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In re Hydrocarbon Chemicals Inc.

decided: March 13, 1969.

IN THE MATTER OF HYDROCARBON CHEMICALS, INC. AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES BERKELEY SHORE ESTATES, HYSPEC CONTAINER CORPORATION, BURLINGTON DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, INC., HYDROCARBON REALTY DEVELOPMENT CO., INC., LANOKA INVESTMENT CORP., LANOKE HARBOR LAND COMPANY, INC., ALL NEW JERSEY CORPORATIONS, DEBTORS. LEO NEIWIRTH, ESQUIRE, APPELLANT IN NO. 16787, SAMUEL S. STARR, ESQUIRE, MEYER WEINBERG, ESQUIRE, AND EDWIN FRADKIN, ESQUIRE, APPELLANTS IN NO. 16788


Reargued November 26, 1968.

Hastie, Chief Judge, and Kalodner, Ganey, Freedman, Seitz, Van Dusen, Aldisert and Stahl, Circuit Judges. Freedman, Circuit Judge (concurring). Seitz, Circuit Judge (concurring). Hastie, Chief Judge, with whom Aldisert and Stahl, Circuit Judges, Join, dissenting.

Author: Ganey

Opinion OF THE COURT

GANEY, Circuit Judge.

The appellants here are claiming compensation for services allegedly beneficial to the bankrupt estate rendered as attorneys for the debtor. Robert Friedlander who, for reasons not relevant here, was denied all compensation in connection with the proceedings, filed a petition under Chapter XI and, as counsel for the debtor, employed Leo Neiwirth, Samuel S. Starr, Meyer Weinberg and Edwin Fradkin as his counsel in connection therewith. At the inception of the proceedings under Chapter XI, Harry A. Margolis was appointed receiver on the 10th day of July, 1963, and filed a bond in the sum of $100,000. Paragraph 8 of the order provides: "Said Receiver be and he is hereby authorized to operate the businesses and manage the property of said Debtors until the further order of the Court." Paragraph 9 thereof provides: "That without in any way limiting the generality of the foregoing, said Receiver shall have full power and authority under the further order of this Court * * * (g) * * * to do such other acts in the continuance of the business and preservation of same as he shall deem for the best interests of this estate and its creditors."

On the same day, July 10, 1963, the court empowered the receiver to retain the firm of Kleinberg, Moroney & Masterson as his attorneys. In the petition for their appointment, dated July 10, 1963, it was represented by the receiver, paragraph 3, "That he has selected the aforesaid firm of Kleinberg, Moroney & Masterson because said attorneys are known to him to be experienced and thoroughly competent to perform their duties as attorneys to your petitioner in the administration of the estate of the above named Debtors." In a petition dated July 19, 1963, in paragraph 3 thereof, "Said firm of Kleinberg, Moroney & Masterson did thereupon enter upon the performance of their duties as attorneys for your petitioner, but your petitioner subsequently ascertained that the intricacies and complexities of the corporate structures and the affairs and transactions of the Debtors require that your petitioner be authorized to retain the services of an additional attorney so that he will have the benefit of Co-Attorneys in the within proceeding."

In paragraph 5, the petitioner stated, "That he has selected the aforesaid firms of Kleinberg, Moroney & Masterson and Crummy, Gibbons & O'Neill because said attorneys are known to him to be experienced and thoroughly competent to perform their duties as Attorneys to your petitioner in the administration of the estate of the above named Debtors." This order appointing additional counsel was entered on the 19th day of July, 1963.

On the 19th day of July, 1963, the receiver presented a petition to the court to appoint an accountant "to conduct certain audits and investigations in connection with the business of the debtor corporations, their books and records." and on that date, Pogash & Co. was appointed as accountant to assist in the preparation of their work. At no time during the Chapter XI proceeding did any of the appellants employed by counsel for the debtor, Robert Friedlander, receive the approval of the court even though, as has been indicated, the receiver had retained two firms as co-counsel for the receiver, as well as an accountant to aid in the proceedings.

After some five months of futile attempts to reorganize the situation under Chapter XI, all proceedings thereunder were abandoned and a petition to proceed solely under Chapter X was filed. The services which had been performed by the appellants, counsel to the counsel for the debtor, were in good part used in the Chapter X proceeding, although a trustee and counsel were likewise appointed under the Chapter X proceeding.

We would deny compensation on the ground alone that there is no provision in the Bankruptcy Act for paying more than one fee to counsel for the debtor, nor is there any provision in the Act for employment of other counsel for the counsel for the debtor unless he compensates them himself. Here, there was no necessity whatsoever for counsel for the debtor employing counsel without the approval of the court when he was not a debtor in possession and there was a receiver who, as has been indicated, employed as co-counsel two reputable firms of lawyers, as well as an accountant, and later a trustee was appointed with counsel, since the work performed by the counsel to the counsel for the debtor in connection with the proceedings was the work properly of counsel for such receiver and such trustee. The work of eliminating the tax lien here was clearly the work of the counsel for the receiver and his counsel under Chapter XI, as well as the work of the trustee and his counsel, since it was in aid of the proper administration of the estate, looking to its preservation and clearly within the powers of the receiver and trustee under the orders of the court.

Furthermore, counsel for the counsel for the debtor never secured court approval for their services allegedly beneficial to the estate in the Chapter X proceeding and at the close thereof, Starr, Weinberg and Fradkin, the appellants, presented their bill to the counsel for the debtor and upon not being paid then presented their bill to the court for their services rendered. It seems that the appellants here were under the impression that they were to be paid by the counsel for the debtor since he presented a bill for $125,000 for his services and a scrutiny of the record shows that a far greater portion of the services performed were done by the appellants than by counsel for the debtor. In effect, during the Chapter X proceedings, the services which had been performed under the Chapter XI proceedings and were used in the Chapter X proceedings by the appellants rendered them at least de facto counsel for the trustee and as such they were acting without the approval of the court, which is required under a Chapter X proceedings. This is most essential in order that the court may know the type of individual who is engaged in the proceeding, their integrity their experience in connection with work of this type, as well as their competency concerning the same. In so doing, they were, in effect, operating under General Order 44 in Bankruptcy.*fn1 It is well-settled that unless counsel have been approved by the court, though their services were of value to the court in a Chapter X proceeding, they must be denied compensation. This Court, speaking through Judge Maris, in In re National Tool & Mfg. Co., 209 F.2d 256, 257, stated as follows: "It is clear that General Order 44 applies to reorganization proceedings under Chapter X of the Bankruptcy Act. It is equally clear that Mr. Mode was not appointed as an attorney for the trustees of the debtor in the manner required by General Order 44. It is settled that under these circumstances an attorney may not be compensated out of the debtor's estate even though he may have rendered valuable services to the trustees. It follows that the district court was without authority to make the order appealed from." In In re Progress Lektro Shave Corp., 2 Cir., 117 F.2d 602, the court stated, in denying compensation to counsel: "There is no question but that the appellant acted throughout in good faith and a denial to him of compensation is a harsh conclusion. However, the law is unquestionably settled that the order of the district court was correct." Gochenour v. Cleveland Terminals Building Co., 6 Cir., 142 F.2d 991, 993, cert. denied 323 U.S. 767, 65 S. Ct. 120, 89 L. Ed. 614; Albers v. Dickinson, 8 Cir., 127 F.2d 957; Beecher v. Leavenworth State Bank, 9 Cir., 184 F.2d 498; In re Pedisich, D.C., 103 F. Supp. 199; In re Robertson, 4 F.2d 248 (3rd Cir.).

That the gaining of the necessary approval of the court was a requisite, there can be no doubt, since the final sentence of Section 328 of the Bankruptcy Act, 11 U.S.C., states: "Upon the filing of such amended petition, or of such creditors' petition, and the payment of such additional fees as may be required to comply with section 132 of this Act, such amended petition or creditors' petition shall thereafter, for all purposes of Chapter X of this Act, be deemed to have been originally filed under this chapter." (Emphasis supplied.) It is obvious that the language of this section is explicit, plain and unambiguous and the appellants, experienced attorneys, as attorneys for the debtor, knowing that the matter was in a Chapter X proceeding, should have in this proceeding likewise sought the approval of the court for the services which were to be utilized as the basis for the plan to be approved under Chapter X since their fees were to come out of the fund realized under the Chapter X proceeding.

It cannot be stressed too strongly here that, while the result reached is, as has been indicated above, "a harsh conclusion", nevertheless, counsel who have performed services, especially under Chapter X of this proceeding, should seek the approval of the court for otherwise, as counsel for the debtor, the court has no control whatsoever over them and it is imperative that their competency, experience and integrity ...


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