Thursday, December 18, 2008

Government Seizes 650 Park Avenue

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has filed a forfeiture proceeding against 650 Fifth Avenue in New York.

In its press release: United States files civil forfeiture action against ASSA corporation's interest in Manhattan office tower (.pdf), the DOJ claims that a 40% interest in the building is held by the ASSA Corporation which is acting as a front for Bank Melli. The Government of Iran controls Bank Melli and ownership is considered an export under the Iraninan Transaction Regulations (Title 31 CFR, part 560)


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stealing the Empire State Building

The New York Daily News tried to show that it is easy to "steal" property by filing fake deeds. The story is rather foolish, but if you want to read it: It took 90 minutes for Daily News to 'steal' the Empire State Building.

The reporters think that by filing a forged deed, they somehow could control the building and get a mortgage. Sure it is possible to try to steal money by going through this exercise. Of course you are just leaving a paper trail that makes it easy to figure out what happened and get caught. I could also jump into a car and drive off. That is stealing too.

What is wrong with the story? The property manager is unlikely to turn over the bank accounts to some unknown person just because they have a deed. Tenants are unlikely to redirect rent payments without more evidence of a transfer. A mortgage lender is not going to turn over loan proceeds based on mere deed. One reason to insert lawyers into the real estate conveyance process is to prevent scams like this.

Mortgage lenders demand lots of documentation because they try to avoid scams like this. Mortgage lenders get title insurance to protect against fraud and scams.

It was a stunt and created an interesting headline. However, someone is likely to pay a fine or go to jail for it. I am not a New York lawyer but I would guess that there is a law against filing fake documents.

Image is by David Shankbone from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tenant Allowance and Build-Out Obligations When a Tenant Files for Bankruptcy

Sutherland published a timely legal alert on what a landlord can do with a tenant allowance and tenant build-out obligations when a tenant goes bankrupt: Obtaining Relief From Tenant Allowance and Build-Out Obligations When a Tenant Files for Bankruptcy.

The alert points out that lease provisions that allow the landlord to stop completion or funding upon the tenant filing bankruptcy are largely unenforceable as ipso facto provisions under section 365(e).

The alert notes two cases which came down with different results on tenant accommodations.

In re Postle Enterprises, Inc., 48 B.R. 721, 724 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 1985) found an improvement allowance to be a financial accommodation under 11 U.S.C. § 365(c)(2),(e)(2)(B). Therefore allowing the landlord to limit its exposure.

In re United Press International, Inc., 55 B.R. 63, 66 (Bankr. D. D.C. 1985), that court found a landlord’s build-out of a tenant’s premises to a tenant’s specifications did not rise above “an ordinary lease” and as such was not a financial accommodation.

Thanks to James B. Jordan, David J. Rabinowitz and Garland L. Reid of Sutherland for putting together an alert on a topic that is on the mind of landlords.