If you, or your company, is facing a claim in a bankruptcy court in Tennessee, or facing a demand letter from a bankruptcy trustee, or other party, for the return of payments made to you by a company or individual now in bankruptcy, you might be able to use what is referred to as the “subsequent new value” defense. This defense, just one defense in the Bankruptcy Code available to a creditor which is the subject of a preferential payment lawsuit, is particularly useful for creditors which maintained open accounts for now bankrupt debtors.
In concept, the defense is fairly easy to understand. In many cases, its successful application will require complex and tedious analysis of the statutory elements in light of the particular facts of the case. Assuming that the trustee, or other party which has filed the adversary proceeding, meets his or her burden of proof that the payments to the creditor by the debtor were preferential payments under 11 U.S.C.A. §547(b), a creditor which can prove the elements of the subsequent new value defense (11 U.S.C.A § 547(c)(4)) can avoid repaying the preference payments, or some portion thereof.
To succeed under the subsequent new value defense, a creditor must, to paraphrase the statute, prove three elements: (1) That it gave new value to the creditor after a preferential transfer (a transfer with respect to which the trustee has proven all of the elements of §547(b)); (2) that the new value given was not secured by a security interest which the trustee cannot avoid; and (3) that the debtor did not repay the debt for the new value with a transfer that the trustee cannot avoid.
Like all statutes and laws, understanding the reason for it is helpful in the analysis of particular factual scenarios. First, it is intended to promote creditors’ willingness to continue to do business with financially troubled accounts, which, ideally, will prevent bankruptcies. Second, when a creditor provides new value to a debtor, the same increases the value of the bankruptcy estate of the debtor, which increases the amount of assets available for distribution to other creditors. Thus, the defense recognizes that it is fair to allow that creditor to offset the value of the new value provided against the amount of the preferential transfers to it.