Nos. 10-3631-cv, 10-3643.United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
December 8, 2010.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Holwell, J.).
ON CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED,ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
For Appellants: SEAN A. O’KEEFE (Paul J. Couchot, on the brief), Winthrop Couchot, P.C., Newport Beach, CA
For Appellees Lehman Commercial Paper, ALFREDO R. PE´REZ, Weil, Gotshal Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.: Manges LLP, Houston, TX
For Appellee Official Committee of Unsecured DENNIS C. O’DONNELL (Evan R. Fleck, Creditors of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.: Dennis F. Dunne, on the brief), Milbank, Tweed, Hadley McCloy LLP, New York, NY
Present: ROBERT D. SACK, ROBERT A. KATZMANN, GERARD E. LYNCH, Circuit Judges,
Appellants (collectively, “SunCal”) appeal from the September 10, 2010 judgment, following an August 27, 2010 opinion, of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Holwell J.), affirming two bankruptcy court orders (1) approving the unwinding of a transaction between certain Lehman entities and third-party entities and (2) denying SunCal relief from the automatic stay arising from the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Commercial Paper, Inc. (“LCPI”). We assume the parties’ familiarity with the facts and procedural history of the case.
We turn first to SunCal’s appeal from the bankruptcy court’s approval of the compromise (“Compromise Order”) that unwound the so-called “Fenway structure.” “On an appeal from the district court’s affirmance of a bankruptcy court’s order, we review the decision of the bankruptcy court independently, assessing its conclusions of law de novo and its factual findings for clear error.” In re Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 144-45 (2d Cir. 2009). The bankruptcy court’s approval of a settlement or compromise is reviewed for abuse of discretion. In re Refco Inc., 505 F.3d 109, 116 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing In re Iridium Operating LLC, 478 F.3d 452, 461 n. 13 (2d Cir. 2007)). SunCal challenges the Compromise Order on the ground that it functioned as an injunction that constrained SunCal’s California bankruptcy proceedings. However, the
Compromise Order did not require or forbid any action by SunCal, nor did it necessarily have any effect on SunCal’s bankruptcy proceedings. To the extent that the LCPI automatic stay might have an effect on the California proceedings, this is the inevitable result of proceedings involving two sets of debtors, each with their own automatic stay in place. Nothing in the Compromise Order itself mandated any sort of injunctive effect. Moreover, we find that SunCal does not raise a colorable argument that the bankruptcy court, in issuing the Compromise Order, applied incorrect legal standards, see, e.g., In re Iridium, 478 F.3d at 462, relied upon clearly erroneous facts in its evaluation of the compromise, or otherwise abused its discretion.
We accordingly turn to the second of the bankruptcy court’s orders, which denied SunCal’s motion for relief from the LCPI automatic stay. SunCal argues to this Court that the automatic stay does not apply to its equitable subordination action because subordination is merely part of the non-offensive claims allowance process, and therefore the lower courts erred insofar as they failed to rule that the stay did not apply. The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (“BAP”) has ruled that the LCPI stay applies to SunCal’s equitable subordination action, which “seeks affirmative relief” and therefore violates the stay. In re Palmdale Hills Prop., LLC, 423 B.R. 655, 667 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2009). SunCal’s appeal of the BAP ruling is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit, and the New York bankruptcy court explicitly stated that, because SunCal had “gone to the Ninth Circuit, . . . the Ninth Circuit is the place for this question to be decided.” App’x 1760. We hold that the bankruptcy court acted within its
discretion in deferring to the Ninth Circuit on whether the stay applies and in declining without prejudice to lift the stay. We think, as did the district court, that in light of the fact that the Ninth Circuit might yet provide SunCal with the relief it sought in connection with the motion for relief from stay, it was reasonable of the bankruptcy court to defer to the Ninth Circuit in the first instance. Moreover, we note that at oral argument before us, counsel for appellees conceded that a decision by the Ninth Circuit that the LCPI stay does not apply to the equitable subordination action in California would moot SunCal’s request for relief from the automatic stay arising from the LCPI bankruptcy in New York. Because the very applicability of the stay is sub judice in the Ninth Circuit, we find no abuse of discretion in the bankruptcy court’s decision not to lift the stay (which the BAP had ruled applied) at that time. See In re Sonnax Indus., Inc., 907 F.2d 1280, 1286 (2d Cir. 1990) (explaining the relevant standards). We therefore affirm the bankruptcy court’s decision to decline to lift the stay, pending the Ninth Circuit’s decision, without prejudice to a further motion by SunCal following a ruling by the Ninth Circuit.
We have considered appellants’ remaining arguments and find them to be without merit. Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court isAFFIRMED.
App’x 1736, 1746; see also In re Baldwin-United Corp. Litig., 765 F.2d 343, 347-49 (2d Cir. 1985) (noting that the proper court for resolution of whether a stay applies depends on the circumstances of the case).