Keach v. Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co., No. 17-1912 (1st Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
At issue was whether the proceeds of a multi-million-dollar sale of certain railroad lines constituted property of the bankruptcy estate.
Debtor purchased the assets of several United States and Canadian railways. Debtor obtained loans from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Railway and received funds from Investors. Debtor later proposed to sell 233 miles of track to the State of Maine. To make this possible, Debtor and the FRA amended the existing loan agreement so that the FRA provided a limited waiver of its senior lien over the lines in exchange for a replacement lien on certain of Debtor’s property in Canada. The limited waiver was conditioned on Debtor’s agreement that, upon closing of the sale, Debtor was to pay the FRA, Investors, and Railway certain sums in a “waterfall of disbursements.” After Maine purchased the lines, Debtor distributed the proceeds in accordance with the waterfall provision of the amendment. Debtor subsequently filed a voluntary petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The Trustee instituted an adversary proceeding against Railway seeking to avoid its waterfall disbursement as constructively fraudulent under section 5(b) of Maine’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The bankruptcy court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state an actionable claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the waterfall disbursement to Railway did not consist of property of Debtor’s estate because this was a case in which a senior lien holder imposed conditions that precluded Debtor from exercising effective control over the sale proceeds.