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Bankruptcy Litigation

Navigating the Attorney-Client Privilege and Work Product Doctrine in Bankruptcy

When a company declares bankruptcy, avoidance actions under Chapter 5 of the Bankruptcy Code can assist in securing extra cash for the debtor’s dwindling estate. When a debtor-in-possession does not pursue these claims, creditors’ committees often seek the bankruptcy court’s authorization to pursue them on behalf of the estate. Once granted such authorization through a “standing order,” a creditors’ committee is said to “stand in the debtor’s shoes” because it has permission to litigate certain claims belonging to the debtor that arose before bankruptcy. However, for parties whose cases advance to discovery, such a standing order may cause issues by leaving undecided the allocation of attorney-client privilege and work product protection between the debtor and committee.

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When a company declares bankruptcy, avoidance actions under Chapter 5 of the Bankruptcy Code (the Code) can assist in securing extra cash for the debtor’s dwindling estate. When a debtor-in-possession does not pursue these claims, creditors’ committees often seek the bankruptcy court’s authorization to pursue them on behalf of the estate, through “derivative standing.” Once granted such authorization through a “standing order,” a creditors’ committee is said to “stand in the debtor’s shoes” because it has permission to litigate certain claims belonging to the debtor that arose before bankruptcy. A standing order typically specifies which claims and rights originally belonging to the debtor the committee may pursue in the litigation.

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