In a recent post, I discussed how Section 546(c) of the Bankruptcy Code, as revised by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 ("BAPCPA"), gives vendors the ability to assert a reclamation claim for goods received by a debtor in the 45 days prior to the bankruptcy filing. In addition to extending the reclamation period to 45 days, BAPCPA also added a provision in Section 546(c) making reclamation claims "subject to the prior rights of a holder of a security interest in such goods or the proceeds thereof." This quoted language refers to a secured creditor with a senior lien in the same goods.
The Advanced Marketing Services case. Section 546(c)’s expanded reclamation rights, and how they may be impacted by the "prior rights" of a secured creditor, recently played out in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of In re Advanced Marketing Services, Inc. pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
Simon & Schuster, Inc., a reclamation claimant, filed a complaint against the debtor, Advanced Marketing Services, Inc. ("AMS"), seeking to reclaim more than $5 million worth of goods that the debtor allegedly received in the 45 days prior to the bankruptcy filing. (You can access the pleadings from the Simon & Schuster litigation by clicking on the appropriate links in this post.)
- In an effort to gain control over the goods at issue, Simon & Schuster filed an application for a temporary restraining order (known as a "TRO") seeking a court order to prevent AMS from selling the goods.
- The debtor opposed the TRO, challenging whether Simon & Schuster had the right to reclaim the goods.
- The debtor’s secured creditor, Wells Fargo Foothill, Inc., also filed an opposition to the TRO, arguing that the reclamation claim was subject to its prior rights as a prepetition secured creditor and as a debtor in possession ("DIP") lender. In this case, the DIP loan has been structured as a "creeping roll up" in which prepetition obligations are to be satisfied by the use of cash collateral and the DIP lender in turn receives a postpetition lien as that cash collateral is used.
- Simon & Schuster filed a reply brief responding to the opposition papers filed by the debtor and the secured creditor.
The Court’s Decision. In a decision issued by the Bankruptcy Court yesterday, Judge Sontchi denied Simon & Schuster’s application for a TRO without prejudice, holding that Section 546(c) made Simon & Schuster’s reclamation rights subject to the prior rights of the secured creditors. (The Bankruptcy Court also noted that it would have reached the same result under pre-BAPCPA bankruptcy and UCC law.)
- The Bankruptcy Court held that the secured creditors had superior prepetition and postpetition liens in the goods Simon & Schuster sought to reclaim and that Simon & Schuster therefore could not establish that it was likely to prevail on the merits of its reclamation claim.
- The Bankruptcy Court also rejected any attempt to require "marshaling" by the secured creditor, which if ordered could have required the secured creditor to satisfy its claim first from collateral other than the goods that Simon & Schuster sought to reclaim.
Stay Tuned. As one of the first decisions on this reclamation issue under BAPCPA, the Advanced Marketing Services decision is an important one. However, it’s not the last word on how the respective rights of reclaiming vendors and secured creditors will be decided in Chapter 11 cases. Reclamation issues are often fact dependent and results may vary in different cases. Also, vendors unable to prevail on a reclamation claim may still have a "20 day goods" administrative claim, and this fact may influence how debtors treat vendors in future cases.