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No Notice: How Unnotified Creditors Can Violate a Discharge Injunction

Here is the scenario: You are a creditor.  You hold clear evidence of a debt that is not disputed by the borrower, an individual.  That evidence of debt could be in the form of a note, credit agreement or simply an invoice.  You originated the debt, or perhaps instead it was transferred to you — it does not matter for this scenario.  At some point the borrower fails to pay on the debt when due.  For whatever reason, months or even years pass before you initiate collection efforts.

Finally, you seek to collect on the unpaid debt. Those collection efforts include letters and phone calls, and maybe even personal contact, all of which are ignored.  Then you employ an investigator and an attorney.  You eventually obtain a default judgment from a state court, which the borrower (unsurprisingly) refuses to pay.  You then garnish the borrower’s wages to pay the debt.  You

Ruined, Missing Wine leads to Million Dollar Hangover for Debtor

March 21, 2017

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Old wine bottles in a wooden crate.

A Chapter 7 debtor’s failure to comply with a bankruptcy court order to preserve a $2 million dollar-plus collection of fine wines has led to the imposition of sanctions of over $1 million, most of which could be charged against the debtor’s otherwise exempt property.

The wine in question, after three years of litigation, was determined to be part of the bankruptcy estate of Jeffrey Prosser.  Prosser used to own companies that provided telephone, internet and cable television service to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Both he and his companies filed bankruptcy in 2006.  A recent, 66-page opinion from the U.S. District Court in the Virgin Islands sets forth this saga of the wine collection in great detail; if you are taken to

Over Four Hundred Years of Law on Fraudulent Transfers, Flushed Down the Drain

August 15, 2016

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In 1571, Parliament enacted a law, sometimes known as the Statute of 13 Elizabeth, creating one of the greatest means of creditor protection – the proscription of fraudulent transfers.  As Professors Baird and Jackson stated, the law prevents an “Elizabethan deadbeat [from selling] his sheep to his brother for a pittance.”[1]  The law has progressed, covering not just intentional acts to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors, but also “constructively fraudulent transfers” in which a third party who is not in on any con nonetheless gets something from an insolvent debtor for less than reasonably equivalent value.

These are simple, straightforward principles, with which no bankruptcy professional (or really, anyone) could quibble.  You got stuff and you didn’t pay for it, so you need to give it back.  There are some exceptions.  Voiding transfers in the securities industry, for instance, could up-end financial markets.  So Congress added Sections 548(d)(2)(B)

Are Those Taxes Owing On Your Late-Filed Tax Return Dischargeable? Maybe, But You Better Be In The Right Circuit

File Tax Return!

Individual debtors with old tax debts relating to late-filed tax returns may be surprised to find that those tax debts may not be dischargeable under section 523(a) of the Bankruptcy Code due to the lateness of the tax filing.  There is a current Circuit split regarding whether a late tax filing constitutes a “return” at all, which is critical to the dischargeability inquiry.  The Ninth Circuit weighed in last week in In re Smith, 2016 WL 3749156 (9th Cir. July 13, 2016), further cementing the split.  Individuals considering whether to file bankruptcy to obtain a discharge of old tax debts would be well-advised to assess the current legal landscape and plan accordingly.

Section 523(a)(1)(B)(i) Exemption From Discharge For Tax Debts

Section 523(a)(1)(B)(i) of the Bankruptcy Code exempts from discharge any debt

High Court Broadens the Definition of “Actual Fraud” under Section 523(a)(2)(A)

The Supreme Court’s Decision:

On May 16, 2016, in Husky International Electronics, Inc. v. Daniel Lee Ritz, Jr., Case No. 15-145, the Supreme Court held that the term “actual fraud” in § 523(a)(2)(A) of the Bankruptcy Code encompasses fraudulent conveyance schemes, even if the scheme does not involve a false representation to the creditor.  In reversing the judgment of the Fifth Circuit, the Supreme Court’s ruling settled a split among the circuits regarding whether “actual fraud” under § 523(a)(2)(A) requires a misrepresentation or misleading omission to the creditor. Compare In re Ritz, 787 F.3d 312 (5th Cir. 2015) with McClellan v. Cantrell, 217 F.3d 890 (7th Cir. 2000), and Sauer V. Lawson, 791 F.3d 214 (1st Cir. 2015).

The Appeal:

On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether the “actual fraud” exception to discharge under § 523(a)(2)(A) applied narrowly (i.e. only when the debtor

U.S. Supreme Court: Inherited IRA Funds not “Retirement Funds”

On June 12, 2014, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Clark v. Rameker, Dkt. No. 13-299, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), holding that funds held in inherited Individual Retirement Accounts are not “retirement funds” within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(c) and therefore not exempt from the bankruptcy estate. This opinion limits retirement funds that remain out of creditors’ reach when an individual files a bankruptcy case.

In Clark, Heidi Clark inherited a traditional IRA account established by her mother. Clark then filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and claimed the inherited IRA account as exempt from the bankruptcy estate under Section 522(b)(3)(C). The trustee and unsecured creditors objected, arguing that the inherited IRA funds were not “retirement funds” within the meaning of the statute.

The Court distinguished between inherited IRAs and traditional IRAs, noting that holders of inherited IRAs are prohibited from making contributions to those accounts,

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