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Chief Judge Pamela S. Hollis

11 A 02299
Defendants were owners, managers and officers of the Debtors and various entities. The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors alleged that Defendants breached their fiduciary duties to the Debtors, made a fraudulent transfer by settling a promissory note, and were liable for preferential transfers. After the parties gave express consent for the court to enter final judgment, a four day trial was held. Since Defendants were self-interested in the transactions at issue, they bore the burden of demonstrating that those transactions were fair and served the Debtor's best interests. The court found that Defendants met their burden, and did not breach their fiduciary duties except as to one series of payments. Further, the court found that settling the promissory note was not a fraudulent transfer under the Bankruptcy Code because the Committee did not prove a lack of reasonably equivalent value, nor was it a fraudulent transfer under Illinois law because there was no transfer of an asset. Finally, the court held that the same payments that gave rise to a breach of fiduciary duty were also preferential transfers that could be avoided and recovered.

Judge Jacqueline P. Cox

In re John F. Walsh
September 24, 2015

08 B 06424
This is a case stressing the importance of counsel representing a debtor in an underlying state court action to get approval, even if retroactive, of the Bankruptcy Court under 11 U.S.C. § 327 for such representation in order to be paid from the bankruptcy estate.

Freeborn & Peters LLP (“Freeborn”) represented the debtor in a pre-petition state court action for defamation brought by a real estate developer against the debtor and two local newspaper organizations in late 2007.  The case was litigated and appealed up to the Illinois Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the trial court to award the debtor reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.  Ultimately, the trial court entered judgment in the amount of $339,010 in favor of the debtor and against the developer.  Freeborn proceeded to attempt collection on the judgment.

Unbeknownst to Freeborn, six months after the lawsuit was filed, the debtor filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief, converted his case to Chapter 7 before the judgment had been entered and eventually received a discharge.  However, the debtor failed to disclose the state court lawsuit in both his Schedules and his Statement of Financial Affairs.  The developer discovered the debtor’s bankruptcy filing and moved to have the judgment vacated on the basis that the debtor was judicially estopped from enforcing the judgment because he failed to disclose the lawsuit in his bankruptcy case.  Rather than contact the Chapter 7 Trustee and get authorization to be employed as special counsel, Freeborn continued to litigate the case and actually argued that the judgment was not property of the bankruptcy estate.

After the developer appealed the state trial court’s denial of its motion to vacate, its counsel notified the Trustee of the civil case.  The debtor’s bankruptcy case was reopened.  More than a year later, in 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal and determined that the debtor’s claim against the developer belonged to the Trustee and the judgment was an asset of the bankruptcy estate.  Only then did Freeborn file an application for fees and reimbursement of expenses related to services performed during the debtor’s Chapter 13 case and requested that such fees and expenses be allowed as a secured administrative expense under 11 U.S.C. § 503(b)(1)(A) or (b)(2).  Both the Chapter 7 Trustee and the condominium association, which had indemnified the debtor for legal fees, objected to the fee application.

After a hearing, the Court denied Freeborn’s fee application and request for an administrative claim because it did not secure approval of its employment before performing services.

Judge Jack B. Schmetterer

In re Robert J. Meier
September 15, 2015

14 B 10105

Judge A. Benjamin Goldgar

In re Enesco Group, Inc.
September 2, 2015

07 B 00565

In re Michael H. Meltzer
August 25, 2015

13 B 31151

13 B 31151

Judge Janet S. Baer

09 B 30029
Debtors’ financial advisor FBR Capital Markets & Co. (“FBR”) filed an amended application for compensation, which included a request for a restructuring fee and reimbursement of expenses, the majority of which were attorneys’ fees incurred in defense of FBR’s fee request.  Plan transferee Bletchley Hotel at O’Hare LLC (“Bletchley”) filed an objection, asking the Court to:  (1) reconsider its prior decision, which found that FBR was entitled to the restructuring fee, and (2) deny or substantially reduce both the restructuring fee and the requested attorneys’ fees for work performed in defending the original fee application.  As to the restructuring fee, the Court denied the request for reconsideration because Bletchley primarily rehashed arguments already considered and rejected in the prior proceeding and, thus, failed to sustain its burden under Rule 60(b).  The Court further found that, based on the express language of the governing documents, the restructuring fee was subject to review under the improvidence standard of § 328(a) and that the requested amount of the fee would not be reduced because Bletchley failed to identify any developments incapable of being anticipated at the time the order approving FBR’s retention was entered.  As to the reimbursement of expenses, the Court found that FBR is not entitled to the attorneys’ fees incurred for fee-defense work because the reimbursement under the pre-approved engagement letter is subject to review under § 330 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Baker Botts L.L.P. v. ASARCO LLC held that § 330(a)(1) does not allow a bankruptcy court to award attorneys’ fees for work performed in defending a fee application.  Accordingly, the Court awarded FBR a restructuring fee in the requested amount of $2,568,145.89 and reimbursement of expenses not related to the defense of FBR’s fees in the amount of $62,466.60.

Judge Timothy A. Barnes

In re David J. Hardesty
August 7, 2015

14 B 42906
Upon the chapter 7 Trustee’s objections to the Debtor’s claimed exemptions in (1) installment payments under a personal injury settlement agreement and (2) proceeds from a life insurance policy received post-petition following the death of the Debtor’s step-father, held: Under the terms of the marital settlement agreement, entered into by and between the Debtor and his ex-wife and incorporated into the state court divorce decree, the Debtor’s limited interest in and control over the installment payments is insufficient to bring the installment payments into the estate, therefore, the Trustee’s objection to the Debtor’s exemption in the personal injury settlement is OVERRULED. With respect to the life insurance proceeds, however, the Debtor has failed to establish that he is “dependent upon the insured” for the purposes of 735 ILCS 5/12-1001(f) and, therefore, cannot claim an exemption in the life insurance proceeds, thus, the Trustee’s objection to the Debtor’s exemption in the life insurance proceeds is SUSTAINED.

In re Mesha E. Ware
July 17, 2015

Upon an objection to confirmation of the debtor’s chapter 13 plan, wherein a creditor alleged that the debtor could not comply with the requirements of “surrender” in section 1325(a)(5)(C) of the United States Bankruptcy Code as the debtor proposed to surrender a vehicle that had been previously stolen and that, therefore, could not be delivered to the creditor, held: “Surrender” in section 1325(a)(5)(C) does not always require the debtor to physically deliver the vehicle.  Because the Debtor proposes surrender in good faith, physical delivery is not required.  As a result, the creditor’s objection is overruled.