The Delaware Bankruptcy Court has recently adopted amended Local Rules, which became effective on February 1, 2008, and they include meaningful changes to the procedures governing Section 363 sales of assets. New Local Rule 6004-1, entitled "Sale and Sale Procedures Motions," requires additional disclosure and the highlighting of certain key provisions often seen in sale motions.
The Section 363 Sale. As a reminder, a bankruptcy asset sale often happens in the first few weeks or months of a Chapter 11 case, rather than as part of a plan of reorganization. Frequently this will involve a sale of all or substantially all of a debtor's business as a going concern. The sale is generally referred to as a "Section 363 sale" because Section 363 is the key Bankruptcy Code section that governs a debtor's sale of assets in bankruptcy. The debtor must seek bankruptcy court approval of a sale that is not in the ordinary course of business and of any effort to transfer executory contracts, intellectual property licenses, or commercial real estate leases to the buyer.
Sale Motion Requirements. The new local rule first addresses motions to sell property of the estate. A copy of the proposed or near-final purchase agreement must be attached to the motion, as well as a proposed sale order, and any request for a consumer privacy ombudsman under Section 332 of the Bankruptcy Code must be included. The most interesting changes, however, are in the list of provisions which, if included in the motion or sale order, must be highlighted together with a justification for each such provision. These include the following:
- Sale to insiders
- Agreements with management
- Private sale or no competitive bidding
- Closing and other deadlines
- Good faith deposit
- Interim agreements with proposed buyer
- Use of sale proceeds
- Section 1146 tax exemption
- Retention of records
- Sale of avoidance actions
- Successor liability findings requested
- Sale free and clear of leases or licenses
- Credit bid
- Waiver of 10-day stay under Rule 6004(h)
A Few Specifics. To get a sense of the changes made, here's what the amended rule now requires for disclosure of agreements with management included as part of a sale motion:
Agreements with Management. If a proposed buyer has discussed or entered into any agreements with management or key employees regarding compensation or future employment, the Sale Motion must disclose (a) the material terms of any such agreements, and (b) what measures have been taken to ensure the fairness of the sale and the proposed transaction in the light of any such agreements.
Similarly, if a finding is requested regarding a tax exemption under Section 1146(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, the motion must now detail the following:
Tax Exemption. The Sale Motion must highlight any provision seeking to have the sale declared exempt from taxes under section 1146(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, the type of tax (e.g., recording tax, stamp tax, use tax, capital gains tax) for which the exemption is sought. It is not sufficient to refer simply to "transfer" taxes and the state or states in which the affected property is located.
Another part of the new rule requires more disclosure of efforts to sell free and clear of leases and licenses:
Sale Free and Clear of Unexpired Leases. The Sale Motion must highlight any provision by which the debtor seeks to sell property free and clear of a possessory leasehold interest, license or other right.
Sale Procedures Motions. In addition to an actual sale motion, the new local rule includes new provisions addressing motions for approval of sale and auction procedures. Although these provisions are already typically set forth in motions, the rule makes mandatory the highlighting of certain ones, including the following:
- Financial qualification procedures
- Deadlines for submitting bids
- Format of overbids
- Good faith deposit
- No-shop or no-solicitation rules
- Break-up/topping fee and expense reimbursement
- Bidding increments and use of break-up fees
- Details of auction procedures
Other Important Local Rule Changes. In addition to a number of minor changes, the amended Local Rules include three significant additions governing (1) discovery motions, (2) service of discovery materials, and perhaps most importantly, (3) electronic or e-discovery. These new rules are found at Local Rules 7026-1, 7026-2, and 7026-3, respectively. Local Rule 3007-1 on omnibus claim objections, discussed in a prior post, has been revised to reflect Delaware's continued adherence to its local practice notwithstanding the recent national rule changes. (Click on the links in this sentence for more on the national rule amendments and Delaware's decision to retain its own omnibus claim objection procedures.) Also of note, amended Local Rule 9010-1 now makes explicit the requirement that associated Delaware counsel file all papers and attend proceedings before the Court.
Conclusion. While many of the amended sale motion rules are not new to Delaware practice, Local Rule 6004-1 will change the way sale and sale procedures motions are prepared going forward. Chapter 11 debtors must comply with the new rule and that should give creditors and potential overbidders an easier time spotting the material provisions in these motions.