Bankruptcy Glossary Terms


Governed by Bankruptcy Code § 554 in the context of a bankruptcy case, abandonment is the act of the Trustee (or Debtor-in-Possession), upon order of the Bankruptcy Court, relinquishing all rights and obligations of the Estate in specific property of the Estate. Such an order results from a request by the Trustee or by another party in interest and after notice and a hearing of such a request. The Bankruptcy Court will approve or order abandonment if the property at issue is “burdensome to the estate or that is of inconsequential value and benefit to the estate.”

Absolute Priority Rule

In general terms, the absolute priority rule of Section 1129(b) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that if a class of unsecured creditors rejects a debtor’s reorganization plan and is not paid in full, junior creditors and equity interest holders may not receive or retain any property under the plan. The rule thus implements the general state-law principle that creditors are entitled to payment before shareholders, unless creditors agree to a different result.

Adequate Protection

Adequate protection is relief, described in Bankruptcy Code section 361, that a debtor provides to a secured creditor. What is protected? The value of the secured creditor’s lien during the bankruptcy case. How is it protected? By the debtor making periodic payments or interest payments to the secured creditor; by the debtor granting secured creditor a replacement lien on other property; or by any other form determined by the court to be “adequate.” How can we tell that the protection is adequate? When it takes account of risks to the continued value of the lien.

Where the primary collateral is accounts receivable, a lender may be granted a “replacement lien” on the same or other receivables generated post-petition (the lender’s lien on accounts receivable is cut off as of the petition date – see section 552). Assuming that the replacement lien is on other receivables, the debtor then gets to spend the proceeds of the original receivables. If the debtor continues to generate replacement receivables at the same rate or higher as it spends the proceeds of original receivables, then the lender would be adequately protected.

Where the collateral is rental real property, the protection of the debtor using some of rents to preserve the real property may be deemed adequate, because the maintenance and upkeep of the building benefits the lender as mortgagee. Where the value of the real property substantially exceeds the amount of the secured debt, the lender is considered to have an “equity cushion” that by itself constitutes adequate protection, without further provision of anything by the debtor.

If the value of the collateral diminishes during the case, and the debtor is unable to provide adequate protection, the secured creditor may have grounds on which to lift the automatic stay and pursue its non-bankruptcy remedies with respect to the collateral. Note: to contend over adequate protection requires that the secured creditor have some measurement of value as of the beginning of the case. Determining that (by appraisal, by expert testimony, or by other means) should probably be on any secured creditor’s “to do” list with a troubled borrower even before a case is filed.

Administrative Expense Claims

Section 507 of the Code grants a higher priority of payment to “administrative expenses” than it does to any unsecured claims (leaving aside certain domestic support obligations). Thus, administrative expenses must be paid in full before any unsecured claims get paid at all. A chapter 11 plan may not be confirmed unless it proposes to pay administrative expenses in full upon the effective date of the plan.

How qualify for such a claim? Section 503(b) defines “administrative expenses” to include “actual, necessary costs and expenses” of various kinds that preserve the estate.  The provider of goods and services who seeks administrative claims status must move for allowance of its claim as administrative expenses, unless other procedures have been established by the court in the case, and must establish that its claim is “actual” and “necessary” upon the standard set by section 503(b). 

The high payment priority for administrative expenses in intended to support debtor reorganization or orderly liquidation by encouraging claimants to do business with or work for the debtor or trustee.  Examples of administrative expenses: (i) compensation and reimbursement given to the officers of the estate; (ii) fees for professional services for the bankruptcy estate, such as accounting or legal services; (iii) reasonable compensation for trustees; (iv) witness fees and mileage; (v) certain nonresidential real property lease expenses; (vi) the value of goods received by the debtor within 20 days before the case was filed (called “Section 503(B)(9) Claims”); and (vii) wages, salaries, or commissions for services rendered to the Debtor or (perhaps) a statutory Committee.    

There is no guarantee, however, of full payment.  Many a bankruptcy estate has become administratively insolvent (lacking sufficient funds to pay administrative expense claims in full).  That risk should be weighed by potential administrative expense claimant.

After Notice and a Hearing

“The right to receive notice of a contemplated action in bankruptcy and the opportunity to be heard. But the right and the notice are sometimes severely curtailed by fast-moving courts and faster-moving debtors that seek relief on an expedited basis at the expense of what a typical non-bankruptcy lawyer might consider fair notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

The Code’s definition of ‘after notice and a hearing’ is a dream for any court that loves to freely wield its discretion—’after such notice as is appropriate in the particular circumstances, and such opportunity for a hearing as is appropriate in the particular circumstances.’ This latitude extends so far as to allow the court to eliminate the opportunity to be heard entirely—if notice is given and ‘there is insufficient time for a hearing to be commenced before such act must be done, and the court authorizes such action.'”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

Article 9 Sale

A remedy available to secured creditors under Article 9 of the Uniform Commerical Code. Upon the debtor’s default, the creditor can sell its collateral either publicly or privately without judicial intervention.

Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors

An assignment for the benefit of creditors (“ABC”) is a state-law means of business liquidation that, where it makes sense to pursue, usually takes less time and expense than a bankruptcy case. ABCs are available in many, but not all, states.  They can involve judges or not, and can be set by statute or common law. An ABC is a trust agreement whereby the owner of a distressed company, the assignor,  irrevocably transfers title, custody, and control of (usually all of) its assets to an impartial third party, the assignee, who is a financial professional. The assignee communicates with creditors, initiates claims administration, liquidate the assets, and distributes net proceeds to the beneficiaries of the newly created trust — the assignor’s creditors.  To maximize the value of assets distributed to creditors, the assignee may operate the business for a time before selling the assets.  An ABC sale of personal property is often done in compliance with personal property foreclosure procedures set forth in Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Automatic Stay

Upon the filing of a chapter 7 or a chapter 11 petition, a bankruptcy case starts.  With that start, a stop (or “stay”) is automatically imposed on creditor actions to collect debts from debtor or to control its property or operations – except within the bankruptcy case.  The foreclosure action, the collection calls, the post-judgment collection efforts, the perfection of security interests, and the acts to replace management per loan documents or bond indentures – all must cease.  If they do not, a debtor or trustee may seek relief (injunction, costs, damages, even punitive damages) from the court for willful violations of the automatic stay.  The automatic stay gives breathing room to a DIP and surcease to a debtor, and thereby in many cases helps preserve the going-concern value of the debtor – which can enhance creditor recoveries.  The automatic stay is said to outlaw the “race to the courthouse,” by which creditors thresh the debtor’s remaining assets in a legal tempest. 

The automatic stay does not apply to actions against a debtor that arise after the petition date, or to acts enumerated in section 362(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, which include governmental enforcement of its police or regulatory powers (as distinct from governmental purchase and sales, for example), and certain efforts by parties to certain securities contracts to close out open positions or set-off amounts due. 

A secured creditor may get at its collateral by successfully seeking in bankruptcy court to modify (or “lift”) the automatic stay under conditions set forth in the Bankruptcy Code, which relate to (among other things) deterioration in the value of collateral securing the creditor’s claim and to the necessity of the collateral to a reorganization of the debtor.

Bankruptcy Code

The Bankruptcy Code governs all bankruptcy cases.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to make bankruptcy law. Congress exercised that power to enact new bankruptcy laws in 1800, 1841, 1867, and 1898.  Congress replaced the then-current law via the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, including the Bankruptcy Code, which is codified as title 11 of the U.S. Code. The Bankruptcy Code was most recently substantively amended by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, often referred to as “BAPCPA.”

Bankruptcy Court

Under Article I of the Constitution, bankruptcy judges are appointed to 14-year terms.1 Each bankruptcy judge typically has a judicial assistant or secretary, a courtroom deputy (charged with managing the judge’s daily court calendar and related administration), and a law clerk. Many of a bankruptcy judge’s administrative affairs are managed by an office of the clerk of the court. The clerk’s office handles filings, manages case dockets, provides administrative assistance to attorneys working in the bankruptcy court, and generally ensures the smooth administration of cases before the court.

Bankruptcy Estate

A bankruptcy estate is created upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition. All of the debtor’s property and interests becomes part of the bankruptcy estate.

In a Chapter 7 case, the bankruptcy estate is administered by a trustee. In a Chapter 11 case, the bankruptcy estate may be administered by a Debtor in Possession or a trustee.

Bankruptcy Examiner

A bankruptcy examiner is a professional appointed by the court in certain cases to investigate certain aspects of the debtor or proceedings and report an analysis with such findings to the court.

Bar Date

In the context of a bankruptcy case, this refers to the date (set by the court) on or before which a proof of claim must be filed.  Otherwise, the claim may be barred and the claimant entitled to no distribution from a plan or from the proceeds of the liquidation of debtor’s assets.  Again, to distinguish this from the context, a creditor should not flirt with a bar date, but should compose its proof of claim and file it as soon as practicable, always keeping an eye on the case docket for any special case rules imposed on the filing of claims.

Cash Collateral

Cash that is subject to a security interest. To use such cash – almost always a pressing need – a debtor must get either consent from the secured lender or authorization from the bankruptcy court. Consent comes at the cost of concessions required by the secured lender (such as enhanced reporting obligations and periodic cash payments).  Where a court authorizes the use of cash collateral notwithstanding the secured lender’s refusal to consent, the secured lender is entitled to adequate protection of its collateral (usually in the form of payments or liens on unencumbered property) to compensate it for any deterioration of its collateral through the debtor’s use of it.

Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code governs reorganization cases for businesses and individuals not eligible for Chapter 13. A debtor under Chapter 11 will file a Chapter 11 plan to reorganize or liquidate its assets. Usually, the Chapter 11 debtor remains in possession of its assets and is called a Debtor-in-Possession.

For more detailed information, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 01: Hello Darkness, Our Dear Friend.

Chapter 11 Plan

A chapter 11 Plan sets forth the terms of a global novation among a debtor, its creditors, and its equity holders. A novation, in turn, is the act of replacing an obligation to perform with another obligation. So, a chapter 11 plan—once confirmedreplaces all of a debtors’ preexisting obligations with a set of new obligations, which are contained in the plan. There are several different types of plans. These include traditional chapter 11 and subchapter V chapter 11.

Chapter 11 Trustee

A chapter 11 trustee represents a bankruptcy estate, exercising statutory powers predominantly for the benefit of unsecured creditors while under the direct supervision of a U.S. trustee. They are not appointed in all chapter 11 cases, but can operate the debtor’s business or bring actions against certain creditors or the debtor to recover property to be distributed pro rata to creditors with valid claims against the estate.

Chapter 12

Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code governs bankruptcy filings by family farmers or fishermen. Chapter 12 essentially provides a Chapter 13-style reorganization for people in these two professions that do not qualify for Chapter 13 relief because of the capital intensive nature of their businesses and the resulting high secured debt levels.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 is a form of reorganization for individuals, primarily wage earners and small business owners. In Chapter 13, the debtor submits a portion of her post-petition earnings to pay pre-petition debts. In return, she gets protection against creditor action, and a chance to restructure some of her pre-bankruptcy debts.

Chapter 5 Causes of Action

The Bankruptcy Code empowers a trustee and debtor-in-possession with certain “avoiding powers,” codified in Chapter 5 of the Bankruptcy Code. Read more in this ABI Journal article.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code allows a trustee to take control of the debtor’s property and to liquidate it. The proceeds from the liquidation are then distributed to creditors.

Individual debtors must satisfy a means test.  The court will look at the debtor’s income and expenses to determine if the individual debtor can file a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Trustee

Immediately upon a business entity’s filing of a petition under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, the business entity becomes a “debtor” and its property becomes a chapter 7 “estate” in the custody of a chapter 7 trustee. The chapter 7 trustee is a lawyer or financial professional who has been selected on a rotating basis from a “panel” of chapter 7 trustees. The debtor’s former ownership and management are ousted from control. The chapter 7 trustee collects all assets of the debtor’s estate (which may include potential lawsuits against other parties, including special causes of action under the Bankruptcy Code) and administers it for the benefit of creditors.  Sometimes, the trustee hires lawyers to represent him or her in the case. Under Bankruptcy Code § 326, the chapter 7 trustee receives compensation capped as a percentage of the estate property that is realized and disbursed to creditors. Note: a chapter 7 trustee must be distinguished from a “chapter 11 trustee,” the U.S. Trustee, or the term “trustee” as used in the Bankruptcy Code to denote an entity that holds certain powers in administering the estate formed by the debtor’s property.

Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO)

A chief restructuring officer, or “CRO” is often a senior member of a restructuring firm appointed by stakeholders and given broad powers over the company’s finances and operations to restructure the debtor’s balance sheet, operations, or both.

A CRO may be specifically appointed for the purpose of managing a company’s affairs in a chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. In some chapter 11 cases, a CRO may be seen as an alternative to appointing a bankruptcy trustee to take over the debtor’s business, because the CRO is more directly knowledgeable about the company’s business, industry, and financial affairs.

Many CROs are turnaround advisors. But unlike outside turnaround advisors hired by a company on a consulting basis, CROs serve as officers employed by a company, with direct executive and decision-making authority to manage the company’s business.


A creditor’s right to a payment from the debtor. It may be secured by the debtor’s property or other collateral or it may be unsecured. There are generally two types of claims: secured claims and unsecured claims. To learn more about claims, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 09: All About “Claims” in Bankruptcy.

Claims Trading

Claims trading is a financial transaction whereby the owner (or “holder”) of a claim sells that claim to a third party, thus making that third party the new owner/holder of the claim.


An asset pledged by a debtor as security for a loan that will protect the lender in the event the debtor defaults on its loan obligations. In the event of a default, the lender may foreclose its interest and sell the collateral to recoup some or all of its losses.

Collateral may take different forms, including real estate, machinery and equipment, vehicles, inventory, cash and cash equivalents, or intangible assets such as intellectual property rights. The type of collateral offered as security for a loan will often depend on the purpose of the loan.


In large chapter 11 cases, the diffuse interests of a large number of creditors may be at stake. Bankruptcy law addresses potential collective action problems (see the brilliant  Mancur Olsen, Jr., The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (1965)) by providing that the U.S. Trustee may appoint the membership of an official committee of unsecured creditors (often called “the committee”) having a fiduciary duty to all such creditors. The committee is usually composed of an odd number of the largest unsecured creditors that are willing to serve.  The committee hires lawyers (and sometimes financial advisors or other professionals) in order to monitor and challenge DIP activities, including by objecting to DIP financing arrangements proposed by the DIP and, in some circumstances, by proposing a plan of reorganization in competition to the DIP’s plan.   Committee expenses, including professional fees, are paid by the debtor’s estate.  An active committee can play a major role in the outcome of the case.  Sometimes other official committees will also be appointed (to represent specific kinds of creditors [retirees, bond-holders, warranty claimants] or even holders of equity).   Other groupings of parties, sometimes called “unofficial committees,” may also form and be active, though entirely on their own dimes.

For more information, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 02: These Are the People in Our Neighborhood: An Overview of Parties in Chapter 11.

Confirmation Requirements

“The requirements, set out in Section 1129, that a plan proponent must satisfy to obtain confirmation of its Chapter 11 plan. One of those requirements is the do-or-die requirement that if any class is impaired under the plan, at least one impaired class must accept the plan by two-thirds in amount and a majority in number of those voting. The proponent must also show, among other things, that:

  • The plan is feasible
  • Creditors will receive under the plan at least as much as they would receive if the debtor’s assets were liquidated under Chapter 7.

If any impaired class does not accept the plan, the proponent of the plan can ask the court for a “cramdown” of the plan on the non-accepting classes. A successful cramdown, however, requires a showing that the plan:

  • Is fair and equitable to any non-accepting impaired class.
  • Does not unfairly discriminate against any non-accepting impaired class.
  • Does not violate the absolute priority rule.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about confirmation requirements, read Dealing with Distress for Fun & Profit— Installments #18-20: How to Confirm a Chapter 11 Plan, Chapter 11 Plan Acceptance, Getting a Class to Accept a Plan, and A Primer on Plan Support Agreements & Restructuring Support Agreements

Confirmed or Confirmation

Confirmation is the act of approving a chapter 11 plan by the Bankruptcy Court. Section 1129 of the Bankruptcy Code, in the context of a Traditional Chapter 11, requires the Bankruptcy Court to make a number of specific findings to “confirm” (approve) a plan and make it binding on all parties. They include determinations that the plan complies with all applicable law and has been proposed in good faith. See Bankruptcy Code §1129(a)(1)-(3). The Bankruptcy Court must also determine that the plan is feasible (i.e., that confirmation is not likely to be followed by liquidation). See Bankruptcy Code §1129(a)(11). Dealing with Distress for Fun & Profit— Installment #18—How to Confirm a Chapter 11 Plan explains confirmation requirements in detail. The standards for confirming Confirmation in the context of a Subchapter V Chapter 11 are set out in Bankruptcy Code §1191.

Core Proceeding

“A proceeding in a bankruptcy case in which a substantive right provided by the Bankruptcy Code is invoked, or a proceeding that by its nature could only exist in the context of a bankruptcy case. Factors examined when determining whether a proceeding is a “core proceeding” include whether the claim existed prior to commencement of the case and whether the claim would exist independent of the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code (preference claims, for example, would not). The distinction between “core” and “non-core” proceedings often bedevils practitioners. Examples of core proceedings include the allowance or disallowance of claims in bankruptcy, motions by debtors to obtain credit in bankruptcy, proceedings to recover preferences, motions to terminate the automatic stay, objections to discharge, and proceedings to confirm a plan. As of publication, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Stern v. Marshall held that, while 28 U.S.C. Section 157(b)(2) classifies certain counterclaims filed by a bankruptcy estate as “core” (even when arising wholly under state law) and thus allowed bankruptcy courts to enter final judgments on such counterclaims, Article III of the United States Constitution does not permit such a result. Accordingly, the Court determined that it was unconstitutional for Congress to classify as “core” any counterclaim, no matter how arising, of a bankruptcy estate against a person who had filed a claim against the estate.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about core proceedings, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 09: All About “Claims” in Bankruptcy.

Credit Bid

To purchase one’s collateral without cash. The term “credit bid” is a colloquial term (it does not appear in the Bankruptcy Code) for a secured creditor’s right to bid at the sale of its collateral and then, at closing, to offset the purchase price by the value of its outstanding claim secured by the collateral being purchased. This colloquial term aptly describes a secured creditor’s rights as articulated in section 363(k) of the Bankruptcy Code.  A creditor with an allowed secured claim may credit bid at a sale of its collateral under a reorganization plan or outside a plan in a section 363 sale.

Section 363(k) provides that:

“At a sale under subsection (b) of this section of property that is subject to a lien that secures anallowed claim, unless the court for cause orders otherwise the holder of such claim may bid at such sale, and, if the holder of such claim purchases such property, such holder may offset such claim against the purchase price of such property.”

This subsection limits the credit bidding right to a holder of an “allowed” secured claim. Under section 502(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, a claim is “deemed allowed, unless a party in interest … objects.”  If a party objects (timely), the claim is no longer deemed allowed and may be allowed only after notice, hearing, and the court’s determination. Where resolution of a claim cannot occur timely and would unduly delay the administration of the case, the court may estimate the allowed claim (per section 502(c)(1)).

From section 363(k), the holder of an allowed secured claim gets two rights: (1) a right to bid; and (2) if it is the purchaser at such sale, it “may offset [its] claim against the purchase price.” At a plan sale or a section 363 sale of property of the estate (after proper marketing and notice), the holder of the allowed secured claim may bid for the property, and, if the trustee (or DIP) accepts that bid, the holder of the allowed secured claim may offset or setoff the contract price at closing by the amount of its allowed secured claim.  Therefore, if a secured creditor is owed more money than the value of the collateral, its credit bid alone may prevail at auction.

Section 363(k) provides that these two rights may be exercised “unless the court for cause orders otherwise.”  The bankruptcy court “for cause” may order that the right to bid or the right to offset shall be modified or denied. “Cause” is not defined in the Bankruptcy Code.  What counts as “cause” in this context is recently controversial.  Parts of this definition are paraphrased from In re RML Dev., Inc., 2014 WL 3378578, * 2-3 (Bankr. W.D. Tenn. July 10, 2014).


A creditor is the holder of a claim. There are two major types of creditors: secured creditors and unsecured creditors. To learn more about each, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 02: These Are the People in Our Neighborhood: An Overview of Parties in Chapter 11.


Immediately upon filing a bankruptcy petition, the person, entity or business becomes a debtor in the bankruptcy proceeding. The property of the debtor becomes the bankruptcy estate.

In the case of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor will become a debtor-in-possession and continue to administer the bankruptcy estate.

Outside of bankruptcy, the term “debtor” is commonly used to refer to a company that is the borrower under a loan agreement or, more generally, to any party who owes another party (the other party being the “creditor”) a debt.

Deemed Rejection

“The rejection of an executory contract or unexpired lease as a result of the debtor’s failure to affirmatively assume or reject the contract or lease within the time specified by the Code.

In Chapter 7 cases an executory contract or unexpired lease of residential real property is deemed rejected if not assumed or rejected by the debtor within 60 days after the order for relief (or within such additional time as the court allows for assumption or rejection).

If the debtor is a lessee under an unexpired lease of nonresidential real property, the lease is deemed rejected if not assumed or rejected by the debtor within the earlier of 120 days after the order for relief (which may be extended by the court for a period not to exceed an additional 90 days) or the entry of an order confirming a plan. In the case of deemed rejection of an unexpired lease of nonresidential real property, the Code offers the landlord an added benefit by requiring that the debtor immediately surrender the property to the lessor.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about deemed rejections, read What Distressed Businesses and Their Counsel Should Know About the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 and Its Effect on the Bankruptcy Code and Commercial Real Estate Tenant Bankruptcy — What To Do


A failure—typically by a borrower—of a party to honor one or more of its obligations to another—typically a secured creditor—under the terms of an agreement between parties. In loan transactions, “events of default,” are likely to be specifically defined by the parties to a loan agreement. The occurrence of an event of default will give rise to the ability of the non-defaulting party to exercise various remedies against the defaulting party, which likely include the ability to foreclose, repossess, and liquidate certain collateral.

Deficiency Claim

An unsecured claim held by a secured creditor, the amount of which is the portion of the secured creditor’s total claim amount that is not secured by collateral (i.e., the collateral is not worth the total value of the secured creditor’s claim).

DIP Loan/ DIP Financing

Also called “DIP financing,” a DIP loan is a line of credit or other credit provided to a DIP during a bankruptcy case, based upon meticulously-drafted DIP financing agreements that are reviewed by the bankruptcy court (and often the U.S. Trustee and any Committee) for, among other things, compliance with section 364 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Because the DIP needs the money – bad – to reorganize, and because few lenders provide such financing, and because often only one lender (the DIP’s pre-petition lender) knows the DIP well enough to intelligibly assess credit risk under the time constraints, the terms of DIP loans tend to look pretty one-sided. Section 364 countenances various special protections for DIP lenders, including priority of payment equal to or even superior to that of administrative claims, or even superior to any other liens on DIP property.

DIP or Debtor-in-Possession

Immediately upon a business entity’s filing of a petition under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, the business entity becomes a “debtor-in-possession” or “DIP” ( a type of “debtor” within the lingo of bankruptcy) and its property becomes a chapter 11 “estate” in the custody of the DIP.  No trustee is appointed unless a party successfully moves for the appointment of a chapter 11 trustee, based upon certain problems, bad acts, or misadventures involved in DIP functioning.  To confuse the nomenclature further, section 1107(a) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that a DIP has (most of) the rights, powers, and duties of a “trustee” – and so Bankruptcy Code sections that refer to what  a “trustee” can or must do often apply to DIPs as well.  In a chapter 11 reorganization case (where the DIP is not to be liquidated), counsel for the DIP (appointed with court approval) often assumes tactical command of the case, with varying levels of interaction with counsel for major secured creditors and of any unsecured creditors committee.


“The ultimate goal of the bankruptcy debtor. Discharge enjoins creditors from prosecuting most and sometimes all claims they may have with respect to the debtor’s prepetition obligations. In Chapter 7, debtors who are entities (rather than individuals) are not entitled to a discharge. In Chapter 11, discharge is available to both individuals and entities, and, generally, upon confirmation of a plan, prepetition claims against the debtor are discharged. Following confirmation, the debtor’s obligations to its creditors going forward are governed by the specific terms and provisions of the plan. Discharge is merely an injunction, and does not “eliminate” prepetition obligations; accordingly, guarantors’ guarantees of a debtor’s prepetition obligations remain unaffected by a debtor’s discharge, even when the debtor’s obligations to a lender are reorganized under a confirmed plan, and guarantors’ obligations may be affected only if some separate injunctive relief is granted in their favor. Discharge is not available to non-bankrupt guarantors and co-obligors, under the plain provisions of the Code, although such parties often seek discharges or injunctive relief from bankruptcy courts, even when they do not subject their own assets to bankruptcy court jurisdiction.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about discharge, read Alternative Debtor Management? Discharge Your Fiduciary Duty at $1,155 Per Hour! and How to Discharge Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy – Yes, It’s Possible!

Eat Dirt Plan

“A Chapter 11 plan under which a debtor or other plan proponent proposes to transfer some of the lender’s collateral to the lender as payment in full of the lender’s claim, while the debtor keeps the remainder of the lender’s collateral free of any claim by the lender.

The credit amount is set by the debtor’s plan and approved by the court rather than by the results of an actual sale of the property. This creates the risk that the credit to the lender’s claim will be greater than the value the lender can realize from the property. If the lender objects to this treatment, the plan cannot be confirmed unless the bankruptcy court finds that the debtor’s “dirt for debt” proposal furnishes the lender the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim—a finding that many courts are reluctant to make because of the inherent difficulties in estimating the value of the lender’s collateral.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.


EBITDA stands for “Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization”. Because it eliminates the effects of many financing and accounting decisions, EBITDA can be used to analyze and compare profitability between companies and industries.

Equitable Subordination

An equitable remedy under Bankruptcy Code § 510(c) which allows bankruptcy courts to (a) subordinate any claim to any other claims; and (b) transfer a secured lender’s lien to the debtor’s bankruptcy estate for the benefit of all creditors, or both.

Equitable subordination is often applied where a court finds that a secured lender acted inequitably toward a debtor by exercising undue influence or control over the debtor and its business, or engaging in fraud.

Equity Cushion

“The lender is oversecured to the extent of its equity cushion, a generally enviable position in bankruptcy until the debtor uses the lender’s oversecured status as an excuse to merely accrue and not pay the oversecured creditor accruing interest and attorneys’ fees on its claim while the case is pending. Many argue that it is unnecessary and even illegal to make any payment to the lender after commencement of the case and that, instead, interest and fees should accrue until the equity cushion is exhausted. Others argue that the equity cushion must be maintained, at least at some level. The debtor will also argue, in connection with its motion to use cash collateral, that the equity cushion itself provides sufficient adequate protection to justify the debtor’s use of cash collateral even if there is erosion of the cushion.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about equity cushion, read Giving Secured Creditor Substitute Collateral in a Chapter 11 Cramdown and Valuation: The Pillar of Corporate Restructuring.

Executory Contract

An executory contract is any agreement for which the debtor and its counterparty have material obligations remaining after the petition date. An “unexpired lease” is an executory contract. Real estate leases, equipment leases, licenses of intellectual property, and employment agreements are common types of executory contracts. Non-debtor counterparties to executory contracts are obligated to continue performing under the contracts (even though the bankruptcy debtor may not be current with payment) unless and until the contract is rejected by the debtor through a Bankruptcy Court order (or the contract expires under its ordinary terms). A contract rejection is considered to be a breach of the contract as of the petition date.  A rejection releases both the debtor and the counterparty from further performance under the contract (though real property lessees and intellectual property licensees may elect to retain their rights under some circumstances).  Upon rejection, the counterparty obtains an unsecured claim for rejection damages (amounts owed to it under the contract that are not administrative claims, subject to special limits under some circumstances). On the other hand, if the debtor intends to continue performing under a contract, it must formally assume that contract through an approval order which will compel the debtor to pay all outstanding pre- and post-petition amounts due and past due under the contract (known as the “cure” payment). Upon court approval, the debtor may sell or “assign” its interest under an assumed contract to a third party, provided that the assignee can provide the counterparty with adequate assurance of future performance.

The concept of rejection is not as straightforward as it may seem. For example, On May 20, 2019, the United States Supreme Court held that under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor’s rejection of a trademark license does not revoke the license and the licensee can continue to exploit the licensed trademark. On first blush, this may appear contrary to the basic principles discussed above.

For more information, see Dealing with Corporate Distress 16: Overview of Bankruptcy Code § 365.

First Day Declaration/ First Day Affidavit

A sworn declaration or affidavit submitted in conjunction with a debtor’s First Day Motions, and lays out the factual background of a chapter 11 debtor’s business history, financial affairs, and reasons for filing for bankruptcy relief. First Day Declarations are typically incorporated by reference into each First Day Motion submitted by a chapter 11 debtor.

First Day Declarations are usually submitted by a member of the debtor’s C-level management team or an outside consultant (often a Chief Restructuring Officer) employed by the debtor for the purpose of managing the debtor’s restructuring efforts.

First Day Motions

First day motions are filed on (or close to) the first day of a chapter 11 case—usually presented on an emergency basis—to grant a debtor relief from the restrictions of the Bankruptcy Code that otherwise inhibit the debtor’s ability to operate in the ordinary course of business.

The relief sought by First Day Motions ensures that a chapter 11 debtor can continue operating its business with as little interruption as possible to achieve its goals in chapter 11.

Common first day motions include requests for orders that allow a chapter 11 debtor to do things like: use encumbered cash or borrow money on a postpetition basis; maintain cash management systems; continue paying employee wages and maintaining benefits programs; continue utility services; pay prepetition taxes; pay prepetition insurance amounts; and other administratuve functions within the chapter 11 case.

Floating Liens

“Liens created under a security instrument that can arise on property from time to time, when property comes into existence or is acquired by the borrower. Under the Code, property acquired by the debtor or estate after the commencement of a case is not subject to any lien resulting from a security agreement entered into by the debtor prepetition. The rule’s important exception is set out in Section 552(b), which states that the prepetition lien still applies to “proceeds, products, offspring or profits” of the lender’s collateral, and if the lien is enforceable under the security agreement and under applicable non-bankruptcy law, then the prepetition lien attaches to such proceeds, products, offspring and profits that are acquired after the commencement of the case. Even this exception, however, has an exception. The court has the right to order otherwise, “based on the equities of the case.” This “exception to the exception” of the rule has been used by the courts sparingly. One situation in which it may be invoked is when the debtor spends its own time and money to enhance the value of the creditor’s collateral, making it more equitable that the estate enjoy the benefits of some or all of the proceeds or profits generated by that collateral.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about floating liens, read Reclamation of Reclamation Claims by the Delaware Bankruptcy Court in Reichhold Holdings.

Forbearance Agreement

In a forbearance agreement, the borrower acknowledges that it has defaulted on its obligations, while the lender agrees that it will refrain from exercising its remedies for such defaults as long as the borrower performs or observes the new conditions set out in the forbearance agreement, and, by a certain date, cures the defaults. A forbearance agreement entered into after a maturity date default would typically provide that the lender will not exercise its rights arising from the default provided the borrower pays the lender the loan principal in installments over a stated period of time, often at a much higher rate of interest than under the original loan agreements. The lender may wish to impose additional conditions, such as requiring borrower to meet new or enhanced financial covenants or to pledge additional collateral to secure its repayment obligations.  If the borrower fails to live up to the terms of the forbearance agreement, the lender may sue the borrower for a breach of that agreement and may also exercise any of its rights under the original defaulted loan agreements.  Compare the forbearance agreement with the Glossary definition of “loan amendment agreement.”

Fraudulent Transfer

A fraudulent transfer is a term used to describe certain transactions that can be avoided (i.e., undone) under certain circumstances.

To understand the concept fully, first read The Trustee’s Power to Avoid Fraudulent Transfers and then read Fraudulent Transfer Remedies: How Much is Enough?.

Good Faith

“Honesty of intention, freedom from knowledge of circumstances that would put a reasonable person on inquiry, and an absence of design to gain an improper advantage. Referred to by courts as an “overriding principle of bankruptcy administration,” the concept comes into play throughout a bankruptcy case—from the filing of the case, to the protection of certain persons doing business with the estate, to the potential applicability of certain defenses asserted by a transferee, to the filing of a plan. For example:

  • If a debtor files a bankruptcy case with a lack of good faith, cause exists for the bankruptcy court to dismiss the bankruptcy.
  • The validity of a transaction by which a third party has acquired property of the estate will not be affected by a reversal or modification on appeal of the order that authorized the sale, if the third party acted with good faith (and if the transaction was not stayed pending appeal).
  • The validity of a lending transaction, and the validity of a lien taken in connection with such lending, will not be affected by a reversal or modification on appeal of the order that authorized the loan, if the party lending money to the estate acted with good faith (and if the lending transaction was not stayed pending appeal).
  • A transferee liable for a fraudulent transfer is entitled to a lien on the property it is required to return to the estate, but only to the extent of the value it gave to the debtor at the time of the transfer and only if it received the transfer in good faith.
  • A subsequent transferee of an avoidable transfer (i.e., someone other than the initial transferee who took directly from the debtor) is not liable for the avoidable transfer if it took for value, in good faith, and without knowledge of the voidability of the transfer.

A Chapter 11 plan can be confirmed by a bankruptcy court only if certain requirements are met, one being that the plan be filed in good faith and not by any means forbidden by law.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about good faith, read Assignee Unknown: The Curious Cases of SmartLabs, Shine Bathroom Technologies, Liftopia, GlassPoint, SolarReserve, Maker Media, & Toymail and Solvent Debtor? A Chapter 11 Debtor Need Not Be Broke

Indubitable Equivalent

“Something that is supposedly undoubtedly equal in value to what is taken away. A “catch all” form of adequate protection under the Code requiring that a debtor provide a creditor with something having a value that is the “indubitable equivalent” of the amount of diminution in value of the creditor’s collateral resulting from its use in the bankruptcy case. It is also one means of providing “fair and equitable” treatment to a secured creditor under a Chapter 11 plan, i.e., by providing the creditor with the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim. In a typical 98 Chapter 11 plan involving the claim of a lender the debtor most often attempts to satisfy the lender’s right to “fair and equitable treatment” by providing the lender with periodic payments sufficient to pay the secured claim in full, with interest, while the lender retains its lien under the plan. A second option for the debtor to satisfy the fair and equitable test is for the plan to provide for a sale of the lender’s collateral, free and clear of the lender’s lien, with the lien to attach to the sale proceeds. The third option— providing the lender with the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim—is less well defined than the first two options.

The courts have only outlined the contours of the term in decisions accepting and rejecting various plan treatments offered by proponents as providing a lender the indubitable equivalent of its secured claim. For example:

  • A lender does not receive the indubitable equivalent of its claim if the debtor substitutes a letter of credit for the lender’s collateral, but the letter of credit is subject to ambiguities in the letter of credit accommodations.
  • There is no indubitable equivalence where a debtor substitutes equity securities for the lender’s collateral if the value of the securities is questionable.
  • If the debtor is to transfer property to the lender as the indubitable equivalent of the lender’s secured claim, the property must produce cash flow or be capable of being sold within a reasonable time so that the lender can realize cash.

The U.S. Third Circuit of Appeals in Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC, 599 F.3d 298 (3rd Cir. 2010), held that, so long as the debtor’s reorganization plan 99 provides a secured creditor with the “indubitable equivalent” of its secured claim, a secured creditor can be barred from credit bidding at an auction sale under a plan. There currently is a split in the U.S. Court of Appeal Circuits that have considered the issue. The Supreme Court will presumably resolve this split in connection with an appeal pending (as of the date of publication) in the Rad LAX Gateway Hotel, LLC, et al. v. Amalgamated Bank case.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.


Bankruptcy Code §101(31) defines “Insider” as follows:

The term “insider” includes— (A) if the debtor is an individual— (i) relative of the debtor or of a general partner of the debtor; (ii) partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; (iii) general partner of the debtor; or (iv) corporation of which the debtor is a director, officer, or person in control; (B) if the debtor is a corporation— (i) director of the debtor; (ii) officer of the debtor; (iii) person in control of the debtor; (iv) partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; (v) general partner of the debtor; or (vi) relative of a general partner, director, officer, or person in control of the debtor; (C) if the debtor is a partnership— (i) general partner in the debtor; (ii) relative of a general partner in, general partner of, or person in control of the debtor; (iii) partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; (iv) general partner of the debtor; or (v) person in control of the debtor; (D) if the debtor is a municipality, elected official of the debtor or relative of an elected official of the debtor; (E) affiliate, or insider of an affiliate as if such affiliate were the debtor; and (F) managing agent of the debtor.

Involuntary Bankruptcy

A bankruptcy case may be filed against a debtor under chapter 7 or 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.  The debtor may challenge the filing and the petitioning creditor(s) may have to post a bond to cover the debtor’s potential damages. If the debtor’s challenge succeeds, that petitioning creditor(s) may be liable for consequential or even punitive damages. If the debtor loses or does not make that challenge, an order of relief will be entered and the case will proceed as if it had been initiated by the debtor.

To be an involuntary debtor, a debtor must be otherwise eligible to be a debtor under chapter 7 or 11 (i.e., is not a bank, credit union, or insurance company, among other things) and may not be a farmer or non-profit corporation. The petitioning creditor(s), if challenged, will have to prove that at the time of the petition, the debtor was generally not paying its debts as they came due or that within 120 days previously, a custodian (receiver, assignee, liquidator, etc.) had been appointed or took possession of substantially all of the debtor’s property.

If the debtor has fewer than 12 creditors, then one creditor who has a non-contingent and not validly disputed claim above the statutory minimum may initiate the case.  If the debtor has 12 or more creditors, then three such creditors must join in the petition.  See 11 U.S.C. § 303 and Jonathan Friedland, Elizabeth Vandesteeg and Christopher Cahill, eds. Commercial Bankruptcy Litigation (2d Ed. Thomson Reuters, 2015) §§ 4:17-39.

Read more on this topic in Getting Over the Scariness of Filing an Involuntary Bankruptcy Petition.

Ipso Facto Clause

The term “ipso facto” means “by the fact itself” in Latin. In the bankruptcy context, an ipso facto clause in a contract provides that the contract is terminated (or modified) merely by the fact itself that the other party filed a bankruptcy case. Section 365(e)(1) provides that ipso facto clauses in executory contracts (i.e., contracts in which performance remains due by both parties) are not enforceable.  However, section 365(e)(2) provides exceptions to that bar: an ipso facto clause may be enforceable if “applicable law” excuses a non-debtor party from accepting performance from or rendering performance to the debtor or any assignee of the debtor over the non-debtor party’s objection. “Applicable law” refers to non-bankruptcy law.  Consider a personal services contract – state law likely excuses a non-debtor diva assoluta opera soprano from rendering performance to a person or entity (say, a shopping mall) to which the debtor opera house  had assigned its contract rights.  Ipso facto issues are frequently seen in the intellectual property realm, in which the non-debtor licensor is anxious to curtail a debtor-licensee’s right in bankruptcy to assume and perhaps assign the license to a third-party, without the licensor’s consent.  Courts are split as to whether a debtor-licensee may assume an executory contract with an ispo facto clause over the objection of the non-debtor licensor. Reuel D. Ash contributed to this definition.

Key Employee Incentive Program (KEIP)

A program designed to incentivize particular performance (preferably measurable) from a specified group of employees. Chapter 11 debtors may seek approval of a KEIP (pronounced “keep”) as a means of retaining certain senior management otherwise likely to seek new employment.

KEIPs often include specific performance targets that eligible employees must meet/exceed before being paid, and may be based on specific case events, such as the consummation of a § 363 sale, or the achievement of certain financial metrics.

Key Employee Retention Program (KERP)

A program designed to retain a specified group of employees. A KERP usually contemplates the payment of a fixed lump sum, either on a one-time basis or a fixed, regular basis (i.e., a retention or “pay-to-stay,” bonus).

Chapter 11 debtors may seek to have a KERP approved as a means of retaining key employees through a specified term, as a means of retaining administrative and managerial continuity during a chapter 11 case.

Qualifications to receive payments under a KERP are typically only tied to an employee being or remaining in a debtor’s employee through a specified date, or the occurrence of a future event, like the consummation of a § 363 sale.

Letter of Credit

A letter from a bank or other financial institution guaranteeing payment on account of debts owed to a creditor, in exchange for a fee. In the event the relevant debtor fails to make payment timely and in full, the bank is required to cover the full amount of the debt.

Letters of credit may be used to protect vendors on account of important trade receivables, and are also commonly used by landlords to protect themselves in the event a tenant fails to pay rent.

In bankruptcy proceedings, letters of credit are subject to the “independence principle,” (i.e., letter of credit funds can be pursued by the relevant creditor without such actions being considered a violation of the automatic stay).

For more information about a letter of credit, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 13: The Unsecured Creditor’s Perspective About its Debtors.

Loan Amendment Agreement

A loan amendment agreement changes the terms of the original loan agreements and eliminates or prevents an incipient default. Suppose that the borrower fails to repay the entire principal due on the maturity date of a loan.  In response, the lender could agree simply to give the borrower more time to repay the loan — by amending the loan agreement and promissory note to extend the maturity date to some future date.  By amending the loan agreements in that manner, the lender would effectively eliminate the default and the lender’s rights arising from the default.  Thus the lender would no longer be entitled, for example, to accelerate repayment or to charge a higher, or “default rate” of interest as a remedy for the (now wiped clean) default.  Compare the loan amendment agreement to the Glossary definition of “forbearance agreement.”

Make-Whole Premiums

Make-whole call premiums are prevalent in high-yield debt instruments. The feature allows an issuer to avoid entirely the call structure issue by defining a premium to market value that will be offered to bondholders to retire the debt early. The lump sum payment will be composed of the following: the earliest call price and the net present value of all coupons that would have been paid through the first call date, which is determined by a pricing formula utilizing a yield equal to a reference security (typically a U.S. Treasury note due near the call date), plus the make-whole premium. According to Standard & Poors, the make-whole premium is typically 50 bps.


“A rule designed to prevent a secured creditor holding liens on two separate assets from liquidating the one asset that is subject to a second creditor’s lien, thereby unfairly leaving that second creditor with no collateral (or less collateral).

The courts have historically given the concept of marshaling limited application, using it only when there are two or more secured creditors of the same debtor (the “common debtor” requirement), when the assets at issue are owned by that common debtor and when no prejudice will accrue to the senior creditor by making it resort to one asset before the other. But some courts (beginning with the 8th Circuit’s oft-criticized Jack Green decision in 1979) have expanded the use of marshaling to benefit unsecured creditors’ committees and other estate representatives, essentially treating another entity or its property as a second asset and ignoring the “common debtor” requirement of the marshaling doctrine. This usually has been done at the expense of guarantors.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about marshaling, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 09: All About “Claims” in Bankruptcy.

New Value Exception

“An exception to the absolute priority rule that enables holders of equity to retain their equity interests in the debtor even though a senior non-accepting class has not been paid in full, if the equity holders contribute new capital or other form of acceptable “value” to the debtor.

The rationale for the new value exception (or new value corollary, as it has sometimes been called) is that if the equity holders contribute “new value” under a plan, they are not running afoul of the absolute priority rule’s fundamental prohibition of the retention or receipt of property “on account of” their already existing ownership interests in the debtor.

The elements of the new value exception were judicially created and include that the value must, in fact, be “new” (not something that has already been provided by the equity holders), must be in the form of money or money’s worth (not in the form of “sweat equity” or some other intangible form of contribution), must be substantial, and must have a value equivalent to or greater than what the equity holder would receive under the plan.

Creditors have routinely attacked new value plans as violating the absolute priority rule, arguing that no matter what new value equity holders propose to contribute, the exclusive opportunity to receive or retain equity interests in the debtor is, in and of itself, property received by the equity holders on account of their existing interests in the debtor. This argument appears to have been accepted by the United States Supreme Court in the LaSalle case, at least as to any exclusive opportunity provided by a debtor to its equity holders in a plan proposed during the exclusivity period.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about the new value exception, read Dealing with Corporate Distress 09: All About “Claims” in Bankruptcy

Non-Impairment Plan

“This is an interesting theoretical possibility but is seldom, if ever, actually seen. A plan that does not impair any class of creditors and thus does not have to be accepted by any class of creditors. Such a plan need not comply with the One-Impaired-Class-Must-Accept-The-Plan Rule since there is no impaired class.

While non-impairment generally requires that contractual rights not be altered in any respect, Section 1124 provides that a class of claims can be deemed unimpaired and therefore to have accepted the debtor’s plan if the plan:

  1. cures any default (except certain types of defaults need not be cured as noted below);
  2. reinstates the maturity of the claim as it existed prior to the default;
  3. compensates the holder of the claim for any damages incurred in reliance on its right of acceleration; and
  4. compensates the holder of the claim for any actual pecuniary loss incurred in connection with a default of a non-monetary obligation (unless the holder of the claim is an insider or the default arises from failure to operate a nonresidential real property lease); and
  5. does not otherwise alter the legal rights of the holder of the claim.

Certain types of defaults need not be cured in order for the class of claims to be deemed unimpaired—a default that is a breach relating to (1) the insolvency or financial condition of the debtor, (2) the filing of bankruptcy, (3) the appointment of a custodian or the appointment of a trustee in bankruptcy, or (4) satisfying a penalty rate or provision arising from the failure to perform nonmonetary obligations under an executory contract or unexpired lease.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about non-impairment plans, read Considerations When Selling a Bankruptcy Claim and Dealing With Distress For Fun & Profit Installments #18-19: How to Confirm a Chapter 11 Plan and  Chapter 11 Plan Acceptance, Getting a Class to Accept a Plan.


A note is a legal document that serves to evidence the obligation of a borrower to repay a loan made by a lender.


A novation is an agreement made between two contracting parties to allow for the substitution of a new party for an existing one.

Payment-in-Kind Notes

Some notes allow for a coupon to pay “in-kind,” or with additional bonds rather than cash. Like zero-coupon bonds, these securities, sometimes referred to as “PIK” notes, give the issuer breathing room for cash outlay. PIKs allow a company to borrow more money without immediate cash flow worries. Therefore, PIKs are viewed as more highly speculative debt securities.


PBGC stands for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is a federal agency, established as a not-for-profit corporation, and is charged with administering certain pension plans and union plans under Title IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The PBGC essentially insures and guarantees benefits under certain pension plans up to a certain level, and for such insurance, employers periodically pay premiums to the PBGC.

Personal Property

Personal property is a term that includes any asset of any kind that is not real property.

Personal Service Contract

“Term often imprecisely used to describe a contract that cannot be assigned because one of the parties is uniquely positioned, to the exclusion of all others, to perform it.

For example, a contract with Picasso to produce a work of art cannot be assigned to someone else to perform even if the contract does not expressly prohibit assignment. Section 365 recognizes this concept, and even broadens it considerably, by prohibiting “the trustee” (which usually also includes the debtor in a Chapter 11 case) from assuming or assigning a contract where “applicable law excuses a party, other than the debtor, to such contract or lease from accepting performance or rendering performance to an entity other than the debtor or the debtor in possession, whether or not such contract or lease prohibits or restricts assignment of rights or delegation of duties…” This language not only covers the Picasso situation but many others where state or federal law prohibits assignment. Ironically, it has also been interpreted by some courts to prevent the debtor, in this example Picasso himself, from assuming the contract in his bankruptcy case.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about personal service contracts, read A Non-Debtor Perspective on Executory Contracts.

Petition Date

The Petition Date is the date a debtor files a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code. The debtor’s assets as of the petition date become property of the estate. The petition date also determines the date by which all creditors’ claims are measured. Any claim occurring prior to the petition date is deemed to have occurred pre-petition. Any claims occurring after the petition date occur post-petition.


See “Chapter 11 Plan

Ponzi Scheme

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. Ponzi schemes are named after Charles Ponzi. In the 1920s, Ponzi promised investors a 50% return within a few months for what he claimed was an investment in international mail coupons.

Prearranged Chapter 11

The hallmark of a prearranged chapter 11 is that it is one in which the debtor enters bankruptcy after having negotiated the terms of a plan with its major stakeholders. Such agreement is commonly memorialized in a document commonly referred to as a “lock-up” or “plan-support,” agreement. Read “A Primer on Plan Support Agreements & Restructuring Support Agreements” for more information about such agreements.


Anathema to trade creditors. Under section 547(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, a DIP or a trustee may sue a recipient of certain payments it received from the debtor immediately before the beginning of the bankruptcy case, in order to avoid and recover those payments, which would then (in most cases) be distributed to unsecured creditors of the debtor. Under section 546(b), the DIP or trustee may avoid:

any transfer of property of the debtor

a) to or for the benefit of a creditor
b) for or on account of an antecedent debt
c) made while the debtor was insolvent
d) made within 90 days before filing or, if the transferee creditor was an insider, within one year before the beginning of the bankruptcy case
e) that enables such creditor to receive more than the creditor would receive in a chapter 7 liquidation.

There are defenses to avoidance and some are found in section 547(c) [e.g., new value, ordinary course of business].  Section 550 of the Bankruptcy Code empowers the DIP or trustee to recover the property transferred or its equivalent in money.

Prepack/Prepackaged Chapter 11

A prepack is a chapter 11 plan that a debtor prepares in cooperation with its creditors and which enough creditors and equity holders approve of, prior to the Petition Date, such that the parties know that the voting requirements of Bankruptcy Code §1126 will be satisfied. Such a chapter 11 plan is commonly filed together with the chapter 11 petition on the Petition Date. A successful pre-pack can be much shorter in duration than other chapter 11 cases (the shortest case in history, led by Kirkland & Ellis partner, Jon Henes, was over in less than 20 hours). A prepack addresses problems with debtor’s balance sheet but does not directly address operational weaknesses. Read “Balance Sheet Restructuring & Operational Restructuring” for a short explanation for more information.

Priming Lien

A lien securing a postpetition loan that is senior or equal to a lien that is already attached to a debtor’s assets. Approval of priming liens are sought under Bankruptcy Code § 364(d), and will not be authorized unless a bankruptcy court finds that the debtor cannot obtain credit elsewhere, and that the existing lienholder’s interest in its collateral is adequately protected, regardless of whether the priming lien is granted.


The term “priority” refers to the order in which applicable law demands that the claims against a debtor must be paid. Financially distressed parties commonly do not have enough money to pay all their creditors (that is, the holders of claims against them) in full. The law provides in such situations that certain types of claims must be paid in full before other types of claims can be paid at all. The term “priority” is used to describe this, with a claim of “senior” priority being entitled to 100% payment before a claim of lower priority may be paid anything. For more information, read The Order of Claims in Bankruptcy: Absolute Priority Rule, Structured Dismissals and More.

Professional Fee Carve-Out

Professional advisors to a bankrupt company (or debtor) face a risk that they will not be paid their fees and expenses because the debtor estate’s only assets will be encumbered by a secured creditor’s (or DIP lender’s) first-priority lien. To deal with this risk, professionals frequently negotiate a “carve-out” to provide for the “super-priority” treatment of their allowed fees. The carve-out is essentially an agreement by the secured creditor to subordinate its lien and claim to certain allowed professional fees. This agreement thus permits those fees to come first in line in terms of payment from the estate’s assets.  Carve-outs are normally subject to a dollar-amount cap and sometimes provide for limits regarding the services that can be paid from the carve-out.

Proof of Claim

Before the bankruptcy case, the creditor had a debt to collect, lawsuit, potential lawsuit, grievance, gripe about slow payment, mounting costs caused by debtor’s conduct or failure to act, or (and?) some other right to payment or other legal or equitable remedy that gives rise to a right to payment. The bankruptcy case begins, and now the creditor now has a claim.  The creditor pursues payment of the claim by filing a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court, then fighting off any objection, and then awaiting distribution under a chapter 11 plan or from the proceeds of liquidation of debtor property.   Note: filing the proof of claim on time is crucial to the creditor getting anything (with some exceptions, but why take that chance?).  The timely and meticulous preparation of a proof of claim can clarify the creditor’s stake and strategy, as well as cause it to assemble timely all relevant documentation of the claim (for use contra an objection).  The creditor should review the case docket for any court order that establishes a Bar Date (see Glossary entry), or which sets special procedures for filing proofs of claim, say with a Noticing and Claims Agent (as is done in many large cases).

Purchase Money Security Interest (PMSI)

A specialized type of security interest created under the UCC that enables a lender that finances a debtor’s acquisition of goods (which can include things like equipment or machinery) or software to acquire a first priority security interest in the collateral acquired with the loan.

Even if another creditor holds an earlier perfected security interest that would cover the collateral acquired, the PMSI secured creditor takes priority in the collateral.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a security which trades like stocks or bonds on various exchanges and which constitutes an interest in real estate. REITs can either represent a “direct” investment in the form of an Equity REIT, in which the interest holders have equity ownership in the property and thus collect dividends from rent collected on the property, or an “indirect” investment through a Mortgage REIT in which mortgages are held (either generated as an initial loan or purchased from a prior mortgage holder) and income is generated from the interest collected. Hybrid REITs, which engage in both these types, can also be created. Their exemption from paying corporate income taxes, and requirement to disburse 90% of their would-be-taxable income in the form of dividends, make them an attractive investment vehicle.

Real Property

Real property is a synonym of real estate.  The term includes land and any permanent improvements to the land, such as buildings. All other property is personal property.


A receiver is a non-party neutral person or entity that is appointed and empowered by a court to receive, preserve, manage, and/or liquidate property interests that are at-issue in a lawsuit or other legal proceeding.


An equitable remedy used by bankruptcy courts to characterize a transaction according to its economic substance rather than its form to ensure that the Bankruptcy Code’s payment priority scheme is properly implemented. Thus, bankruptcy courts may “recharacterize” debt as equity where the underlying substance of a transaction is in the nature of an equity infusion, despite the transaction being labeled a loan.


“A seller’s right to recover possession of goods sold to an insolvent buyer under the Uniform Commercial Code or common law. The right of reclamation survives, in modified form, in the debtor/purchaser’s bankruptcy filing.

Under most state laws the demand for reclamation must be in writing and made within 10 to 20 days of the debtor’s receipt of the goods. The seller’s state-law right of reclamation continues in bankruptcy, as modified under Section 546(c), and the seller may reclaim goods received by the debtor while the debtor was insolvent, if received by the debtor within 45 days before the date of the bankruptcy filing. The seller, however, must demand reclamation in writing no later than 45 days after the debtor received the goods (or no later than 20 days after the bankruptcy filing if the 45-day period expires after the filing of the bankruptcy case). The right of reclamation is subordinate to a prior security interest in the goods sought to be reclaimed. Sellers of goods whose reclamation rights are denied may still be able to assert an administrative claim under Section 503(b)(9) for goods delivered within 20 days of the filing of the bankruptcy case.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about reclamation, read Trade Tips #5 and #6: How do you assert your reclamation rights? and What are §503(b)(9) claims? You may also be interested in reading Reclamation of Reclamation Claims by the Delaware Bankruptcy Court in Reichhold Holdings and Dealing with Corporate Distress 11: How to Protect Your Claim In & Out of Bankruptcy.


“A defense to a claim allowing the defendant to reduce the amount it must pay to the plaintiff by the amount that the plaintiff owes to the defendant in connection with the contract or transaction on which the plaintiff seeks recovery.

The right of recoupment is similar to the right of setoff but with three important distinctions. First, recoupment is available to a creditor seeking to offset prepetition debts against postpetition debts. By contrast, setoff is not available to a creditor under such circumstances because it applies only to an attempted setoff of prepetition debts against prepetition debts (or postpetition debts against postpetition debts). Second, recoupment is available to the creditor only if the mutual obligations arise from the same contract or transaction, a limitation not applicable to a creditor’s right of setoff. Third, a creditor may exercise recoupment without seeking the bankruptcy court’s permission, while the creditor cannot exercise its right of setoff without first obtaining relief from the automatic stay.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about recoupment, read Potential Pitfalls and Opportunities in Healthcare Restructuring and Dealing With Distress For Fun & Profit – Installment #10-11 – About the Automatic Stay and Is Stay Relief Necessary?

Roll-Up Financing

A “roll-up” refers to a debtor-in-possession (or DIP) financing facility that is provided by the debtor’s prepetition (pre-bankruptcy) lenders and effectively pays off (or “rolls-up”) the prepetition secured debt. The roll-up can take place in a single stage or the debtor, as postpetition funding is obtained, applies an equivalent amount of proceeds first to the repayment of the prepetition facility until the outstanding obligations are fully “rolled” into the postpetition facility by the debtor. A roll-up effectively transforms the existing lenders’ prepetition claims into a postpetition, administrative expense.

Rule of Explicitness

“A judicial doctrine that prevents a junior creditor under a subordination agreement from being forced to give up its distributions under a bankruptcy plan to pay interest to the senior (but undersecured) creditor under the agreement unless the subordination agreement specifically requires that result.

An unsecured (or undersecured) creditor is not entitled to payment of interest on its claim in bankruptcy. But senior creditors argued that they could be paid postpetition interest on their claims—not from the debtor, but out of bankruptcy plan distributions that otherwise would have been paid to the junior creditors under the subordination agreements. This argument rested on language commonly included in subordination agreements providing that the junior creditor is not entitled to any payment until the senior creditor is paid in full. The courts found it unlikely that junior creditors would, under this language, anticipate being forced to hand over their bankruptcy plan distributions to a senior creditor to pay postpetition interest on the senior creditor’s unsecured claim, and therefore developed the rule that the junior creditor under a subordination agreement will not be required to give up its bankruptcy plan distributions to pay postpetition interest to the senior creditor unless the subordination agreement clearly provides that result by, for example, explicitly stating that if the borrower files bankruptcy, the senior lender is entitled to payment of interest from bankruptcy plan distributions that would otherwise be paid to the junior creditor.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

Sale Free and Clear

“A sale under Section 363 that takes advantage of the provisions of Section 363(f) allowing the property to be sold “free and clear of any interest in such property” under specified conditions including, most importantly, in the case of a lien, when “the price at which such property is to be sold is greater than the aggregate value of all liens on such property.” Any liens then attach to the proceeds of the sale.

There is controversy over whether the Code requires that the sale price be for the entire amount of the liens even if the property is of less “value” than the aggregate amount of the liens.

Diabolical Question: Is “amount” a synonym for “value” in any thesaurus published in the Upper World? Isn’t the undersecured lender fully protected by its right to credit bid the entire amount of its debt?

Some bankruptcy courts have stretched the notion of “interests in such property” to include unsecured claims, such as tort claims and other claims that might be asserted against the buyer on the theory of successor liability, and have purported to bar the future assertion of such claims against both the property sold and the buyer.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about the meaning of sale free and clear, read Not Necessarily Free and Clear: Purchasing Real Estate Property in a Section 363 Sale and Section 363 Sale: Free and Clear of Claims That Are Backed By Strong Public Policies.

Schedules & SOFA

Every debtor in a bankruptcy proceeding must file schedules and a statement of financial affairs, or “SOFA” disclosing financial information about the debtor as of its petition date. There are different forms of each depending on whether the debtor is an individual person or a business.

In its schedules, a debtor must list its specific assets, liabilities, and other key information about its business, such as existing executory contracts and unexpired leases, and the identity of any co-debtors it may have.

In its SOFA, a debtor must make additional disclosures about its business financial history, including information about prepetition transfers of assets, income earned in the years preceding the bankruptcy, pending legal actions, and other relevant financial information. The SOFA dives into your financial matters so that the court can fully grasp the financial situation causing you to file.

Together, the schedules and SOFA create a financial “snapshot” of a debtor as of its petition date.

Section 341 Meeting

A potentially great information source for creditors, and possibly a chance for a DIP to re-assure creditors. Within a reasonable time after a bankruptcy case starts (including both chapter 7 and chapter 11 cases), the U.S. Trustee convenes a meeting of creditors and equity holders under section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. A representative of the DIP or debtor is placed under oath and must answer questions posed by, among others, the creditors that are present.  The DIP or debtor is often made to explain why it filed and what it plans to do in the case.  Usually, the Schedules and SOFA have already been filed, giving parties the chance to query the DIP or debtor under oath as to discrepancies or seeming omissions.

Section 363 Sale

A sale conducted per section 363(b)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code outside of the ordinary course of the business of the debtor, and not under any plan of reorganization. By a section 363 sale, a debtor (as DIP or via a chapter 7 trustee) may sell substantially all of its assets, or any part of its assets (e.g., a business line, a machine, intellectual property, etc.).  As occurred in the General Motors and Chrysler chapter 11 cases, a debtor may sell its business or part of it as a going concern.  Very often, section 363 sales are accompanied by competitive bidding or even a more-or-less formal auction process.  In larger sales, the debtor may propose bidding procedures for approval by the court.  Creditor parties will scrutinize such procedures to ensure that they warm rather than chill the chances for the highest sale price.  Sometimes the bid procedures are tied to the existence of a “stalking horse bidder,” i.e. a party that has bound itself to purchase the assets at a price certain if no other qualified bids exceed that price.

Section 363 sales are attractive to bidders in part because section 363(f) can be applied to provide that the sale is free and clear of all liens, claims, and encumbrances on the sold assets – all those “interests” would then attach to the proceeds of the sale rather than the assets.  Further, section 363(m) can be applied to limit the ability of discontented parties to undo the sale of assets to a good faith purchaser: no such appeal is permitted unless the authorization of the sale is stayed by the court pending such appeal.

Editor’s note: For more information on “stalking horse bidders” read 90 Second Lesson: To Stalk or Not to Stalk? Why be a Stalking Horse Bidder?

Section 503(b)(9) Claims

Section 503(b)(9) was added to the Bankruptcy Code as part of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”), which took effect in October 2005. Section 503(b)(9) grants vendors an administrative priority claim for “the value of any goods received by the debtor within 20 days before” the date the bankruptcy petition was filed, as long as “the goods have been sold to the debtor in the ordinary course of such debtor’s business.” Section 503(b)(9) is intended to encourage suppliers to continue shipping goods to a customer even when a customer’s bankruptcy is imminent, which serves to preserve the value of the debtor’s business and enhances its prospects for reorganization.

For suppliers, a Section 503(b)(9) Claim can spell the difference between receiving no or minuscule repayment (on a general unsecured claim) and being paid 100% of the value of the goods delivered in the 20-day period before a customer’s bankruptcy (as an administrative expense claim). Section 503(b)(9) transforms this subset of the supplier’s claim into an administrative expense claim, to be paid at the same priority as the debtor’s professionals and all providers of goods and services to the debtor during the bankruptcy case.  To be confirmed, a chapter 11 plan of reorganization (or liquidation) must pay administrative expense claims in full.  Potential issues: (a) did vendor deliver the goods within the 20 days?; (b) is the vendor’s claim for goods or for services?; and (c) what is the value of the goods?  Also, if the chapter 11 case is converted to a case under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, there is no requirement that chapter 11 administrative claims be paid in full.  If the chapter 11 case is dismissed, the Section 503(b)(9) Claims also cease to exist.

Secured Claim

A claim held by the creditor that is secured by a lien on, a mortgage on or other security interest in property of the debtor.

Secured Lender

The holder of a Secured Claim.

Stalking Horse Bid

A stalking-horse bid is an initial bid on a bankrupt company’s assets from an interested buyer chosen by the bankrupt company to participate in a section 363 sale or a sale conducted under a plan of reorganization. The stalking horse bidder often executes a contract wherein it commits to purchasing a defined set of assets for a specific price, unless a higher and better offer is received by the bankruptcy estate.  Through a stalking horse bid, an estate establishes both a floor price and a model asset purchase agreement with terms to which the estate would agree. Thus a stalking horse bidder can be key to the estate’s capture of value from its assets.  For a look at other ways a stalking horse bid can play out, see “Stalking Horse Bidder in Section 363 Sales: Benefactor or Predator?” (May, 2015).

Strong-Arm Powers

Where a creditor has an unperfected lien (or an unrecorded mortgage) on a bankruptcy debtor’s property, the Bankruptcy Code empowers a trustee (or DIP, or entity that succeeds to the rights of a trustee or DIP) to avoid and preserve the lien for the benefit of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate. The trustee exercises this power through two strong arm provisions. First, the trustee may avoid the unperfected lien based upon its statutorily-granted status as judicial lien creditor or as bona fide purchaser of real property.  11 U.S.C. § 544(a)(1) & (3).   Second, under section 551 of the Bankruptcy Code, the trustee has the right to preserve the avoided interest for the benefit of the debtor’s estate.  The estate is thus put into the shoes of the creditor whose lien is avoided.  With these powers, the trustee may avoid the unperfected liens and apply the value represented by those liens to the debtor’s estate, bypassing junior lienholders.    A second mortgagee does not benefit from the trustee’s avoidance of the lien of the senior mortgagee – unsecured creditors do.  Parts of this definition are paraphrased from In re Traverse, 753 F.3d 19, 26 (1st Cir. 2014).

Subchapter V Chapter 11

A Chapter 11 case governed by Subchapter V of Chapter 11, which is set forth in Bankruptcy Code §§1181–1195.

Successor Liability

“Liability imposed on the purchaser of assets for claims against the prior owner of the assets. The courts originally developed this doctrine to protect victims of personal injury torts, especially future tort claimants, where there has been a “de facto merger” or “mere continuation” of the old business by the new owner of the assets. There has been some recent extension, though less so than is generally thought, of this doctrine to include debts to providers of goods, services, or capital (lenders) to the old business.

Purchasers in section 363 sales usually attempt to include provisions in sale orders purporting to protect themselves against successor liability. Such provisions are usually unopposed, primarily because the potential victims of such provisions, many of whom have not even been injured yet, are not present in court to defend their rights. Some courts refuse to approve such provisions “on their own motion.” Even where they are initially approved by the bankruptcy court, other courts sometimes refuse to enforce them later, notwithstanding the mootness doctrine, often citing the theory that the bankruptcy court did not have jurisdiction to deprive parties of their claims without giving them an opportunity to be heard.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about successor liability, read Lender Liability Claims are Alive and Well: A Case Study,   Subchapter V of Chapter 11: A User’s Guide, and Determining Whether or Not to Seek Court Approval of a Sale in a Delaware Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors Case


A claim granted special priority status to a claim arising after a bankruptcy filing occurs, allowing for such claim to be paid ahead of all other pre- and postpetition claims, including administrative and priority claims. In other words, a superpriority claim is a claim that trumps other administrative claims.

Superpriority claims may be administrative in nature (such as a professional fee carveout) or a secured claim, such as the claim of a lender providing postpetition DIP financing to a debtor.

Supersedeas Bond

A supersedeas bond is best remembered by its nickname, “the defendant’s appeal bond.” They are a type of surety bond that a losing defendant is generally required to post if it wants to delay paying a judgement until after it receives a ruling on its appeal.

See Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(d); and Fed. R. App. P. 8(b).

Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine® (TRACE®)

The Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine is the FINRA developed vehicle that facilitates the mandatory reporting of over the counter secondary market transactions in eligible fixed income securities. All broker/dealers who are FINRA member firms have an obligation to report transactions in corporate bonds to TRACE under an SEC approved set of rules.

NASD introduced TRACE (Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine) in July 2002 in an effort to increase price transparency in the U.S. corporate debt market. The system captures and disseminates consolidated information on secondary market transactions in publicly traded TRACE-eligible securities (investment grade, high yield and convertible corporate debt) – representing all over-the-counter market activity in these bonds.

TRACE data can be accessed and searched on FINRA’s website:

Traditional Chapter 11

A Chapter 11 case that is not a Subchapter V Chapter 11.


“A transfer of the debtor’s property or an interest in the debtor’s property to another party. The Code defines “transfer” as the creation of a lien or security interest, the retention of title as a security interest, the foreclosure of a debtor’s equity of redemption, or any other mode, direct or indirect, absolute or conditional, voluntary or involuntary, of disposing with property or an interest in property.

To illustrate how broad the concept can be, the revocation of a SubChapter S Election has been deemed to be a transfer (of possible tax benefits or attributes from the corporate debtor to its shareholders).

Transfers by the debtor are subject to rigorous scrutiny in bankruptcy, and the broad definition of “transfer” helps to ensure that all transactions affecting the debtor’s property or its interests in property can be examined to determine whether they are subject to avoidance as preferences, fraudulent transfers, or otherwise.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

For more information about transfers, read An Introduction to Bankruptcy Claims Trading and Fraudulent Transfer Remedies: How Much is Enough?

True Lease

“A lease that has the characteristics of an operating lease, as opposed to a lease that has the characteristics of a financing.

Courts look to a number of factors to distinguish “true leases” from leases that are disguised financing transactions. The determination usually hinges on whether the term of the lease is materially less than the useful life of the leased property and whether the lessee must pay the fair market value of the property to acquire it during or at the end of the lease term.

If the agreement is found to be a true lease, then the debtor’s right to modify the terms of the transaction are limited. The debtor may assume or reject the lease but may not (absent the lessor’s consent) modify the terms of the lease. If the lease is found to be a disguised financing, and the lessor-creditor has properly perfected its lien or security interest, the bankruptcy court will treat the “lease” as creating a lien or security interest in favor of the “lessor” and treat the “lessor” as a secured party or mortgagee, with the debtor being treated as owner of the “leased” property. If the lien or security interest was not properly perfected, it may be avoided by the debtor under the strong arm powers, leaving the “lessor”/secured creditor with an unsecured claim.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.

U.S. Trustee

The Office of the U.S. Trustee is a division of the Department of Justice. The U.S. Trustee for any given “region” is the head of the Office of the U.S. Trustee (the UST) for that region. The U.S. Trustee is authorized to appoint and supervise chapter 7 panel trustees, appoint the membership of official committees in chapter 11 cases, and investigate bankruptcy fraud and abuse.  The U.S. Trustee (through its locally posted and federal government-employed attorneys) can be heard on any issue in a bankruptcy case, and is often active on issues and in circumstances in which the interests of creditors are not clearly represented, such as early in a large case or with respect to applications to employ and compensate professionals at any stage in a case.

Unexpired Lease

The term “unexpired lease” refers to a lease of personal or real property that has not expired as of the filing of a bankruptcy case.  If a lease is an “unexpired lease,” the chapter 11 debtor party is empowered by the Bankruptcy Code to assume (and possibly assign) or reject the lease.  The debtor-tenant under an unexpired lease of real property has the right to operate in the leased premises prior to the lease being assumed or rejected (and afterward, if debtor-tenant assumes but does not assign the unexpired lease).  In chapter 11 cases, the debtor-lessee may assume or reject an unexpired lease of residential or personal property at any time before confirmation of a chapter 11 plan.  Section 365(d)(4) provides that a debtor- lessee of non-residential real property must assume or reject the lease within 120 days (which deadline can be extended by 90 days upon the debtor’s motion for cause), or the lease is automatically rejected and the property must be surrendered.  Section 365(d)(1) provides that if a chapter 7 trustee does not assume or reject an unexpired lease of residential real property or personal property of the debtor within 60 days after the filing of the case, such lease is considered rejected.  But what is an “unexpired lease” to which these rules pertain?  The term is not defined in the Bankruptcy Code.  Whether a particular lease is “unexpired” is determined under state laws, which vary across states.  For example, a real property lease may not be considered to have expired in certain jurisdictions until an order of possession in the landlord’s favor has been entered by a court.


A claim, the amount of which, is not known or easily calculated.

Unsecured Claim

A bankruptcy claim which is not secured by a lien, mortgage or other security.

Waiver of Automatic Stay

“A term sometimes included in workout agreements between lenders and borrowers providing that, in the event of the borrower’s bankruptcy, the borrower waives the benefits of the automatic stay or consents to relief from the stay. The validity of such provisions has been subject to much dispute, with some courts finding them unenforceable per se, others finding them enforceable as a matter of good public policy (encouraging lenders to forbear or otherwise negotiate settlements with borrowers in default, rather than pushing defaulted borrowers precipitously into bankruptcy), and a third camp finding such agreements enforceable as between the lender and borrower (and its equity holders), but not enforceable as to unsecured creditors and other parties in interest – who were not parties to the agreement and who are entitled to be heard regarding whether the stay should remain in effect once a bankruptcy is filed.”

This definition is courtesy of our friends at Polsinelli who publish the Devil’s Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms. You can access the Devil’s Dictionary here.


The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) provides the basis for claims against an entity that closes a plant or business or lays off lots of workers. The WARN Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to notify affected employees (and managers, salaried workers, plus certain state and union officials) 60 calendar days before plant closings and mass layoffs. Workers, their representatives, and units of local government may bring individual or class action suits against employers believed to be in violation of the WARN Act. An employer may be liable to each employee for an amount equal to back pay plus benefits for the period of the violation. Failure to provide required notice to local government could subject the employer to a civil penalty. The WARN Act has a number of exceptions to its requirements that debtor-employers seek to apply, and on which bankruptcy courts rule. Many states have state laws similar to the WARN Act.  Kory Buzin contributed to this entry.

Workouts/ Out of Court Workouts

Distress transactions handles outside the supervision of a court.

In a workout, a debtor and its creditors informally and privately negotiate repayment terms and conditions. Workouts are typically memorialized under forbearance agreements with secured lenders, or other contractual agreements with creditors.