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Justifiable or Reasonable Reliance Under Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code

Justifiable or Reasonable Reliance Under Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code

Exception to Discharge Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code

Reasonable Reliance Section 523 Bankruptcy

Sometimes a debtor is less than honest, that’s when you bring an adversary action in bankruptcy

Was your reliance justifiable  or reasonable when lending money to a dishonest debtor that. later ends up in bankruptcy. Collateral Base Attorney Tom Howard recently helped our client win a $1.8 million dollar verdict in a bankruptcy case out of the Central District of Illinois. The case, liura v. Brady (In re Brady), concerned several novel issues of law, including the standard for “justifiable” or “reasonable” reliance under §523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code.

Exceptions to Bankruptcy Discharge under Section 523 –

Bankruptcy discharge is the value most debtors that petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code are after.  The discharge of their debts can wipe away thousands or millions of dollars of debt holding down a debtor in order to give him or her a fresh start.  But not all debtors are honest but unlucky – some are lying about their debts, which is why you can file an action to except certain debts, usually obtained fraudulently, from discharge. Section § 523(a)(2) of the Code is the authority for such adversary proceedings, which provides, in relevant part:

  • (a) A discharge under section 727, 1141, 1192, 1228(a), 1228(b), or 1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt—
  • (2) for money, property, services, or an extension, renewal, or refinancing of credit, to the extent obtained by—
  • (A) false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud, other than a statement respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s financial condition;
  • (B) use of a statement in writing—
  • (i) that is materially false;
  • (ii) respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s financial condition;
  • (iii) on which the creditor to whom the debtor is liable for such money, property, services, or credit reasonably relied; and
  • (iv) that the debtor caused to be made or published with intent to deceive[.]
  • 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A), (B).

Pliura v. Brady – Justifiable or Reasonable Reliance under Section 523

The case concerns the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy of Bob Brady (Debtor), a prominent home builder in Central Illinois. After earning his MBA and spending several years in banking, Bob Brady joined Brady Homes, the family business. Brady Homes has built over 1,500 homes in the Bloomington/Normal area, and has also built and managed apartments and condominiums. The Debtor also participated in several other real estate businesses, including Pinehurst Development (Pinehurst) and Brew of Illinois, LLC (Brew). In other words, the Debtor was a very experienced and sophisticated real estate professional, and knew all about holding and transferring title of property.

As our Central Illinois readers might know, the Debtor is the brother of State Senator Bill Brady. At the time of the loan, Senator Brady was running for Governor of Illinois as the Republican Party nominee (he went on to narrowly lose the race to incumbent Governor Pat Quinn). Bob Brady needed the loan to pay subcontractors, who were threatening to file liens and go public with the Bradys’ ongoing financial woes. Naturally, this would have been embarrassing for Senator Brady’s campaign.

In 2010, Dr. Thomas Pliura (a lawyer and a physician) and his wife loaned Brady and his brother $1,000,000 at an interest rate of 6%. The note was accompanied by a Security Agreement, giving the Creditors security in several properties own by Brady and identifying each property, including the address and tax identification number. The Security Agreement stated that the Bradys were the “sole, legal and equitable owners” of the properties. In the interest of Brady’s political ambitions, Dr. Pliura agreed not to record a mortgage against the properties which secured the $1,000,000 Note. He simply relied on the promises and written representations of the Brady Brothers, whom he had known for twenty years.

In fact, all of the properties were owned by Pinehurst and Brew, not by Brady and his brother. Additionally, all of the properties were encumbered by mortgages to Busey Bank. The properties had actually been cross-collateralized to other loans, and the Bradys were underwater on their various loans by approximately $3 million dollars.

The Bradys made one payment to Dr. Pliura- a check that bounced. They never tendered any additional payments. Dr. Pliura retained an attorney to look into collecting on the Note, and discovered that the Properties were not owned by Brady, and were further encumbered to Busey Bank. Soon, Brady filed for bankruptcy, and Dr. Pliura filed his lawsuit.

Section 523: Two Ways to Recover

Normally in bankruptcy, a debtor’s outstanding debts are discharged, and creditors have their rights to collect curtailed or outright eliminated. Under Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code, there are a few ways to prevent this, or have a debt declared “non-dischargeable.” Section 523(a)(2) again provides:

(a) A discharge under section 727, 1141, 1192, 1228(a), 1228(b), or

1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any

debt—

. . .

(2) for money, property, services, or an extension, renewal, or

refinancing of credit, to the extent obtained by—

(A) false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud,

other than a statement respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s

financial condition;

(B) use of a statement in writing—

(i) that is materially false;

(ii) respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s financial

condition;

(iii) on which the creditor to whom the debtor is liable for

such money, property, services, or credit reasonably

relied; and

(iv) that the debtor caused to be made or published with

intent to deceive[.]

  • Under 523(a)(2)(A), the Pliuras had to show “(1) the Debtor made a false representation or omission; (2) the Debtor knew the misrepresentation was false or made the representation with reckless disregard for the truth; (3) the Debtor made the misrepresentation with intent to deceive; and (4) they justifiably relied on the misrepresentation in making the loan.”
  • In contrast, under 523(a)(2)(B) the Pliuras were required to prove that the Debtor submitted to them, as part of their loan transaction, a written statement “(1) that was materially false; (2) that included information respecting the Debtor’s financial condition; (3) that they reasonably relied on in extending the loan; and (4) that the Debtor made or published with intent to deceive.”

The two sections have previously been held to be mutually exclusive. Under the recent Supreme Court case of Lamar, Archer & Cofrin, LLP v. Appling, the reasonable reliance bankruptcyCourt found that “a statement about a single asset” could be a “statement respecting a debtor’s financial condition.” That is, if the Bradys made a statement about a single one of their assets, the Pliuras would be in Section 523(a)(2)(B) and the “reasonable reliance” standard. The Court briefly addressed this issue, and found that Brady had made written representations about his financial condition, so the Pliuras would have to recover under 523(a)(2)(B).

Was There Reasonable Reliance?

There was no real dispute that Brady knowingly made materially false statements about his ownership of the Properties, and that the money was, in fact, owed to the Pliuras. There was a mountain of evidence that Brady knowingly and intentionally deceived Pliura to induce him to make the loan. But the bigger question was: did Dr. Pliura reasonably rely on Brady’s representations?

The Court began its analysis by noting that usually, reasonable reliance is determined based on the lender’s lending standards. However, “[h]ere, of course, the Pliuras are not traditional lenders and have no standard practices or any relation to the lending industry; it would be unfair and inappropriate to evaluate their reliance as though they were commercial bankers.” As the court further explained, while “reasonable reliance does not generally require creditors to conduct an investigation prior to entering into agreements with prospective debtors[.]” In re Morris, 223 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 2000). But, at the same time, creditors cannot ignore “obvious red flags.” Harris N.A. v. Gunsteen (In re Gunsteen), 487 B.R. 887, 902 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 2013).

The Court looked at the various statements made by parties to the Note. However, at the end of the day, it was not just that the parties has discussed ownership of the properties, but that “Dr. Pliura put the information they were relying on in writing, and the Debtor signed that writing.” It was unrebutted that Brady read the representations in the Note at closing, and did not raise any objections at the time. The court also relied on Dr. Pliura’s personal relationship with the Bradys in assessing his reliance. “He knew that William Brady was a state senator and a candidate for governor and, apparently, he held Sen. Brady in high regard. He knew the Bradys as successful businessmen in the community, and, despite also knowing of their current financial distress and urgent need to borrow money, he had no reason to think that any of the Bradys, including the Debtor, would look him in the eye and lie.”

This case provides significant guidance for creditors who are proceeding under 523(a)(2)(B). Even sophisticated individuals can be misled and lied to by people they know and trust. This case clarifies that for debtors who are betrayed by people close to them, the law is still on their side.

The full opinion of the Court is available here.

David Silvers

David Silvers

Regulatory Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.
R. Martindale

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

What to Put Your Illinois Company's Operating Agreement An Operating Agreement is the contract of your Illinois company’s life – which it really does not have. However, your company is a legal fiction of a person that has a beginning, called articles of organization...

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LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements in Illinois

What to Put Your Illinois Company’s Operating Agreement

LLC Operating AgreementAn Operating Agreement is the contract of your Illinois company’s life – which it really does not have. However, your company is a legal fiction of a person that has a beginning, called articles of organization for LLCs, and even an end, called a dissolution. The Operating Agreement is a long contract that explains how your company is managed, how new owners come into the business, how existing owners leave the business, and more.  Here’s an article all about operating agreements for your cannabis company.

Illinois Company Operating Agreements are Flexible

We have done scores of operating agreements, many for Illinois companies.  Illinois companies often require additional care in drafting their operating agreements because of the amount of money and free cash flows that they kick out during their operations. Therefore, it is very important to review and understand your cannabis company’s operating agreement.  Please read yours with a lawyer or advisor that is experienced in them and ask questions until you understand everything about how your cannabis company operates – hence the term Operating Agreement.

What are the elements of an Illinois LLC Operating Agreement

Operating agreements, for any company – not just Illinois businesses – have different sections, or articles. Like chapters in a book, articles in an operating agreement break down the contract into logical subgroups where specific things are discussed.  The common sections, or articles, in operating agreements that we use include:

  1. Recitals
  2. Formation of Company
  3. Members & Units
  4. Management of the Company
  5. Rights & Obligations of Members
  6. Actions of Members
  7. Contributions to the Company and Capital Accounts
  8. Allocations, tax and distributions
  9. transferability
  10. Issuance of Membership Interests
  11. Dissolution and Termination
  12. Books and Records
  13. Miscellaneous Provisions

 

Want a Custom Operating Agreement

Illinois Company Operating Agreements Basics

You may not know it, but your business is just a ball of contracts with all the rights of a person, from owning property, to entering into contracts, and even suing in court, but does not include the right to vote in public elections, but you can spend money on supporting the people running for office.  Don’t be so upset, America itself is basically a large corporation – most municipalities are actually corporations. See these useful informational tidbits? – everything you’ve come to expect from…

RELATED: Subscribe to Illinois Legalization News

learn all the differences between corporations and LLCs that may have huge impacts on your business if it raíces money, or just its day-to-day operations. 

This is another of our Fundraising.  If you are getting into the Illinois industry and you are under a million dollars for your dispensary team, or under 4 million for your craft or micro grower team – then this is the content for you,

You may not know it, but if you are in an LLC for your Illinois company, or on its application, then this is how your company as a legally fictional person literally operates.  It is the owners’ manual for your company – which basically means it is like the one for your car – in the glove box and probably not really read too closely. 

That is a mistake – corporate entities – whether LLCs or corps – can only do what their contracts say they can do. So it is not only quite crucial – but expletive deleted important to know how your company runs its operations and distribution’s of profits – to raising capital – to diluting your shares. 

 

Want a Custom Operating Agreement

Why are LLCs so popular now instead of corporations?

Because LLCs are flexible – you can have an operating agreement between the owners, called members of the LLC, that literally governs the whole life trajectory of the business.  We are going to discuss several different permutations of operating agreements depending on the goals of your business venture. 

Remember that LLCs are flexible? What does that mean? 

 from reading you Illinois company’s operating agreement I can tell:

  1. If it was set up to be sold to the highest bidder
  2. If it was to be a family business for generations
  3. If it was to operate a real estate business
  4. If it was to operate a big one time deal and then have parties part ways
  5. If the parties did not care what the other owners did
  6. If the the parties wanted specific duties to the business
  7. If it was to hold control in very specific ways – this could be a social equity operating agreement.
  8. If it was to be taxed as the business owner, an s-corp or a c-corp. 
  9. If the profits interest went to different things despite the ownership percentages
  10. How it would die – dissolution
  11. How the owners get in or out
  12. And that’s more than enough points to tell you about how flexible this contract is.

Isn’t that amazing one contract can be set up in almost any number of ways for your unique business situation – so please get your tax guy involved immediately and your corporate consultant and lawyer and discuss it to suit your company’s needs.  We can talk about your company’s needs to see what your objectives are – what your exit is – a big check list of things that if you want to get. LLCs are great because not only do they have the flexibility to do whatever your business really needs, they also have relaxed formalities and greater restrictions on transferability of ownership interests. 

You probably know that corporation’s ownership is referred to as “shares” in the company while LLCs have “units” of membership in the company. 

So why are these LLCs so popular – because about 50 years ago some business people in Wyoming asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if you can get all the protections of the corporate shield but not have to follow all the rules?”  Heck Yeah – it would. Only in America.

In an LLC you can set it up so that owners, shareholders in corporate speak, or members in LLC jargon, have no duty to one another.  Just be like – I did this – deal with it. That could be a part of the business. We have an operating agreement that we like to call the fugghetaboutit – because not only does it allow you to have the least amount of duties to your partners as a matter of law, but the freedom to leave the business on a moment’s notice, dissolve the business and leave it in the past. It’s the LLC for the deal when you got just one little thing to do.

Then you got the protect yah neck, son – that’s just a single member LLC – The operating agreement basically gives the liability shield and very little else.  I have seen these be just a few pages, but you get more people involved and watch the operating agreement grow into the dozens of pages, maybe over 100 depending on the exhibits attached. 

Then we have another operating agreement that I like to call the flip – this company is basically on a mission to be sold – the LLC comes with an exit so you are almost for sale from the day you go into business on the terms set by the operating agreement. In this format, we use the tag-along-drag-along clause as a term of the operating agreement to provide protections to the minority owner of the company the “tag along” to be “dragged along” in the full sale of the company, or substantially all of its assets. So you can see, both the minority owner and the majority owner are in agreement as to what will happen when the offer to buy comes along.

Then I have one called the generational wealth – where you have the business being able to have rights of first refusal to retain ownership – often inside a family owned business. It is a sticky wicket to get into or out of – and that’s the point.

There are so many variants that we can make up a new type of operating agreement that we could make, like a ‘give it to the people’ where the company agrees to an ESOP to become an employee owned company at a certain point in time in the future.  I guess we could set that one up for you. We’d have to research it though.

Remember that your company is just a ball of contracts related to a statute – a legally fictional person that gets to generate you money – but you’re responsible for bearing the risk as the entrepreneur. 

The reason you need an operating agreement when raising capital is because it tells your prospective investors exactly what your company is legally obligated to do.

That  is the plan – the operating agreement spells out how it will all go down.  From management, to new owners, to getting out of your ownership, dissolution of the company, everything. 

can you run your LLC like a corporation?

In corporation terms, an operating agreement blends shareholder agreements and bylaws all together – but in theory, an LLC could do bylaws separately – in theory.  And as we get to the intersection of these two different type of corporate entities businesses have at their disposal, we can finally answer of the question, can an LLC be run like a corporation?

So you can see that – yes, you can structure a LLC like it is a corporation – but it will be much more expensive than the couple page single member LLC operating agreement.  The operating agreement has to blend agreements about new owners, types of owners, officers and directors, voting rights, tax consequences – so many things.  

Conclusion on LLC Operating Agreements

So why not just start with a corporation?  You can, but they have greater formality, less flexibility, and easier exchange of your shares. An LLC can become a corporation – so if your first 5 years are expected to be you and your core team operating the business before it is geared up and sold, or who knows.  Then you can start to set up the corporation as best you can, but borrower the flexibility and lack of formality that the LLC has, plus get more restrictive ownership, to keep your team together until you are ready to become a full on corporation that ends up getting sold for stock – a corporation can still buy an LLC. 

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Real Estate Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

What to Put Your Illinois Company's Operating Agreement An Operating Agreement is the contract of your Illinois company’s life – which it really does not have. However, your company is a legal fiction of a person that has a beginning, called articles of organization...

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

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RegTech – How it helps companies with compliance

RegTech – How it helps companies with compliance

Regulatory Technology

What is Reg-tech?

RegTech, short for regulatory technology, is a new industry that takes complex regulatory frameworks and creates software from them so businesses can more easily comply with the laws and regulations their industries face.

In this page, we will profile three sectors and provide examples of the new RegTech space, discuss some upcoming conventions, and provide insights on how regtech is helping everyday businesses reduce costs, while increasing compliance with complicated regulatory requirements.

Regtech Landscape

RegTech has the most practical application to industries fraught with regulations at all four levels of government – federal, state, county, and municipal.

Several RegTech companies use novel business models that create governmental relationships to save taxpayers money, and pass the cost onto their business customers that still see cost savings from reduced compliance costs internally.

If you think combining regulations and technology is boring, we will start with the most interesting, and heavily regulated, industry – cannabis.

Call tech Attorney Thomas Howard at (309) 740-4033.

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Peoria Tech Lawyer

Tom Howard started his first techology company in 2014, this website was built by his current one, Stumari – ask him about your company’s technology today.

Peoria Office Address

Examples of RegTech Helping Business

Let’s get to our examples – we will throw in a bonus 4th example, which is the website that I worked on until spinning it off for helping with applying technology to immigration procedures.

Key Takeaways

  • RegTech is the subsector of technology that streamlines compliance for financial, insurance, healthcare, cannabis, or any industry that has to deal with cumbersome regulations.
  • RegTech mostly works for help companies in compliance, reports, or monitoring business practices to ensure regulations are met.
  • The internet and connected devices have spurred development in RegTech and this trend is new, fast growing and likely to continue.

How RegTech Helps Cannabis Compliance

Cannabis laws have not been as complicated as they are now in decades. Each state has its own laws, each city, and increasingly the federal government treats cannabis differently, whether it is hemp, medical, or adult use marijuana.

Long story short, cannabis is the perfect industry for RegTech.  Enter the business helping new cannabis businesses comply with the new laws the various state governments are passing, and the evolving federal landscape: Adherence Compliance.

Stared in 2014, Adherence Complaince begain as Adherence Colorado, but as legalization spread across the US, more businesses needed help complying with the various legislative frameworks.

Today, Adherence Compliance helps not only businesses, but also state and local governments, keep their license holders in compliance.  One of their business models is to get the contracts with governments, but pass the costs for their services to the cannabis-related legitimate businesses, which ends up to be a savings for their complaince.

For more, please visit their website:

How RegTech Helps Healthcare.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known by its acronym, HIPAA, is a very complex and difficult system designed to help people keep their healthcare information private.

Most companies in the healthcare space fail to comply with it, or have to pay expensive lawyers, or full time staff, to comply.  Failure to comply with HIPAA carries very oppressive penalties that drive the consolidation in the industry due to the risk and the cost of the compliance.

An expensive and cumbersome regulatory framework required for healthcare providers, this is exactly the use case for RegTech.  Some compliance software helps not only what is known as a “Covered Entity” under HIPAA comply, but also what is called their “Business Associates.”

Healthcare is huge business, and gaining access to the sector often means facing HIPAA compliance. As such, what is the startup supposed to do when trying to get their company off the ground in the healthcare sector? Pay tens of thousands for a compliance officer’s salary?  Dump it onto their general counsel?  Or, pay a software company a fraction of that for a license to use their software for a year?

Companies like Compliancy Group can offer something besides the software to help keep companies in compliance with HIPAA’s regulations, it can also help optimize their offerings with the data of its users. A RegTech company has a treasure trove of data about their clients and the problems that they may face in staying compliant.  This provides the basis for new features and updates, but also leverages the best practices that humans on an individual scale simply cannot do.

A general counsel for a healthcare company that doesn’t use a RegTech company to cover their HIPPA complaince faces worse outcomes and higher costs.

RegTech Helping Governments Issue Permits

One of the startups that is trying to fix the problem of issuing licenses and permits is CivicServ.  After I made my first app, I turned toward building software for lawyers that I thought could be coded and I settled on immigration applications. When looking for examples and coders, I found the people beind DevBright, which founded CivicServ.

My Work Visas Solutions, regtech for immigration applications and compliance after the visa holder has been issued, is waiting for my practice to grow to include an immigration lawyer that can fulfill the orders we would get with our SEO services and amazing marketing.  Some of the companies miss that aspect, but their value is clear.

RegTech helps companies comply with the law so they can focus on their business.

The RegTech companies we discussed:

  • Adherence Complaince
  • Compliancy Group
  • CivicServ
  • Work Visas Solutions

If your company has compliance issues, or is facing another technology issue, feel free to call us. 

Our experience in the technology space is beyond what 99% of other business lawyers can provide – plus our SEO is way better so we can help you get more leads.

RegTech Conventions

Unsurprisingly, Germany hosts the mother of all RegTech conventions, but many popular ones are held in the US. While they tend to gravitate toward the FinTech umbrella.  Here’s a list of the industry RegTech Events.

  1. Bearing Point
  2. Comply 2019
  3. know 2019
  4. Global List

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.

R. Martindale

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

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