Value, value, and value.

The meaning of the word “value,” a seemingly simple word, lies at the heart of most economic theory.  In the Fifth Circuit, in the context of a defense under section 548(c) of the Bankruptcy Code to a fraudulent transfer claim, “value” is measured “from the perspective of the transferee: How much did the transferee ‘give’?” Williams v. FDIC, No. 12-20687 (Oct. 16, 2014) (discussing Jimmy Swaggart Ministries v. Hayes, 310 F.3d 796 (5th Cir. 2002)). (Although, as footnote 3 of Williams observes, the answer may be different under state law.)

In Williams, a debtor company paid $367,681.35 to a bank, on an obligation owed entirely by the individual who owed the debtor.  The bankruptcy trustee proved these payments were a fraudulent transfer, but the bank won below by showing two items of value: (1) forbearance as to eviction, which had substantial value to the debtor’s business, and (2) roughly $250,000 in “reasonable rental rate” for the period when the debtor occupied the premises in question.  The Fifth Circuit disregarded the first as irrelevant from the debtor’s perspective under Swaggart.   As to the second, the Court required “netting” of the loan payments received by the bank, against the rent the bank could have received, and rendered judgment for the trustee for the difference.  This holding turns on a detailed analysis of the term “value” in 548(c), as distinguished from “reasonably equivalent value” in a defense elsewhere in the Code.

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