In an individual chapter 7 case, an unsecured judgment creditor filed an adversary proceeding seeking to deny Debtor’s discharge pursuant to Sections 727(a)(2)(A) for fraudulent transfers and 727(a)(4)(A) for false oaths. After a trial on the merits, the Court found Debtor was entitled to a discharge.
Debtor was a physician who had owned and/or been employed by several medical practices. He scheduled over $4.4 million in unsecured, primarily business debts. Creditor held a $290,000 default judgment that arose out of construction work performed for a failed medical practice started by a group of physicians including Debtor.
In trying to prove fraudulent intent, Creditor generally relied on evidence of Debtor’s undisclosed $1 sale of a non-operating LLC to his significant other; bank transfers involving Debtor’s personal and business bank accounts, especially after the $1 sale; and over $50,000 in undisclosed alleged gifts from Debtor to his family members.
After a fact-intensive inquiry, the Court found that while Debtor acted suspiciously, he did not fraudulently transfer his property. First, he had a reasonable basis for his $1 valuation of a non-operable LLC that required conversion to a PLLC before it could operate as a medical practice. Second, his bank transfers showed that he was attempting to pay his personal obligations and business debts, not hide money from his creditors. Third, the alleged gifts to his family members were made in exchange for living expenses or services performed in the regular course of his medical practice. And although Debtor made false oaths in his bankruptcy paperwork, they were careless and inadvertent—not knowing and fraudulent.
Finally, in concluding that Debtor was entitled to a discharge, the Court relied on its discretion under Section 727(a) to balance the magnitude of Debtor’s debts against the severity of the alleged violation of the bankruptcy laws.