Articles Posted in Commercial Law

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Growers sold their perishable agricultural products on credit to a distributor, Tanimura, which made Tanimura trustee over a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), 7 U.S.C. 499a-499t, trust holding the perishable products and any resulting proceeds for the Growers as PACA-trust beneficiaries. Tanimura then sold the products on credit to third parties and transferred its own resulting accounts receivable to Agricap through a Factoring Agreement or sale of accounts. In this suit against Agricap, Growers alleged that the Factoring Agreement was merely a secured lending arrangement structured to look like a sale but transferring no substantial risk of nonpayment on the accounts; the accounts receivable and proceeds remained trust property under PACA; because the accounts receivable remained trust property, Tanimura breached the PACA trust and Agricap was complicit in the breach; and PACA-trust beneficiaries such as Growers held an interest superior to Agricap, and Agricap was liable to Growers. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that Boulder Fruit Express & Heger Organic Farm Sales v. Transportation Factoring, Inc., controls the outcome of the case. The district court noted that the Ninth Circuit in Boulder Fruit expressly addressed the commercial reasonableness of a factoring agreement but implicitly rejected a separate, transfer-of-risk test. The district court further noted that the factoring agreement in Boulder Fruit transferred even less risk than the Factoring Agreement in the present case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "G.W. Palmer & Co. v. Agricap Financial" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed from a decision of the United States tax court concluding that he owed $128,292 in income tax for the 2004 taxable year. Petitioner entered into an agreement with Optech Limited pursuant to which he transferred floating rate notes (FRNs) worth approximately $1 million to Optech in return for a nonrecourse loan of ninety percent of the FRNs' value. The agreement gave Optech the right to receive all dividends and interest on the FRNs and the right to sell the FRNs during the loan term without Petitioner's consent. Instead of holding the FRNs as collateral for the loan, Optech sold the FRNs and transferred ninety percent of the proceeds to Petitioner. Petitioner did not report that he had sold the FRNs in his 2004 federal income tax return. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the tax court, holding that Petitioner's transaction with Optech constituted a sale for tax purposes despite its taking the form of a loan because the burdens and benefits of owning the FRNs were transferred to Optech. View "Sollberger v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Scotts Company, an Ohio LLC, brought a diversity action against Seeds, Inc., a Washington corporation, in federal district court. Thereafter, Millhorn Farmers, Maple Leaf Farms, Mica Creek, and Tim Freeburg (Growers) sued Seeds and Scotts in Washington state court. Maple Leaf Farms and Mica Creek were Washington corporations, Millhorn Farms was an Idaho corporation, and Tim Freeburg was a citizen of Idaho. Scotts subsequently filed an amended complaint in federal court adding the Growers as defendants and seeking declaratory relief. The district court subsequently realigned the Growers and plaintiffs and Seeds and Scotts as defendants and held, alternatively, that it would stay the federal proceedings in favor of the related state court proceedings under either the Brillhart doctrine or the Colorado River doctrine. Because the parties' realignment resulted in the absence of complete diversity of citizenship between defendant Seeds and newly-aligned plaintiffs-Growers, the district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the district court should not have declined to entertain the claim for declaratory relief under the Brillhart doctrine, and instead, the claims should have been evaluated under the Colorado River doctrine. Remanded. View "Scotts Co., LLC v. Seeds, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned a Railcar Contract with TriMet that required Colorado Railcar to secure a $3 million standby letter of credit, which Colorado Railcar arranged through Collateral II, a bankruptcy remote entity. TrimMet certified Collateral II's default and drew on the Letter of Credit when Colorado Railcar defaulted. At issue was whether Collateral II was a surety to Colorado Railcar, entitled to the defense of discharge. The court held that it was not. Because the standby letter of credit issued by KeyBank required TriMet to certify Collateral II's default, TriMet sought clarification that should Colorado Railcar default, TriMet's authority to certify Collateral II's default would be triggered. In response to TriMet's concern, Collateral II agreed to become a part of the Railcar Contract via Modification No. 1, but it undertook no new obligation nor did it subject itself to any additional liability beyond what it previously undertook by securing the Letter of Credit at Colorado Railcar's direction. Thus, no suretyship was created. Because Collateral II was not entitled to the protections of a surety, it was error for the district court to grant summary judgment in its favor.

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This case stemmed from credit agreements Lehman entities entered into with Palmdale Hills, LLC entities. Palmdale filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2008 and Lehman subsequently filed eight motions for relief from Palmdale's stay to foreclose on the collateral securing the loans that were in default. The court held that the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) correctly held that Lehman had standing to appeal the bankruptcy court's finding that the automatic stay did not prevent equitably subordinating Lehman's claims. The court also held that the BAP correctly determined that the appeal was not moot. The court further held that the BAP correctly determined that Lehman's automatic stay prevented Lehman's claims from being subordinated. Accordingly the court affirmed the BAP's judgment.

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Appellant appealed an order of summary judgment in favor of the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") in his eight Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. 552, requests for 19 C.F.R. 133.21(c) Notices of Seizures of Infringing Merchandise ("Notices") from certain United States ports. Appellant raised several issues of error on appeal. The court held that the district court's findings that the Notices contained plainly commercial information, which disclosed intimate aspects of an importers business such as supply chains and fluctuations of demand for merchandise, was well supported. The court also held that the district court was not clearly erroneous in its finding that the information at issue was confidential and privileged where the trade secret exemption of FOIA ("Exemption 4") was applicable. The court further held that when an agency freely disclosed to a third party confidential information covered by a FOIA exemption without limiting the third-party's ability to further disseminate the information then the agency waived the ability to claim an exemption to a FOIA request for the disclosed information. Therefore, the district court's ruling was affirmed in regards to FOIA Exemption 4 but the district court's conclusion as to the fees charged to appellant was reversed where CBP must follow the FOIA fee provisions under 19 C.F.R. 103.