In a unanimous 25 February panel decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff’s investment firm can claw back billions in Ponzi scheme proceeds from investors who received the proceeds indirectly through non-U.S. “feeder funds” (funds that aggregate investor capital to invest in funds such as Madoff’s).

The ruling is significant because it affirmed the power of U.S. bankruptcy trustees to pursue estate funds to their ultimate destination, even if the paper trail involved transactions between non-U.S. entities. The effect of the ruling is to revive 88 adversary cases against international investors by Irving Pickard, the trustee of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (Madoff Securities) who is seeking to recover roughly US$4 billion in funds on behalf of customers who lost money in the Madoff Ponzi scheme.


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A recent High Court case (Fairhold Securitisation Limited v Clifden IOM No 1 Ltd) has affirmed that in debt issuances involving a trustee, noteholders have only limited rights to take direct enforcement action.  The case confirmed that:

  • trustees do not need to act on holders’ instructions until holdings have been verified;
  • on receipt of instructions, a trustee is not bound to act until it has had a reasonable time to verify holdings, review instructions, take advice and obtain satisfactory indemnification;
  • where a trustee holding a floating charge is obliged to take enforcement action, its failure to do so does not entitle noteholders to step into the shoes of the trustee and appoint administrators.


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On 13 July 2017 the High Court gave its judgment in UBS AG, London Branch v. GLAS Trust Corporation Limited [2017] EWHC 1788 (Comm), a case brought by UBS against the trustee for notes issued as part of a securitisation transaction by Fairhold Securitisation Limited (the “Issuer“). UBS disputed the ability of the trustee to absorb costs incurred by a group of noteholders pursuing a potential restructuring of the debt. The case will be of interest to trustees, investors and other stakeholders involved in the restructuring of finance transactions involving a trustee. The case provides some useful guidance on the test to be applied in determining whether expenses of a trustee have been “properly incurred“.
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Considerations when Changing the Trustee on a Debt Transaction

In recent times there has been an increase in instances of trustees being changed on debt deals. As this phenomenon becomes more widespread, we look at some of the issues and processes that need to be taken into account when issuers, investors or trustees themselves are