The intricate syndicated loan market has recently triggered attention from competition authorities internationally. Recently, the Spanish competition authority fined €91 million a syndicate of four Spanish banks. The Directorate General for Competition (DG COMP) of the European Commission launched a study on the topic in April 2017 (COMP/2017/008 – EU loan syndication and its impact on competition in credit markets). In anticipation of the results of this study, which are expected by the end of 2018 or early 2019, we highlight some of the competition law risks that may cause greater concern. Continue Reading
The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday, August 18, that an interest rate on a consumer loan in California could be deemed illegally high even if the loan is not subject to the state’s usury law.
Consumer loans of $2,500 or more in California that are made by licensed California Finance Lenders are not subject to the state’s usury law. However, the California Finance Law includes a provision which states that a loan found to be unconscionable is deemed to be in violation of the Finance Law. Nonbank lender CashCall Inc. had a primary product which was an unsecured $2,600 loan payable over a 42-month period, and carrying an annual percentage rate of either 96% or 135%. Plaintiffs filed an action against CashCall claiming that these loans violated California’s unfair competition law because they were unconscionable. CashCall raised a number of defenses, including that a licensed California Finance Lender can charge any rate it wants on consumer loans of $2,500 or more, and that these loans cannot be unconscionable. Continue Reading
In In re Spanish Peaks Holdings II, LLC, Case No. 15-35572 (9th Cir. Sept. 12, 2017), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a bankruptcy trustee may use Section 363(f) of the Bankruptcy Code to sell real property free and clear of unexpired leases without affording the non-debtor lessees the right to retain possession of the property. In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit also rejected an argument made by the buyer that the appeal was moot under Section 363(m) of the Bankruptcy Code, holding that Section 363(m) only applies to the transfer itself, as opposed to the free and clear aspect of the sale. A copy of the opinion may be found here. Continue Reading
In In re Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. 855 F.3d 459 (2d Cir. 2017), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a district court order subordinating the claims of former Lehman Bros. (“Lehman”) employees for undelivered equity-based compensation to those of the defunct bank’s general creditors. The Court determined the compensation benefits were securities that had been purchased by the former employees when they agreed to receive them in exchange for their labor and the asserted damages arose from those purchases, requiring the claims’ subordination under the Bankruptcy Code. The decision is important to employees and employers weighing the value of hybrid compensation packages and creditors seeking to safeguard their priority position among bankruptcy claimants. Continue Reading
In a May 15, 2017 Bankruptcy Court decision (Gardens Decision) from California’s Central District (In re Gardens Regional Hospital and Medical Center, Inc. (Bankr. C.D.Cal., May 15, 2017, No. 1617463), Judge Ernest M. Robles wrote that the grant of oversight and approval authority given to California’s Attorney General over buy/sell and change-in-control transactions between nonprofit sellers of health facilities and for-profit buyers of health facilities (see, California Corporation Code Section 5914 (Section 5914)) is limited to those situations in which a nonprofit seller has an active California health facility license at the time of closing. As written by Judge Robles, the Gardens Decision concludes that transactions between nonprofit sellers and for-profit buyers fall outside the scope of Section 5914 if the assets at hand do not include an operating, California-licensed health facility. As a nonoperational, unlicensed health facility, the transaction at issue is not a health facility transaction subject to Section 5914 and, in turn, Attorney General oversight and approval. Continue Reading
On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court in Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp., 580 U.S. __ (2017) held that a bankruptcy court does not have the power to approve a structured dismissal of a bankruptcy case that violates the Bankruptcy Code’s priority scheme unless the affected parties consent.
In a recent November 17, 2016 opinion, Delaware Trust Co. v. Energy Future Intermediate Holding Company LLC, Case No. 16-1351, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed two lower court opinions by holding that make-whole premiums can be enforceable even if the debt was automatically accelerated by a voluntary bankruptcy filing. The Third Circuit’s opinion is significant because it now puts borrowers on notice that under New York law, a debtor filing for bankruptcy may not necessarily be allowed to avoid redemption provisions and any related make-whole premiums similar to those involved in this case. Instead, in specifically examining the intent and language of those provisions, courts may, as the Third Circuit did here, read such automatic acceleration provisions and optional redemption provisions in harmony.
Where do marketplace lenders and secondary loan market participants find themselves on the issue of preemption of state usury laws after the June 27 denial of the petition for a writ of certiorari in Madden v. Midland by the U.S. Supreme Court?
In Madden v. Midland, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit refused to follow the “valid-when-made” rule when considering the scope of federal preemption of state usury laws under the National Bank Act. The court held that the NBA did not bar the application of state usury laws to a national bank’s assignee. In considering the applicability of the National Bank Act to a loan in the hands of a non-bank assignee, the Second Circuit considered a number of cases upholding preemption of state usury laws under the National Bank Act but invoked a seemingly new rule for applying section 85 of the National Bank Act (permitting a national bank to charge interest at the rate permitted by its home state). The Second Circuit concluded that preemption is only applicable where the application of state law to the action in question would significantly interfere with a national bank’s ability to exercise its power under the National Bank Act. The court reasoned further that where a national bank retained a “substantial interest” in the loan, the application of the state usury law would conflict with the bank’s power authorized by the National Bank Act.
In a recent decision, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware refused to enforce a provision in the debtor’s LLC operating agreement requiring a unanimous vote of the debtor’s members to authorize the debtor to file for bankruptcy. In re Intervention Energy Holdings, LLC, et al., 2016 Bankr. LEXIS 2241 (Bankr. D. Del. June 3, 2016). The provision at issue required the consent of all the debtor’s LLC members to file for bankruptcy, including the consent of a member that was a secured creditor holding one unit of ownership in the debtor’s LLC which it bargained for and received pursuant to a forbearance agreement. In refusing to dismiss the debtor’s bankruptcy case, the Court concluded that such an arrangement giving the secured lender a so-called “golden share” was “tantamount to an absolute waiver” of the debtor’s right to seek bankruptcy protection and therefore void as a matter of federal public policy.
On May 16, 2016, the United States Supreme Court in Husky International Electronics v. Ritz held that the phrase “actual fraud” under section 523(a)(2)(A) of the Bankruptcy Code may include fraudulent transfer schemes that were effectuated without a false representation. Section 523(a)(2)(A) provides that an individual debtor will not be discharged from certain debts to the extent that those debts were obtained by false pretenses, false representations or actual fraud. The Court’s decision in Husky resolved a conflict in the interpretation of actual fraud under section 523(a)(2)(A) between the Fifth and Seventh Circuits.