Recently, the Second Circuit became the first federal circuit court to rule that the federal government could deny a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan to a debtor in bankruptcy solely because of an applicant’s bankruptcy status.[1] Prior to the Second Circuit’s decision in Springfield Hospital, Inc. v. Guzman, multiple lower federal courts were divided on the issue, although the majority of those courts reached the same conclusion as the Second Circuit.

Continue Reading Opinion of Interest – Springfield Hospital, Inc. v. Guzman: Second Circuit Upholds Federal Government’s Ability to Deny PPP Loans to Bankrupt Companies

In its January 14, 2022 decision in In re Wolfson, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware discharged Chapter 7 debtor Ryan K. Wolfson of nearly $100,000 in student loan debt.[1] Chief Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein found that Wolfson, an often un- or underemployed and chronically ill man, met the three-prong “Brunner test” and proved that repayment of his student loans would result in “undue hardship” under Section 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code. Declaring most interpretations of Brunner “unmoored from the original test and the plain language of ‘undue burden,’” Judge Silverstein held that, under the Brunner test, a debtor need only show an inability to maintain “a minimal standard of living” while repaying his or her student loans, not a total incapacity to ever repay them. In discharging the nearly six-figure debt, Judge Silverstein’s opinion found that allowing lifelong student loan debts to escape discharge absent an onerous standard of undue hardship conflicted with the promise of a “fresh start” that the Bankruptcy Code offers.

Continue Reading Opinion of Interest – In re Wolfson: A Potential Re-Evaluation of the “Undue Hardship” Test for Student Loan Borrowers

Mayer Brown partners Adam C. Paul, Sean T. Scott, Louis S. Chiappetta, Aaron Gavant, and Tyler R. Ferguson recently published an article for Mayer Brown’s Perspectives & Events portal on the December 16, 2021, decision in which Judge Colleen McMahon of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York reversed the bankruptcy

On January 20, 2022, Mayer Brown Restructuring lawyers Louis Chiappetta (Partner), Lucy Kweskin (Partner), and Samuel Rabuck (Associate) published an article in Law360 on a recent ruling from an adversary proceeding in the In re The Hertz Corp. bankruptcy case by the Delaware Bankruptcy Court on the enforceability of make-whole premiums in bankruptcy.

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Partially walking back her prior pronouncements suggesting that she would rule to the contrary (which we previously wrote about here), on October 13, 2021, District Court Judge Colleen McMahon denied the U.S. Trustee’s request for an emergency stay pending appeal of the Purdue Pharma confirmation order.  In a related order issued three days earlier, Judge McMahon had noted that she “fully” intended to grant the stay request so long as she had jurisdiction to do so.  In the end, however, the District Court was persuaded to deny the request based on the debtors’ agreement not to raise equitable mootness as a defense to the appeal and by the debtors’ commitment to provide 14 days’ advance notice of the plan going fully effective.  The U.S. Trustee had argued that a stay was still required, notwithstanding these conditions, given the weightiness of the issues at stake and the potential for later equitable mootness-related issues.  While sympathizing with this position, the District Court ultimately found that the U.S. Trustee had not shown a sufficient likelihood of any “concrete harm” that could arise between the date of the District Court’s ruling and the next-scheduled hearing on the nearly identical stay motion back in the Bankruptcy Court.  The District Court nonetheless emphasized that it would “not allow this appeal to be equitably mooted” and if, at any time, “it appears that imminent action might lead to that result,” the movants were invited to “knock on [Judge McMahon’s] door.”

Continue Reading Stay and Direct Appeal Requests Denied in Purdue Pharma; District Court Commits to Shielding Case from Equitable Mootness Concerns

In its August 5th, 2021 VeroBlue Farms decision,[1] the Eighth Circuit lent its voice to a growing body of criticism of the equitable mootness doctrine contending that its use to bar challenges to confirmed reorganization plans should be circumscribed.  Laying out a new investigation that must be undertaken before using the doctrine to bar confirmation order appeals, the Eighth Circuit emphasized that reviewing courts must: (1) make “at least a preliminary review of the merits” of an appeal to determine the strength of the claims at issue; (2) assess the “amount of time that would likely be required” to resolve the merits of such claims on an expedited basis; and (3) consider the potential equitable remedies that might still be available even after a plan’s implementation, should the appeal prove successful, which would not undermine the plan or harm third parties.

Continue Reading Mootness Muted? – Eighth Circuit Circumscribes Use of Equitable Mootness Doctrine to Bar Bankruptcy Plan Appeals

Perhaps proving the maxim that people should be careful what they wish for, in a second significant ruling stemming from the Jevic Holding Corp. bankruptcy case, on May 5, 2021, the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware found that Jevic’s Chapter 7 trustee, appointed following the conversion of the debtors’ cases from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, did not have standing to continue claims originally brought against the debtors’ prepetition lenders by the Chapter 11 creditors’ committee. Assuming it is upheld on appeal, the decision leaves Jevic’s unsecured creditors without any further remedy against Jevic’s prepetition lenders—in other words, leaving those employees who successfully fought approval of a prior settlement offer by the same lenders all the way to the United States Supreme Court with no recovery from those lenders. Indeed, the decision appears to be a significant victory for secured lenders generally, underscoring the importance of “challenge” provisions typically included in DIP and cash collateral orders.

Continue Reading Be Careful What You Wish For: Jevic Court Denies Chapter 7 Trustee’s Substitution Request, Potentially Ending Action Versus Prepetition Lenders

With more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt outstanding in the United States, student loan borrowers sometimes try to turn to the bankruptcy courts for relief, often without success due to the fact that most student loans are presumed to be nondischargeable.[1]  In its July 15, 2021 decision in In re Homaidan,[2] the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit considered one aspect of this issue—whether certain private student loans made directly to a borrower are automatically presumed to be nondischargeable as “educational benefits” under Section 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code.  The Second Circuit found they are not, ruling against the appealing student loan lender.
Continue Reading Opinion of Interest – In re Homaidan: Not all Private Student Loans are Presumptively Nondischargeable in Bankruptcy

In a March 2021 decision in the jointly administered bankruptcy cases of Fencepost Productions, Inc. and certain of its affiliates, Judge Dale L. Somers of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas declined to enforce a voting restriction in subordination agreements between two of the debtors’ creditors, but nonetheless found that the deeply subordinated creditors were barred from voting on the debtors’ plan because they lacked prudential standing.[1] In declining to enforce the contractual voting restriction, the decision defies a trend toward enforcing subordination and intercreditor agreement terms – so long as they are specific and express – even if such terms may limit a party’s statutory rights as a creditor in bankruptcy. Instead, Judge Somers applied a federal court jurisdictional doctrine, the relevance of which can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Continue Reading In re Fencepost Productions: Prudential Standing Doctrine Blocks a Subordinated Creditor from Voting

In its recent opinion arising out of the Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. bankruptcy case, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that while a creditor retains its direct setoff rights against a debtor under Section 553 of the Bankruptcy Code when both it and the debtor owe debts to one another, so called “triangular” setoffs – setoffs relating to affiliated third party debts –  are not similarly protected, even if provided for contractually.1 In so holding, the Third Circuit became the first US circuit court of appeals to reach the issue and affirmed a substantial body of law on the topic developed by numerous lower courts.
Continue Reading Opinion of Interest – In re Orexigen Therapeutics Inc.: “Mutual” Means Mutual Third Circuit Confirms that Triangular Setoffs not Entitled to Protection under Section 553 of the Bankruptcy Code