufacturing, LLC. The opinion holds that the rights of a trademark licensee do not automatically terminate when its license agreement is rejected by a trademark owner in bankruptcy. Nevertheless, the significance of that victory will only become clarified if and when other courts, including possibly the Supreme Court, and Congress address the issues raised in Sunbeam.
IP Licenses in Bankruptcy