Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The attorneys at TTMLAW have extensive experience handling complex chapter 7, chapter 13 and small business/individual chapter 11 proceedings. At TT&M LAW, we can provide the advice you need to make informed, responsible decisions about your financial future. We will analyze your debt relief options and give you an accurate assessment of what you should do, and whether bankruptcy or a non-bankruptcy restructuring workout is in your best interests.

When a business is unable to service its debt or pay its creditors, the business or its creditors can file with a federal bankruptcy court for protection under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11.

In Chapter 7, the business ceases operations, a trustee sells all of its assets, and then distributes the proceeds to its creditors. Any residual amount is returned to the owners of the company. In Chapter 11, in most instances the debtor remains in control of its business operations as a debtor in possession, and is subject to the oversight and jurisdiction of the court.

Chapter 11 retains many of the features present in all, or most, bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. It provides additional tools for debtors as well. In chapter 11, unless a separate trustee is appointed for cause, the debtor, as debtor in possession, acts as trustee of the business.[2]

Chapter 11 affords the debtor in possession a number of mechanisms to restructure its business. A debtor in possession can acquire financing and loans on favorable terms by giving new lenders first priority on the business’s earnings. The court may also permit the debtor in possession to reject and cancel contracts. Debtors are also protected from other litigation against the business through the imposition of an automatic stay. While the automatic stay is in place, most litigation against the debtor is stayed, or put on hold, until it can be resolved in bankruptcy court, or resumed in its original venue. An example of proceedings that are not necessarily stayed automatically are family law proceedings against a spouse or parent. Further, creditors may file with the court seeking relief from the automatic stay.

All creditors are entitled to be heard by the court. 11 U.S.C. Sec. 1109 (b). The court is ultimately responsible for determining whether the proposed plan of reorganization complies with the bankruptcy law.

Chapter 11 usually results in reorganization of the debtor’s business or personal assets and debts, but can also be used as a mechanism for liquidation. Debtors may “emerge” from a chapter 11 bankruptcy within a few months or within several years, depending on the size and complexity of the bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code accomplishes this objective through the use of a bankruptcy plan. The debtor in possession typically has the first opportunity to propose a plan. With some exceptions, the plan may be proposed by any party in interest. Interested creditors then vote for a plan.

If the judge approves the reorganization plan and if the creditors all agree the plan can be confirmed. If at least one class of creditors votes against the plan and thus objects, the plan may nonetheless be confirmed if the requirements of cramdown are met. In order to be confirmed over their objection the plan must not discriminate against that class of creditors, and the plan must be found fair and equitable to that class.

Upon its confirmation, the plan becomes binding and identifies the treatment of debts and operations of the business for the duration of the plan.

Debtors in chapter 11 have the exclusive right to propose a plan of reorganization for a period of time (in most cases 120 days). After that time has elapsed, creditors may also propose plans. Plans must satisfy a number of criteria in order to be “confirmed” by the bankruptcy court. Among other things, creditors must vote to approve the plan of reorganization. If a plan cannot be confirmed, the court may either convert the case to a liquidation under chapter 7, or, if in the best interests of the creditors and the estate, the case may be dismissed resulting in a return to the status quo before bankruptcy. If the case is dismissed, creditors will look to non-bankruptcy law in order to satisfy their claims.

Like other forms of bankruptcy, petitions filed under chapter 11 invoke the automatic stay of § 362. The automatic stay requires all creditors to cease collection attempts, and makes many post-petition debt collection efforts void or voidable. Under some circumstances, some creditors, otherwise the United States Trustee can request for the court converting the case into a demolition under chapter 7, or appointing a trustee to manage the debtor’s business. The court will grant a motion to convert to chapter 7 or appoint a trustee if either of these actions is in the best interest of all creditors. Sometimes a company will liquidate under chapter 11, in which the pre-existing management may be able to help get a higher price for divisions or other assets than a chapter 7 liquidation would be likely to achieve. Appointment of a trustee requires some wrongdoing or gross mismanagement on the part of existing management and is relatively rare.

Some contracts, known as executory contracts, may be rejected if canceling them would be financially favorable to the company and its creditors. Such contracts may include labor union contracts, supply or operating contracts (with both vendors and customers), and real estate leases. The standard feature of executory contracts is that each party to the contract has duties remaining under the contract. In the event of a rejection, the remaining parties to the contract become unsecured creditors of the debtor.

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