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Is an insolvent debtor’s pre-bankruptcy termination of a commercial lease a fraudulent transfer? The Third Circuit said no when it held that a lessor’s pre-bankruptcy termination of the debtors’ lease and purchase option “was not a transfer under Bankruptcy Code §548(a)(1)(B).” In re Pazzo Pazzo Inc., 2022 WL 17690158 (3d Cir. Dec. 15, 2022). But the Seventh Circuit held that a Chapter 11 debtor’s pre-bankruptcy “surrender of [two] … leases to [its landlord] could be regarded as a preferential [or fraudulent] transfer.” In re Great Lakes Quick Lube L.P., 816 F.3d 482 (7th Cir. 2016). Reversing the bankruptcy court’s holding that “the terminations were [not] transfers, … preferential or fraudulent,” the Seventh Circuit stressed that the debtor’s termination of its “interest in property — … the leaseholds — which it parted with by transferring that interest to [the landlord],” fell within the broad definition of “transfer” in the Bankruptcy Code (Code). Id. at 485. A close reading of both Pazzo and Great Lakes, however, shows that the circuits are not split, and that the reasoning of both courts can be reconciled on their facts.
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