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Bankruptcy Cases in the News

Bankruptcy Cases in the News:


     On February 5, 2013 the 6th Circuit Court issued an interesting opinion concerning creditors’ rights after mortgage foreclosures in In re: Richard K. Miller, No.: 11-2357 (unpublished). The question before the court was whether the Bank’s credit bid at a Michigan Sheriff’s sale (after foreclosure by advertisement) extinguished the debtor’s debt to the bank. The bankruptcy court determined that it did and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed/agreed with that decision.


     After the bank foreclosed against the the debtor’s home it bid the full amount of it’s mortgage at the sheriff’s sale and acquired the title, subject to debtor’s rights of redemption. When debtor did not redeem the  bank subsequently sold the home for less than the amount debtor owed and then claimed the difference against the debtor. The court would not allow this action based upon Michigan cases. Specifically holding:


     In Bank of Three Oaks v. Lakefront Properties, 444 N.W. 2d 217, 553 (Mich. Ct. App. 1989)(per curiam), the mortgagee bank bid $147,129.42, constituting the full amount of the debt plus the cost of foreclosure and statutory attorney’s fees, at the foreclosure sale following a Michigan foreclosure by advertisement. When the sheriff’s deed became operative at the conclusion of the redemption period, the bank became the titled owner of the property. Thereafter, the bank sold the property for $150,000.00. The bank filed suit against the mortgagors to collect an alleged deficiency for the interest, taxes, and insurance premiums accrued between the date of the foreclosure sale and the date the redemption period expired. Id. at 554-55. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that “[w]hen property is purchased at a foreclosure sale for an amount equal to the amount due on the mortgage, the debt is satisfied.” Id. at 555 (citing Guardian Depositors Corp. v. Hebb, 287 N.W. 796 (Mich. 1939), and Powers. v. Golden Lumber Co., 5 N.W. 656, 657 (Mich. 1880)). Because the debt was extinguished at the foreclosure sale, the court held that the bank could not pursue any deficiency where the mortgagor did not redeem the property. Id. at 556-557.


     The same legal principals have been applied in other Michigan cases. See Smith v. Gen. Mortg. Corp., 261 N.W. 2d 710, 712-13 (Mich. 1978)(per curiam); Kennedy v. Brown, 15 N.W. 498, 499-500 (Mich. 1883); New Freedom Mortg. Corp. v. Globe Mortg. Corp., 761 N.W. 2d 832, 836 (Mich. Ct. App. 2008); Emmons v. Lake States Ins. Co., 484 N.W. 2d 712, 714 (Mich. Ct. App. July 1, 2008) (unpublished per curiam). Similarly, the Second Circuit applied Michigan law in Chrysler Capital Reality, Inc. v. Grella, 942 F.2d 160 (2d Cir. 1991), to hold that a mortgagee who successfully bid the entire amount of the debt at a foreclosure sale could not thereafter maintain an action for damages against the mortgagor, despite the mortgagee’s allegations that the actual value of the property at the time of the foreclosure sale was far less than the debt and that the mortgagee had been fraudulently induced into making the transaction.


     If you or a loved one have questions concerning your rights or obligations with creditors you should immediately seek a qualified bankruptcy attorney.


[Guy Vining, a bankruptcy attorney, in metro-Detroit, maintains his office in Taylor, Michigan where he serves the downriver communities of Monroe, South Rockwood, Gibraltar, Brownstown Township, Grosse Ile, Woodhaven, Trenton, Southgate, Riverview, Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Westland, Wayne, and Ecorse. If you or a family member of friend would like a no-obligation no cost consultation/financial analysis, just call or E-mail Guy Vining of Vining Law Group, P.L.C to schedule a meeting.]

Business Cases in the News: Minority Shareholder Oppression

Business Cases in the News:


Minority Shareholder Oppression


     In our blogs we have on occasion discussed cases of minority shareholder oppression. Recently, in writing a brief to be filed in the Wayne County Circuit Court, on the issue of the proper valuation standard, Guy Vining ran across the following quote from the William Mitchell Law Review in 1996:


     “Close corporations typically are formed by friends, relatives, or other business associates who choose to combine their capital, skills, labor and experience in a new business. Shareholders in a close corporation generally plan to be employed by the corporation and to have an active role in management. As a result, shareholders usually expect to receive a salary, bonus and additional benefits consistent with their roles as employees, officers, and directors.


      While those corporations begin as friendly ventures, the balance of power in the close corporation often lends itself to oppression of those shareholders who do not control the corporation and usually own only a small percentage of shares — the minority shareholders. Minority shareholders may be subjected to a “freeze out,” (sometimes known as a “squeeze out”) by the majority shareholders. Typical “freeze out” techniques include terminating the minority shareholder’s employment with the corporation or terminating dividends and the minority shareholder’s returns on his or her investment.


      Although minority shareholders in any corporation are in a difficult position due to their lack of control, minority shareholders in closely held corporations have uniquely difficult positions because their shares are not readily marketable. In other words, when minority shareholders in a large, publicly-traded corporation become dissatisfied with corporate operations, they can “vote with their feet” — sell their shares and discontinue their involvement with the corporation. Minority shareholders in the closely held corporation, on the other hand, often cannot easily sell their shares.


      The lack of a market for close corporation shares owned by a minority shareholder means that a non-controlling investor may be locked into a business that is providing little return on investment, or at least is failing to fulfill the owner’s non-monetary expectation. Left without a meaningful return on his or her investment, the minority shareholder may have little choice but to sell for less than a fair price, usually to the majority shareholders.”


The above is a succinct summary of the problems encountered by minority shareholders in such small corporations. As the author notes many times, what starts as a friendly venture turns very ugly when the money starts rolling in.


Guy Vining of the Vining Law Group, PLC, would be happy to perform a no charge analysis of your case if you find yourself in such a situation. You may be entitled to significant relief from shareholder oppression under MCL 450.1489. Under this statute a judge is empowered to examine the circumstances and afford relief, such as advising the Defendants to buy your interest out at “fair value,” consistent with equity.


Guy Vining has practiced business law throughout the state of Michigan. His office is located in the downriver city of Taylor where he primarily serves the Metro-Detroit area. He serves the Metro-Detroit and Downriver communities, including Rockwood,  Gibraltar, Brownstown, Woodhaven, Grosse Ile, Trenton, Riverview, Romulus, Wyandotte, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, Alan Park, Dearborn, and Dearborn Heights.