Stettner, et al. v. Smith, No. 10-20670 (5th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
IFS and 17 affiliated organizations (collectively, Interamericas) were debtors in a series of Chapter 7 cases. This appeal arose from eight collective adversary proceedings, which a trustee of IFS brought against appellants for avoidance of fraudulent transfers under Chapter 5 of the Bankruptcy Code and Chapter 24 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code. Appellants appealed the district court's affirmance of the bankruptcy court judgment of over $3 million in favor of the trustee. The court held that control could be sufficient to show ownership of what was ultimately a fact-based inquiry that would vary according to the peculiar circumstances of each case. The court also held that the lower courts' findings of ownership were not clearly erroneous and, moreover, comported with precedent and the court's holding today where IFS exercised control over the accounts at issue such that it had de facto ownership over the accounts, as well as the funds contained. The court further held that the record supported the lower courts' findings of fraudulent transfer. Specifically, IFS faced pending lawsuits and mounting debts just as it liquidated nearly all Interamericas' assets and evidence that IFS operated as a fraudulent enterprise at the time of transfer supported this finding of fraudulent intent. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.