Concerns over future mine cleanup costs have put the energy giant’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy on hold, at least for now.
The state of Indiana, along with some environmental groups, were among the only parties that objected to an $8 billion reorganization plan. Peabody said it would use a controversial though federally-approved plan to clean up contaminated coal mines, but the state and environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, demanded more specifics. Although the process, called self-bonding, has fallen out of favor with many firms, Peabody still uses it in four states, including Indiana. In a statement, Peabody defended its cleanup protocol. “We look forward to continuing to restore the land and provide assurances for future obligations, through a potential blend of both third-party surety bonds and self-bonding,” a company spokesperson insisted.
Other roadblocks included creditors’ objections to the proposed payment schedule and former employees’ concerns about their pensions.
Adversarial Procedures in a Chapter 7
Even though both Indiana and Illinois have rather large wildcard property exemptions that, in some cases, can exempt cash in a checking or savings account from seizure, unprotected cash is the most likely target for a turnover motion. The instant that debtors file their voluntary petitions, their nonexempt property, including nonexempt cash, becomes part of the bankruptcy estate that’s managed by the trustee (person who oversees the case on the judge’s behalf). Although the era of instant payments has mitigated this problem, the floating check controversy is a lingering issue.
Assume the debtor makes her mortgage payment on the first day of the month and files bankruptcy on the second. The debtor’s bank balance will still show those funds in the account, since the check has not cleared yet. If the trustee files a motion for turnover to claim the cash, there is a legitimate question as to who “owned” that “property” on that particular day. Although the funds were in the debtor’s account, she was not at liberty to spend them on anything else.
Adversarial Actions in a Chapter 13
Just like sound prebankruptcy planning can avoid the floating check controversy, sound prepetition planning can obviate objections to the repayment plan. Such objections normally come from either the creditors (who claim they are not being repaid in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code) or the trustees (who claim that the plan is not feasible). Creditors normally file formal objections; trustees usually state their concerns at the 341 and give the debtors an opportunity to either amend their plans or convert to Chapter 7.
Creditors are under a very strict time deadline to file their objections, and courts normally show little grace or understanding over missed deadlines. If the court does allow the objection, many times, the creditor is upset over a technical deficiency that is easily corrected. Plan objections work in much the same way, as most debtors can find additional room in their income/expense balance sheet by trimming expenses even more or by using the more labor-intensive specific allowances as opposed to the generic ones based on the debtor’s residence.
Rely on Experienced Lawyers
There is no reason to panic over postpetition objections. For a free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer in Chicago, contact the Bentz Holguin Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle cases in both Illinois and Indiana.