Business organizations that are dissolving may wish to use a liquidating trust in order to delegate the administration of the winding up process.
While the managers of a business may be well-suited for the tasks of running a going concern, their talents may not be optimal for the winding down process, which consists of marshaling and selling assets, making distributions to and communicating with creditors and estimating reserves.
Liquidating trusts can be effective tools to wind down any business enterprise, including debtors in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases and entities that dissolve outside of bankruptcy. To that end, in a Chapter 11 case, a debtor’s exclusive right to file a plan is limited to 120 days (subject to extensions for cause), but once a plan is confirmed, the bankruptcy estate ceases to exist and the debtor loses its status as debtor in possession, including its authority to act as a bankruptcy trustee and pursue estate claims.
Norton Liquidating trusts are organized for the primary purpose of liquidating assets transferred to them for distribution to trust beneficiaries. The US Bankruptcy Code seeks to promote the effective administration and settlement of a debtor’s assets and liabilities within a limited frame of time.
In 1994, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) issued Revenue Procedure 94-45 (“Rev. 94-45”), which established guidelines applicable to liquidating trusts formed to implement a Chapter 11 plan, which are similar to the considerations applicable to a liquidating trust outside bankruptcy. 94-45 lists twelve conditions which, if met, will generally result in the issuance by the IRS of an advance determination classifying the trust as a liquidating trust under Treas. The plan, disclosure statement, and any separate trust instrument must provide for consistent valuations of the transferred property by the trustee and the creditors, and those valuations must be used for all federal income tax purposes.
If followed, these guidelines should ensure that the establishment of the trust will be treated as a transfer from the bankruptcy estate to the beneficiaries followed by a deemed transfer by the beneficiaries to the liquidating trust. Finally, a liquidating trust may lose its grantor trust status “if the liquidation is unreasonably prolonged or if the liquidation purpose becomes so obscured by business activities that the declared purpose of liquidation can be said to be lost or abandoned.” 26 CFR § 301.7701-4(d).
If the plan fails to sufficiently preserve the claim, the claim may be subject to an attack on the basis of subject matter jurisdiction.
The degree of specificity required in identifying preserved claims varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Liquidating trusts created under bankruptcy plans often vest their trustees with authority to prosecute avoidance and related actions against the creditors and third parties. Bayard’s Bankruptcy Group has long provided services to debtors, official committees of unsecured creditors and equity holders, trustees, purchasers and lenders in bankruptcy cases.
For an entity with a complicated asset portfolio, it may make sense to transfer all assets, rights, and causes in action to a liquidating trust that can liquidate assets and investments over time, avoiding market dips and other timing concerns.
Moreover, to the extent that entities like partnerships and limited liability companies are not permitted to engage in business once they are dissolved, the liquidating trust may be authorized to operate or hold certain assets to take advantage of economic factors (but subject to tax considerations).
These tasks may not justify the salaries being paid to the management team, which may wish to move on to new challenges.
These considerations may tip the scales in favor of setting up a liquidation vehicle and bringing in an administrator experienced with winding down operations.