Subchapter V is Good for Business

The post below was written by Jeffrey Bast from Bast Amron. Jeffrey is a partner at Bast Amron and will be speaking at our upcoming Business Bankruptcy 101 Chapter 11 Nuts and Bolts Webinar on September 19 & 21, 2023. Most recently, Jeff spoke at our Business Bankruptcy 101: Chapter 11 Nuts and Bolts program in 2020 where he attendees loved him – mentioning that he gave a comprehensive, clear, and practical presentation.

Jeff has been practicing in the insolvency and litigation arena for more than 25 years. He guides business clients through all types of insolvency-related issues including bankruptcy and bankruptcy avoidance, emphasizing corporate reorganization, workouts, and liquidation. He is a frequent speaker and writer both in the U.S. and abroad on topics related to insolvency. Jeff has been recognized by his peers and numerous publications for professional excellence including: Best Lawyers in America, Chambers and Partners, Martindale Hubbell, South Florida Legal Guide, and Florida Super Lawyers.

Thank you for the insight, Jeff!

Subchapter V is Good for Business

July 11, 2023
By: Jeffrey Bast

If you are not a bankruptcy lawyer, read this and if you are a bankruptcy lawyer, you should too. If you represent small businesses, whether in deals or disputes, you should know about a useful tool that is being overlooked by many. It allows small businesses to restructure their debts and emerge with a clean bill of health and ownership intact. I am talking about Subchapter V bankruptcy. It was introduced as part of the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019, and it came into effect at the end of February 2020. You probably did not even notice. In fairness, we did have a little pandemic just a few weeks later.

Subchapter V bankruptcy basically allows small business owners (with debts of no more than $7.5 million thanks to the CARES Act) to retain control of their business and reorganize their debts through a streamlined process without the burdens of a creditor’s committee or the expenses of monthly US Trustee fees. It is faster and cheaper than a typical chapter 11. This is particularly helpful for small business owners who may not have the resources or time to engage in lengthy creditor negotiations and court proceedings.

The streamlined Sub V process can be completed in a more efficient manner, saving both time and money for the owner. Small business owners can also take advantage of a number of other benefits including, the ability to reduce their debt obligations, sell encumbered assets, and assume or reject burdensome leases and other contracts. These tools can be a lifesaver for business owners facing overwhelming debt obligations, cash flow concerns, or the risk of losing litigation.

The most obvious benefit of Sub V is that it provides small business owners with a vehicle to save their businesses. Many small business owners facing financial distress may feel as though they have no other option but shut down. Perhaps worse, others will put themselves in personal debt, borrowing money, and even mortgaging homes to keep their business afloat. But now you can offer them a lifeline. Subchapter V bankruptcy can allow them to restructure and emerge from bankruptcy with clean balance sheets and more viable entities.

Of course, it’s important to note that Subchapter V bankruptcy is not right for every small business owner. Before deciding to file for bankruptcy, business owners should carefully consider their options and consult with a qualified business bankruptcy attorney. If your client is struggling financially or perhaps they risk losing that major litigation, Subchapter V may assist you in helping them get back on track.

If you’d like to learn more about Subchapter V, Jaime Leggett, also at Bast Amron, will spend a good 90 minutes on this topic at our upcoming Business Bankruptcy 101 Chapter 11 Nuts and Bolts Webinar on September 19 & 21, 2023 (the same one at which Jeff is speaking again).

It promises to be an excellent seminar!



Tequila Shots, Default Interest, and the 9th Circuit’s Reversal of In re Entz-White

Bankruptcy Attorney

The following is a guest post by frequent Pincus Pro Ed speaker on bankruptcy topics, Mette Kurth of Fox Rothschild, LLP.  You can see her blog – The Bottom Line 11 – here


Friday night I hosted a Día de los Muertos party.  Naturally, I invited other bankruptcy attorneys. And when you mix lawyers and tequila, things can get pretty crazy.  It wasn’t long before someone was well into an animated story about his Absolutely Worst Day Ever as a Lawyer. Now that its Monday morning and we’ve all sobered up, here’s a recap of his Very Bad Day and the surprise reversal of In re Entz-White that caused it.

Last Week, Debtors Could Avoid Accrued Post-Default Interest in the 9th Circuit by Curing an Underlying Default…

My friend (let’s call him “Roberto”) was representing a debtor that had fallen behind on its loan and was facing insurmountable default interest.  If it could avoid the default interest and other late penalties, it could otherwise cure its defaults, restore its loan to its original terms, and successfully reorganize. “No problem!” Roberto had said. And he took the case on a contingency.

Roberto was right. In re Entz-White Lumber & Supply, Inc., decided back in 1988, held that when a debtor cures a default it may avoid all consequences of the default, including higher post-default interest rates. In other words, it may both repay arrearages at the lower, pre-default interest rate and return to pre-default conditions, including pre-default interest rates, for the remainder of the loan obligation.

Mechanically, it works like this. Section 1123(a)(5)(G) of the Bankruptcy Code requires that a debtor’s plan of reorganization adequately provide for its implementation, including by “curing” any default.  The Bankruptcy Code contains a long list of definitions. Oddly, “cure,” used throughout the Bankruptcy Code, is not one of them. To fill in that gap, the Ninth Circuit adopted the Second Circuit’s definition of cure, e.g., curing a default means taking care of the triggering event, thereby nullifying all of its consequences, including default penalties such as higher interest.

Roberto had relied on Entz-White in charting a path forward for his client. The case was on the verge of confirmation, and he was on the verge of earning his contingency fee.

…. But on Friday, the 9th Circuit Issued a New Opinion Overturning Its Prior Ruling

On Friday, instead of celebrating, Roberto was shooting tequila in my living room and crying into his cerveza.

In In re New Investments, decided earlier that day, the Ninth Circuit overturned its opinion in Entz-White, holding that Bankruptcy Code Section 1123(d) voided Entz-White’s rule that a debtor who proposes to cure a default may avoid a higher, post-default interest rate in the loan agreement.  The Ninth Circuit reversed the bankruptcy court’s underlying order, which had confirmed a Chapter 11 plan based on Entz-White… and simultaneously upended my friend’s pending case as well.

Section 1123(d), which was enacted in 1994, well after Entz-White was decided, states that:

Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section and sections 506(b), 1129(a)(7), and 1129(b) of this title, if it is proposed in a plan to cure a default the amount necessary to cure the default shall be determined in accordance with the underlying agreement and applicable nonbankruptcy law.

Following is a brief summary of the case and the court’s rationale.

1. Evaluating Applicable (Washington State) Nonbankruptcy Law

In New Investments, the debtor had defaulted on a real estate loan, thereby triggering a default-interest provision. It then filed for bankruptcy protection to avoid foreclosure.  Its plan was to sell its property and then use the sale proceeds to payoff the loan – thus curing the default – at  the pre-default interest rate. The lender objected, pointing to its contractual rights under a promissory note that called for payment of a higher interest rate (equating to approx. $670,000) upon default. The loan agreement was governed by Washington state law. The Ninth Circuit concluded that Washington allows for a higher interest rate upon default when provided for in the loan agreement. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Section 61.24.090(1)(a). Thus, it held that cure, as determined under the parties’ contract and applicable state law, required payment of accrued default interest.

2. The Plain Language of Section 1123(d) Drives the Ninth Circuit’s Decision

The Ninth Circuit stated that the plain language of Section 1123(d) compelled its decision. As with all plain-language arguments, there is nothing to analyze here. You can read Section 1123(d) and decide for yourself whether you agree.

3. Surprise! The Legislative History Indicates This Result May Be Unexpected

In case you disagree with the Court’s plain reading of the statute, the Ninth Circuit also looked to the statute’s legislative history and stated it would not help New Investments. Essentially, the Ninth Circuit concluded that Congress had a very particular, and different, purpose in mind when it enacted Section 1123(d) and that it may not have anticipated all of the statute’s consequences. But that, it said, is not a good enough reason to ignore the statute’s plain meaning.

What was Congress trying to do when it enacted Section 1123(d)? The legislative history indicates Congress was primarily concerned with overruling the Supreme Court’s decision in Rake v. Wade, which had stated that, in order to cure a default, a Chapter 13 debtor would have to pay interest on his arrearages even if the underlying loan agreement did not provide for it. Congress was concerned that Rake v. Wade provided an unbargained-for windfall for creditors and enacted Section 1123(d) to “limit the secured creditor to the benefit of the initial bargain.” Congress, the Ninth Circuit acknowledged, may not have anticipated how Section 1123(d) would be interpreted in other contexts.

But the Ninth Circuit felt that its holding, if unanticipated, would not be inconsistent with Congressional intent. In holding the secured creditor to the benefit of its bargain, Congress had said that a cure pursuant to a plan should “put the debtor in the same position as if the default had never occurred.” That, it said, is consistent with holding both parties to the benefit of their bargain and with the concept of cure generally (which it conceeded Section 1123(d) did not alter or attempt to define).

The Ninth Circuit tacitly recognized that its holding will make it more difficult for some debtors to reorganize, undermining the Bankruptcy Code’s goals of offering a fresh start to honest debtors. But it felt that its decision strikes an appropriate balance between the interest of debtors and creditors.

4. The Interpretation of Cure in Section 1123 is Consistent With the Concept of Unimpairment

The Ninth Circuit also stated that its ruling in New Investments would be consistent with the concept of unimpairment under the Bankruptcy Code.  To render a creditor “unimpaired” such that it cannot object to a debtor’s plan, the debtor must cure defaults and may not “otherwise alter the legal, equitable, or contractual rights” of the creditor. One of these rights is post-default interest.

Future Default Interest Differentiated

It is worth noting that the New Investments decision focuses on the treatment of accrued, default interest when a debtor is calculating required cure amounts.  But once default interest or other penalties are paid and a default is therefore cured, the debtor can still return to pre-default conditions as to the remainder of the loan obligation.

Judge Berzon’s Dissenting Opinion

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote that neither Section 1123(d) nor any other provision of the Bankruptcy Code provides a definition of “cure” contrary to the one announced in Entz-White.

As for the majority’s conclusion that Congress displaced Entz-White when it passed Section 1123(d)? Judge Berzon argues at length that this conclusion is not supported by either the plain language of the statute or its legislative history. Instead, Judge Berzon argues that the Court should not read the Bankruptcy Code to erode past bankruptcy practice absent a clear indication that Congress intended such a departure.

My friend Roberto would certainly agree.


By: Mette Kurth of Fox Rothschild, LLP