For businesses confronting of a bankruptcy avoidable transfer claim under Section 547 of the Bankruptcy Code, answering three questions provides a bridge between esoteric descriptions of bankruptcy preference law and real world bankruptcy preference defense. A new article on this website entitled “A Three Question, Preliminary Self Assessment of a Bankruptcy Preference Claim” (click link to read) strives to give a bankruptcy preference defendant an look at the preference claim after it is filtered through three questions that each hit at core bankruptcy preference principles.
The HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation bankruptcy was filed on August 9, 2007, well over 2 years and 5 months ago. This week 386 bankruptcy preference adversary proceeding complaints were filed by the HomeBanc Mortgage Chapter 7 trustee. For those who have been lulled into ignorant bliss by the often quoted 2 year statute of limitations for bankruptcy preference actions, the case illustrates that the conversion of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to Chapter 7 can result in up to a 1 year extension of the statute of limitations – i.e. up to a theoretical maximum of 3 years.
Does a supplier have to choose between asserting a subsequent new value bankruptcy preference defense and making a Section 503(b)(9) administrative expense request? Judge Marian F. Harrison of the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee held on January 7, 2010 that a supplier does not have to choose. In the memorandum decision In re Commissary Operations, Inc. — B.R. —-, 2010 WL 99036 (Bkrtcy.M.D.Tenn.), Judge Harrison ruled that deliveries entitled to Section 503(b)(9) claim status are not disqualified from constituting new value for purposes of the subsequent new value defense to a bankruptcy preference claim.
Feb. 19, 2009 – In an article entitled Section 365 Executory Contract Assumption Defense to a Bankruptcy Preference Claim, we discuss the absolute defense to a preference claim created when a bankrupt company or its trustee “assumes” an “executory contract”. That defense was firmly established in a 2003 decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the bankruptcy case of In re Kiwi International Air Lines Inc., so the defense is sometimes called the Kiwi defense.
The Kiwi defense is a defense that we believe may be underutilized. As we explain elsewhere on this web site, the facts needed to establish the 3 most common defenses are “fixed” at the time of the bankruptcy filing. As to establishing the subsequent new value, ordinary course of business and contemporaneous exchange defenses, there is nothing that the supplier can do but pull together books and records.
One of the most critical but often overlooked opportunities to defend bankruptcy preference claims regards the ability to apply multiple defenses when there have been multiple payments. This ability to mix and match defenses means that the supplier’s exposure to bankruptcy preference claims can be reduced.
The subsequent new value defense is perhaps the most frequently-used defense. It is, from a books and records perspective, the easiest defense to prove. The focus is on the period after the potentially preferential payment.
We have posted a brief video in which we review the “subsequent new value” defense.
- The “Zone of Information” that applies to this defense
- The basic elements of the defense
- A simple example of the application of the defense
Click this link to see the video Bankruptcy Preferences – Subsequent New Value Defense.
The ordinary course of business defense requires that either (1) the payment have been made in the ordinary course of business of both the supplier and the customer; OR (2) the payment was made under “ordinary business terms.” Please note this is an either/or test. Prior to 2006 the test was an “AND” test and both elements had to be proven. This was very difficult to do.
The contemporaneous exchange defense is one of the most often disputed defenses. It should not be that way. The focus of the defense is very narrow. The focus is on the time when the potential preference payment was received. The payment must be made at or about the same time as the delivery of goods or services for which payment is made. So the “information zone” is very short.
The reason the contemporaneous exchange defense is often litigated is because the supplier has failed to get the proper documentation in place to establish the defense.