In the Matter of a & F Wood Products, Inc., Debtor,kevin Campbell, Trustee, Appellant, v. Robert F. Ankerson, Sr., Appellee, 801 F.2d 393 (4th Cir. 1986)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit - 801 F.2d 393 (4th Cir. 1986) Argued June 2, 1986. Decided Sept. 17, 1986

Charles S. Altman, for appellant.

James E. Gonzales (Gonzales & Gonzales, on brief), for appellee.



Before WIDENER, HALL and SPROUSE, Circuit Judges.


This appeal results from the corporate bankruptcy that A & F Wood Products, Inc. (A & F) filed in 1982 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina. On August 22, 1983, Kevin Campbell, Trustee, filed an adversary complaint in bankruptcy court, seeking to pierce A & F's corporate veil and, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 542(a), seeking to compel Robert A. Ankerson, Sr., a major stockholder and officer of A & F, to turn his personal assets over to the Trustee for the benefit of the bankrupt estate and its creditors. On October 22, 1984, the bankruptcy judge filed a memorandum and order in which he concluded:

In sum, these facts do not indicate conduct which justifies setting aside the corporate shield. According to the record in this proceeding, Ankerson has perpetrated no fundamental unfairness to the creditors of A & F and he should not be held individually liable for the debts of the corporation.

After a hearing, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's decision refusing to pierce the corporate veil. The Trustee appeals, arguing that the district court's ruling was clearly erroneous. Finding no error, we affirm.

In his decision refusing to pierce the corporate veil, the bankruptcy judge carefully considered each factor set forth in DeWitt Truck Brokers, Inc. v. W. Ray Flemming Fruit Co., 540 F.2d 681 (4th Cir. 1976), the case which both parties agree provides the appropriate test for determining whether to pierce a corporate veil. In addition to setting forth the appropriate test for piercing the corporate veil, the decision in DeWitt also sets forth the appropriate standard of appellate review of a district court's decision in this regard. In DeWitt, the court stated that inasmuch as the decision whether to pierce the corporate veil is

one of fact, its resolution 'is particularly within the province of the trial court' and such resolution will be regarded as 'presumptively correct and [will] be left undisturbed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous.'

Id. at 648 (footnotes omitted). The Trustee argues that the bankruptcy court's findings of fact concerning the various factors set forth in DeWitt, which the district court adopted, are clearly erroneous. We disagree.

The Supreme Court has stated that:

If the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, the court of appeals may not reverse it even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.

Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 53 U.S.L.W. 4314, 4317 (U.S. Mar. 19, 1985).

We have examined the record and conclude that the factual issues could have been decided for either party, a point which the district court noted during its hearing on the issue. Because there were at least two permissible views of the evidence presented below, we hold that the decision of the district court affirming the bankruptcy court's refusal to pierce the corporate veil was not clearly erroneous.

Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is