Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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Top-TenOn October 28 Judge David Jones, US Bankruptcy Court for Southern District in Houston, issued a memorandum opinion in Chesapeake Energy’s bankruptcy (Case No. 20-33233), granting Chesapeake’s motion to reject its contract to sell gas to ETC Texas Pipeline.

The Bankruptcy Code allows a debtor in bankruptcy to “reject” an “executory contract.” As the court explained,

In simple terms, Sec. 365(a) allows a debtor to re-evaluate the wisdom of continued performance of a particular contract based upon the circumstances faced by the debtor during the bankruptcy case. By rejecting an executory contract, a debtor is permitted to disavow further performance of its obligations under a burdensome contract. … The rejection of an executory contract constitutes a breach by the debtor of the contract immediately before the petition date. … In general terms, this breach results in a general unsecured claim against the bankruptcy estate for the damages caused by the debtor’s future nonperformance. … Thus, any allowed claim would be paid pro rata with the debtor’s other unsecured creditors.

Chesapeake considered its gas purchase contract with ETC to be burdensome and so sought permission from the court to reject the contract, leaving ETC with an unsecured claim for damages caused by Chesapeake’s breach. Continue reading →

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Another recent bankruptcy court ruling may bode ill for producers and royalty owners in Texas in light of the collapse of oil prices and increased risks of bankruptcy of producers and oil purchasers. In Re: First River Energy, LLC, 2019 WL 1103294(US Bankr. W.D. Tex., March 7, 2019), also highlights a fix to the First Purchaser Statute the Texas legislature needs to address.

The oil industry in Texas fell on hard times in the early 1980’s. Several large oil purchasers filed for bankruptcy, leaving many royalty owners and producers unpaid. In response the Texas Top-TenLegislature passed a law intended to give producers and royalty owners a better chance to recover their monies in bankruptcy court. The statute is now Section 9.343 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which is Texas’ version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). All states have passed their version of the UCC. The UCC is intended to govern rights of parties in commercial transactions; the intent of having a “uniform” code in all states is to ensure that such transactions will not be hindered by differing laws from state to state. Article 9 of the UCC governs security interests granted in “goods” and proceeds from the sale of goods. “Goods” includes oil and gas, once they have been produced. So, the UCC, and particularly Article 9, govern how security interests are granted in produced oil and gas and in proceeds from the sale of oil and gas and the priority among creditors claiming security interests in oil and gas and proceeds. Continue reading →

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The oil and gas industry is at the beginning of a significant downturn. Oil and gas prices are down, supply is up, demand is flat. Another in the never-ending cycle of a boom-and-bust industry, now exacerbated by appearance of a potential coronavirus world epidemic and a sharp reduction in demand for hydrocarbons in China.

As in the past, a downturn in the industry results in a rise in bankruptcies, and this downturn is no exception. Two recent bankruptcy cases illustrate a new wrinkle in disputes arising from failed companies: Monarch Midstream, LLC v. Badlands Production Co., 608 B.R. 854 (Bkrtcy.D.Colo. 2019), and Alta Mesa Holdings, LP v. Kingfisher Midstream, LLC, 2019 WL 7580122 (Bkrtcy.S.D.Tex. Dec. 20, 2019). Continue reading →

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