Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Cramming Down a Taxi Medallion Loan in Chapter 13

Many individuals who owns taxi medallions that are “underwater” (the amount of the bank loan exceeds the value of the medallion) are interested in cramming down the taxi medallion loan so that the secured portion of the taxi medallion loan equals the value of the taxi medallion and the remainder of the taxi medallion loan would be treated as unsecured debt.

As discussed below, the secured portion of the taxi medallion loan would be paid in full and the unsecured portion would be paid pennies on the dollar, allowing the medallion owner to pay the bank less than the full amount of its loan and keep the medallion!

In the way of background, chapter 13 is not available to corporations or limited liability companies; pursuant to § 109(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, only individuals can file for chapter 13 bankruptcy. So, if a mini fleet was owned by a corporation or an LLC, a chapter 13 filing would not be permitted. The corporation or LLC could file for chapter 7 or chapter 11 bankruptcy (see our previous blog post on chapter 11 and cramdown).

In our example, let’s assume that a taxi medallion is worth $175,000 and the individual who owns that medallion owes the bank $500,000 (the collateral for the loan is the taxi medallion). $175,000 of the debt would be deemed secured and the remaining $325,000 would be deemed unsecured.

To file for chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are debt limitations; pursuant to § 109(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, an individual debtor must have unsecured debt of less than $394,725 and secured debt of less than $1,184,200.

Chapter 13 also requires that the debtor (medallion owner) must have a job or regular source of income to fund the chapter 13 plan. The duration of a chapter 13 plan is generally three to five years. A medallion owner filing for chapter 13 must pay the bank and other creditors $1 more than they would get in a chapter 7 bankruptcy (the “best interest of creditors” test) and the bankruptcy judge must determine that the plan is feasible, meaning that the debtor will be able to make the payments under the plan.

If the above requirements are met, and the bank will not agree to have its debt bifurcated into secured and unsecured components, the debtor must move to “cram down” the bank or secured creditor.

Cramming down a secured creditor is detailed in § 1325(a)(5)(B) of the Bankruptcy Code and the relevant provisions are as follows:

  1. The first essential element in chapter 13 cramdown is that the plan provides for the retention of the lien securing the allowed secured claim by the bank.

  2. Chapter 13 cramdown requires that the chapter 13 plan propose to distribute property having a value, as of the effective date of the plan, at least equal to the amount of the allowed secured claim. The effective date of the plan will ordinarily be provided for by the plan and may be the date the order confirming the chapter 13 plan becomes final.

  3. Property can be distributed to the bank over the course of the plan period. The property may be property of the estate in existence at the date of confirmation, or deferred cash payments representing future earnings or income of the chapter 13 debtor, provided that at the time the plan becomes effective, the value of the property to be distributed in the future equals the amount of the allowed secured claim.

  4. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(iii)(I) provides that if property to be distributed to the holder of an allowed secured claim is via periodic payments, such payments shall be in equal monthly amounts.

  5. The valuation conducted by the court under § 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) is meant to determine whether the property to be distributed under the plan is at least equal in value to the amount of the allowed secured claim. In most chapter 13 cases, the property to be distributed under the plan will consist of deferred cash payments derived from the earnings or other future income of the chapter 13 debtor during the plan period.

  6. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) requires the court to determine the value of property to be distributed under the plan, as of the effective date of the plan. In other words, the court must ascertain the present value of the property to be distributed. Accordingly, in addition to deferred principal payments aggregating the face amount of the allowed secured claim, a chapter 13 plan need only propose to pay interest on the amount of the allowed secured claim at the appropriate rate (many courts have endorsed using the prime rate plus a risk premium of 1 to 3 percent) over the duration of the plan.

  7. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) requires that the present value of property to be distributed under the plan be not less than the amount of the allowed secured claim. The amount of the allowed secured claim is determined in accordance with the provisions of §§ 506(a) and (b) of the Bankruptcy Code. Section 506(a) provides that an allowed claim is either undersecured or oversecured, based on a determination by the court as to whether the property secured by the creditor’s lien has a value that is greater or smaller than the amount of the allowed claim.

Therefore in our example, let’s assume that the interest rate on the $500,000 loan was 5% (the current prime rate) and the Debtor proposed a chapter 13 plan, to cramdown the bank, by allowing the bank to retain its lien during the term of the loan and repaying the bank $175,000 over 5 years at 6% (prime rate plus a risk premium of 1%), or monthly payments of $3,383.00, month, plus chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee payments of a maximum of 10% per plan payment, then the Debtor could confirm a chapter 13 plan and keep the medallion, if it made 5 years (60 months of payments) at $3,383 per month or $3,721.30 per month with the 10% Bankruptcy Trustee fee included.

Besides a chapter 13 cramdown, a medallion owner may also want to consider a workout with the bank, a chapter 7 bankruptcy or surrendering the medallion to the bank. Individuals with underwater medallions should talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney before deciding on what strategy to pursue. Jim

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