Elizabeth Warren's Legal Work

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Principles of Bankruptcy

Counsel

Amicus

Consultant

Expert Witness

Mediator

Principles of Bankruptcy

Businesses can fail for a variety of reasons—from a downturn in the economy to liability from a faulty product. Similarly, individuals can be forced into bankruptcy because of sudden job loss or unforeseen medical expenses or because they got cheated by a creditor. Bankruptcy law is about coming up with the fairest outcome possible in a difficult situation and trying to help individuals and businesses get a fresh start.

Despite the intricacies of this area of law, there are some principles that are common, particularly across business bankruptcies. For example, bankruptcy law seeks to preserve as much value as possible. Maximizing the size of the pie often includes finding ways to reorganize failing businesses under new ownership, in order to benefit everyone – workers who rely on those business staying open for their livelihoods, investors, victims of faulty products, and creditors that the business owes money. Bankruptcy law also follows the principle that the people who took the risks and who make the profits if the business succeeds (the investors and owners) should also be the ones who pay the price if the business fails.

For the bankruptcy process to work effectively, the law seeks to address all issues and include everyone – creditors, debtors, employees, victims, and even future victims who don’t yet realize they have been injured – at the same time. Addressing everything at once creates additional complexity, but it is crucial because without identifying and evaluating every possible claim at the same time, the bankruptcy system cannot hope to ensure a fair division of the debtor’s assets.

Ultimately, the core challenge of bankruptcy is that it attempts to resolve a situation that involves suffering for everyone involved. This inevitably pits sympathetic interests against each other – current victims against future victims, employees against retirees, and small suppliers against customers who didn’t get what they were promised. Bankruptcy law is about balancing all of these interests in the fairest way possible. Elizabeth was one of the nation’s top experts on how to make sure victims hurt by bankrupt companies eventually got paid. Throughout her career, she worked to help set up trusts and other mechanisms to return $27 billion to victims and their families.

Counsel

Central and Southwest Corp. v. El Paso Electric Co., No. 95-1108 (Bankr. W.D. Tex., filed 1995); El Paso Electric Co. v. Central and Southwest Corp., No. 95-1120 (Bankr. W.D. Tex., filed 1995); see also El Paso Electric Co. v. Central and Southwest Corp., Nos. 95-708, -709 (W.D. Tex., filed 1995). This was a case between two companies, one of which was bankrupt, and concerned a failed merger between them. Elizabeth represented one of the companies, and the parties eventually settled.

In re Fairchild Aircraft Corp., 184 B.R. 910 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 1995), vacated, 220 B.R. 909 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 1998). This was a tragic case, involving a plane crash that killed four people. The NTSB and a jury found that the aircraft manufacturer was not at fault. Elizabeth represented the company in a lawsuit to try to protect hundreds of jobs at the company after new investors had saved it from closing its doors and laying off its workers. In the end, the company survived and 1,000 people had jobs because of it. The bankruptcy court initially ruled against Elizabeth’s position but later vacated that decision.

In re Chateaugay Corp., 53 F.3d 478 (2nd Cir. 1995), cert. denied sub nom. LTV Steel Co., Inc. v. Shalala, 516 U.S. 913 (1995). In this case, Elizabeth represented a company that was asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that limited the ability of future employees, retirees, and victims to receive any compensation at all from bankrupt companies. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In re P.A. Bergner & Co., 187 B.R. 964 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. 1995), aff’d in part, rev’d in part sub nom. Matter of P.A. Bergner & Co., 140 F.3d 1111 (7th Cir. 1998); see also In re P.A. Bergner & Co., No. 95-1087 (E.D. Wisc., filed 1995). In this case, Elizabeth represented a well-known chain of department stores to make sure that it could stay alive and pay its creditors. Elizabeth succeeded, and the company continued to employ people across its many stores.

First Commercial Bank, N.A. v. Walker, 969 S.W.2d 146 (Ark. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 965 (1998). In this case, Elizabeth represented a small business, Aearth, after First Commercial Bank defrauded them and then sought to deprive Aearth of millions of dollars in damages it had won from the bank. The Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled in favor of the bank, so Elizabeth worked on Aearth’s effort to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In re Cajun Electric Power Cooperative, 150 F.3d 503 (5th Cir. 1998), cert. denied sub nom. Mabey v. Southwestern Electric Power Co., 526 U.S. 1144 (1999). In this case, Elizabeth represented a company that offered a plan to help save a bankrupt rural power cooperative. The company also helped defray litigation costs for some members of the cooperative. Elizabeth sought to preserve the plan to save the cooperative and the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Falise v. American Tobacco Co., 229 F.3d 1135 (2d Cir. 2000). In this case, Elizabeth represented a trust established to compensate asbestos victims against tobacco companies to get more money for asbestos victims. The combination of asbestos exposure and smoking allegedly caused many of the asbestos victims’ illnesses, and Elizabeth advocated for allowing victims to receive compensation from the tobacco companies as well. The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal.

In re Federal Communications Commission, No. 99-5063 (petition for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc, 2nd Cir. 2000). In this case, Elizabeth represented a telecommunications startup when, after it filed for bankruptcy, the F.C.C. revoked its licenses for its use of key radio frequencies, potentially causing it to suffer billions of dollars in losses. The Second Circuit ruled in favor of the F.C.C. and refused to reconsider its decision, but the Supreme Court ultimately sided with Elizabeth’s position.

Babiarz v. Bell Atlantic PA Inc., No. 000801863 (Ct. Common Pleas, Penn., filed 2000). In this case, Elizabeth represented an employee of Bell Atlantic who had not received compensation for a marketing idea that he submitted. Instead, the company credited a non-union management employee. The Pennsylvania court ruled against Elizabeth’s position.

In re National Gypsum Co., 219 F.3d 478 (5th Cir. 2000), cert. denied sub nom. NGC Settlement Trust v. National Gypsum Co., 532 U.S. 1075 (2001). In this case, Elizabeth represented a trust established to compensate asbestos victims and argued that a company had unfairly evaded paying those asbestos victims. She sought to ensure that those victims would be able to collect fair compensation from the company. The Fifth Circuit ruled against Elizabeth’s position, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Cadle Co. v. Schlichtmann, 267 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 2001). In this case, Elizabeth represented a well-known Massachusetts environmental lawyer trying to hold on to some of his earnings after he went broke fighting companies that were dumping toxic waste in Woburn. The First Circuit ruled against the lawyer.

Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Bailey, 557 U.S. 137 (2009). In this case, Elizabeth represented Travelers in order to protect a $500 million settlement for victims of asbestos poisoning that another insurance company sought to invalidate. The Boston Globe has reported that most asbestos victims were on her side during the case, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of her position.

Amicus

In re Greystone III Joint Venture, 995 F.2d 1274 (5th Cir. 1991), modified en banc, 948 F.2d 134 (5th Cir. 1992). In this case, Elizabeth submitted an amicus brief to support the owners of a small real estate company trying to hang on to their business when a major financial institution was trying to take it away from them. The Fifth Circuit ruled against Elizabeth’s position.

In re F.A.B. Industries, 147 B.R. 763 (C.D. Cal. 1992) . In this case, Elizabeth submitted an amicus brief to support the owners of a small real estate company trying to hang on to their business when a major financial institution was trying to take it away from them. The District Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

In re Piper Aircraft Corp., 58 F.3d 1573 (11th Cir. 1995). In this case, when Piper Aircraft filed for bankruptcy, Elizabeth filed an amicus brief arguing for a compensation structure that would make sure individuals who would be injured in crashes involving Piper-manufactured planes could receive payment even if those injuries occurred far into the future. The Eleventh Circuit ruled against Elizabeth’s position.

Bank of America Nat’l Trust Ass’n v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership, 526 U.S. 434 (1999). In this case, Elizabeth represented an organization of unsecured creditors in an amicus brief arguing to allow small business owners a chance to hang on to their businesses when they’re in financial trouble and the bank tries to take the business away from them. The Supreme Court ruled against Elizabeth’s position.

FCC v. NextWave Personal Communications, 537 U.S. 293 (2003). In this case, Elizabeth represented a bankrupt company’s creditors in an amicus brief. The creditors supported the company’s efforts to reorganize so it could meet its obligations and pay both the pension fund investors and the hundreds of small businesses that depended on it. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, Cybergenics Corp. v. Chinery, 330 F.3d 548 (3rd Cir. 2003). In this case, Elizabeth argued in an amicus brief that the former owner and parent company of Cybergenics, a bankrupt company, should not be able to keep earnings that they allegedly received fraudulently. Instead, Elizabeth argued that money should go to increasing the compensation available to the company’s creditors, ensuring that creditors were treated fairly in the bankruptcy process. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

 Till v. SCS Credit Corp., 541 U.S. 465 (2004). In this case, Elizabeth represented the AARP in an amicus brief to make sure that when people go broke, they have a better chance of hanging on to their car when the bank wants to take it away. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Tennessee Student Assistance Corp. v. Hood, 541 U.S. 440 (2004). In this case, Elizabeth submitted an amicus brief to support an individual seeking to obtain relief from crippling student loan debt through bankruptcy. Elizabeth argued that a state government agency should not be allowed to disregard bankruptcy laws to avoid discharging student debt. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Rousey v. Jacoway, 544 U.S. 320 (2005). In this case, Elizabeth represented the AARP in an amicus brief in an effort to protect retirement accounts from banks and other creditors who wanted to try to take them away from people who have gone broke. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006). In this case, when Wallace Bookstores filed for bankruptcy, Elizabeth submitted an amicus brief arguing that state creditors should not gain an unfair advantage over other creditors. Wallace Bookstores had tried to repay the state creditors outside of the regular bankruptcy process, and Elizabeth argued that state creditors should return that money because state creditors should not be allowed to circumvent the bankruptcy process. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Elizabeth’s position.

Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 547 U.S. 47 (2006). In this case, Elizabeth joined 39 of her fellow law professors in an amicus brief in opposition to giving military recruiters full access to law schools’ career services offices while the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy remained in place. The Supreme Court ruled against Elizabeth’s position.

MBNA America Bank v. Hill, 436 F.3d 104 (2nd Cir. 2006). In this case, Elizabeth submitted an amicus brief on the side of consumers and against a bank trying to use mandatory arbitration to bully individual debtors. After a woman filed for bankruptcy, the bank tried to collect on a consumer loan by withdrawing money from her account without her permission. Elizabeth asked the Second Circuit to reconsider its decision forcing the consumer to go to arbitration after she claimed that the bank’s actions violated bankruptcy laws. The whole Second Circuit declined to reconsider the case.

Consultant

In re A.H. Robins Co., Inc., No. 85-01307 (Bankr. E.D. Va., filed 1985). As part of its bankruptcy, IUD manufacturer A.H. Robins Co. established a $2.475 billion trust to compensate women injured by its product. In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to an organization focused on international women’s health issues to help notify women outside of the United States potentially injured by IUDs of their compensation rights.

In re Texaco Inc., No. 87-20142 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y., filed 1987). In this case, Texaco filed for bankruptcy after a contract dispute with Pennzoil over Pennzoil’s botched deal with Getty Oil yielded a $13 billion verdict. Elizabeth served as a consultant to the former directors of Getty Oil, advising them on Texaco’s bankruptcy and the settlement negotiations between Texaco and Pennzoil. Texaco and Pennzoil ultimately settled for $3 billion.

In re Dow Corning Corp., No. 95-20512 (Bankr. E.D. Mich., filed 1995). In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury from silicone breast implants who otherwise might not have received anything when Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy. Thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts, Dow Corning created a $2.35 billion fund to compensate women claiming injury from Dow Corning’s silicone breast implants. The vast majority of women with claims against Dow Corning supported the creation of this fund.

Matter of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R. Co., 78 F.3d 285 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied sub nom. CMC Heartland Partners v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 519 U.S. 805 (1997). In this case, Elizabeth advocated for the Supreme Court to review a case concerning a creditor pursuing CMC Heartland (formerly Milwaukee Road), a railroad company that had previously filed for and emerged from bankruptcy. Consistent with core principles of bankruptcy, Elizabeth argued that creditors should not be able to demand payment years after a company emerges from bankruptcy, since allowing such an action prevents companies from moving on with a fresh start and is also unfair to all other creditors who made timely claims for repayment during the bankruptcy process. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Merisel, Inc. v. Turnberry Capital Management L.P., No. CA15906 (Del. Ch., filed 1997). In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant for a group of lenders to Merisel, a company in financial distress, on a deal to help the company get back on its feet. The deal involved the lenders relieving Merisel of much of its debt in exchange for stock in the company. Merisel sued the lenders to get out of the deal and the parties ultimately settled.

Scattered Corp. v. Midwest Clearing Corp., 702 N.E.2d 167 (Ill. App. Ct. 1998). When LTV Corp. filed for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court put restrictions on the sale of old LTV stock. Elizabeth served as a consultant for Scattered Corp. to provide background on LTV Corp.’s bankruptcy reorganization and on the reorganization process generally after Scattered sued Midwest Clearing, which guaranteed trades on the Chicago Stock Exchange, for requiring the company to make large security deposits when it sold LTV stock. Scattered and Midwest Clearing reached a settlement in 1999.

Perry Judd’s Inc. v. MLP USA, Inc., No. 1999CV000459 (Wis. Cir. Ct., filed 1999). In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to the law firm representing MLP USA, Inc., a company that sold lithographic printing presses, in a breach of contract dispute with Perry Judd’s Inc., a commercial printer of magazines. The issue was whether Perry Judd’s could rescind a contract to purchase a new printing press from MLP USA. The parties ultimately settled.

A group of lawyers represented tens of thousands of asbestos victims in multiple bankruptcies. Elizabeth consulted with this group of asbestos victims’ lawyers to help the victims recover compensation for their injuries. The bankrupt companies were:

  • In re Owens Corning, No. 00-3837 (Bankr. D. Del., filed 2000) (established a $5.2 billion trust to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re Babcock & Wilcox Co., No. 00-10992 (Bankr. E.D. La., filed 2000) (established a trust worth $1.8 billion to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re Pittsburgh Corning Corp., No. 00-22876 (Bankr. W.D. Pa., filed 2000) (established a trust worth over $3.5 billion to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re Armstrong World Industries, No. 00-4471 (Bankr. D. Del., filed 2000) (established a trust worth $1.8 billion to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re W.R. Grace & Co., No. 01-1139 (Bankr. D. Del., filed 2001) (established two trusts worth $4 billion to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re G-I Holdings Inc., No. 01-30135 (Bankr. D.N.J., filed 2001) (established a trust worth $775 million to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re Federal-Mogul Global Inc., No. 01-10578 (Bankr. D. Del., filed 2001) (established two trusts worth $690 million to compensate asbestos victims);
  • In re North American Refractories Co., No. 02-20198 (Bankr. W.D. Pa., filed 2002) (established a trust worth $6.32 billion to compensate asbestos victims).

In re Enron Corp., No. 01-16034 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y., filed 2001). In this case, the Royal Bank of Canada and Rabobank entered into a series of transactions to help finance a deal to spin off an Enron subsidiary. While the deal was pending, Enron filed for bankruptcy. As a result, Rabobank became one of Enron’s creditors in its bankruptcy proceedings. Elizabeth worked as a consultant for the attorneys for Rabobank. The parties ultimately settled.

Travelers Cas. and Sur. Co. of America v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., 549 U.S. 443 (2007). In a lawsuit between Travelers and PG & E, Elizabeth participated in a moot court to help an attorney for Pacific Gas and Electric Company prepare to argue before the Supreme Court on several technical questions related to its bankruptcy and its contractual relationship with an insurance company. The Supreme Court ruled against PG&E.

Expert Witness

C.L. Hunt et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 57 T.C.M. (CCH) 919 (T.C. 1989). In this case, Elizabeth served as an expert witness to help the Tax Court calculate the taxable income for members of a large Texas family in a tax dispute. Elizabeth testified as to a hypothetical scenario about what the family members’ taxable income would have been if they had filed for bankruptcy. The Tax Court found that some of the family members had taxable income while others did not.

Matter of Briscoe Enterprises, Ltd., II, 994 F.2d 1160 (5th Cir. 1993). In this case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals brought in Elizabeth to provide her opinion as a “disinterested expert” on when the Bankruptcy Court could confirm a reorganization plan when a major creditor objects. Elizabeth provided her assessment of what a debtor must show in order to prove that a proposed reorganization plan is feasible and to have the plan confirmed. The Fifth Circuit agreed with Elizabeth’s opinion and decided that the debtor’s proposed plan could be confirmed.

Cable Advertising Networks, Inc. v. Weisbart, No. 153-158151-95 (Tex. Dist. Ct., filed 1995). In this case, while the shareholders of Cable Advertising Network were engaged in litigation to determine who legally controlled the company, Cable Advertising Network’s board chair caused the company to file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court dismissed the bankruptcy filing on the ground that the filing was merely a tactic to stall the ongoing litigation. Shortly thereafter, the company’s shareholders sued the law firm that represented the company in the bankruptcy filing because the filing had been dismissed. Elizabeth served as an expert witness, explaining that bankruptcy protections apply broadly and that the bankruptcy court was wrong to dismiss Cable Advertising Network’s filing. The shareholders and the law firm ultimately settled.

United States v. Brennan, 938 F.Supp. 1111 (E.D.N.Y. 1996), rev’d, 183 F.3d 139 (2nd Cir. 1999). Following a tragic 1987 plane crash, an insurance company and its president were convicted of mail fraud after wrongly placing the blame for the crash entirely on USAir, as opposed to assigning some of the blame to the airport security screening company. During the sentencing in this case, Elizabeth provided expert testimony focused on calculating the potential liability of the security screening company. The Second Circuit later reversed the convictions against the insurance company and its president and dismissed the indictment.

Bolin v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 97-1389 (S.D. Tex., filed 1997). In this case, Elizabeth worked as an expert witness in a consumer class action lawsuit against Sears over its aggressive debt collection practices. Two consumers, who had purchased just over $2,000 in merchandise on credit, filed for bankruptcy. Sears ultimately collected over $8,000 from the consumers and hounded them for years until they had to sell their home. Elizabeth served as an expert witness who testified that Sears’ debt collection practices violated bankruptcy laws. The parties ultimately settled.

In re Holcomb, No. 98-0729 (Bankr. N.D. Ill., filed 1998). In this case, Elizabeth served as an expert to protect an individual who filed for bankruptcy from a bank attempting to collect on a debt she believed she no longer owed. Patricia Holcomb sued Norwest Financial after she had repaid a loan from the bank to buy household carpeting. The Bankruptcy Court had discharged the debt, but Holcomb claimed that the bank tricked her into thinking she still owed them money. The Bankruptcy Court dismissed Holcomb’s lawsuit.

Cox v. Zale Delaware, No. 98-1496 (Bankr. N.D. Ill., filed 1998). In this case, a group of consumers relied on the expert report Elizabeth submitted in In re Holcomb to fight against a company that sought to trick them into paying debts they no longer owed after bankruptcy. The plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Zale Delaware claiming that Zale effectively tricked consumers that had filed for bankruptcy into paying debts that had actually been discharged. The Bankruptcy Court ruled in favor of the company and dismissed the class action.

The Loewen Group, Inc. v. United States, ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/98/3. In this case, a major company tried to circumvent the American justice system by filing an investor-state dispute settlement action against the United States. Elizabeth believed that using ISDS tilted the playing field in favor of big companies and undermined the American justice system, so she served as an expert witness to help defeat the company. As an expert at the Justice Department, Elizabeth explained how the U.S. bankruptcy system worked and what it took for businesses to emerge successfully from bankruptcy. The tribunal sided with Elizabeth’s position.

Price et al. v. Philip Morris Inc., No. 00-L-112 (Ill. Cir. Ct., filed 2000). In this case, Elizabeth served as an expert witness on behalf of victims of alleged false advertising who won a $10 billion class action judgment against Philip Morris. Philip Morris was directed to post a $12 billion bond to pursue an appeal. The company argued that the bond requirement would force it into bankruptcy, while Elizabeth argued that this was not the case. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Philip Morris.

Fuller-Austin Insulation Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., 2003 WL 25276914 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2003), aff’d in part, rev’d in part sub nom. Fuller-Austin Insulation Co. v. Highlands Insurance Co., 135 Cal.App.4th 958 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006). In this case, Elizabeth served as an expert witness to make more money available to asbestos victims when some of Fuller-Austin’s insurers refused to pay into a fund intended specifically to compensate asbestos victims. Elizabeth’s expert testimony helped secure $189 million for asbestos victims when a California jury ordered the insurers to pay into the fund. After Elizabeth’s involvement, the appeals court reversed the judgment in part, but maintained that it was necessary to ensure that all asbestos victims received compensation.

Marketing Specialists Corp. v. Mary Kay, Inc., No. 03-0095 (E.D. Tex., filed 2003). In this case, after Marketing Specialists declared bankruptcy, Elizabeth served as an expert to limit efforts by company executives at Marketing Specialists and at Mary Kay (which effectively controlled Marketing Specialists) to enrich themselves at the expense of Marketing Specialists’ employees and other creditors. The parties resolved the dispute through mediation.

Rohn Industries, Inc. v. Platinum Equity LLC, 887 A.2d 983 (Del. Super. Ct. 2005), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 911 A.2d 379 (Del. 2006). Platinum Equity LLC entered into an agreement to buy Rohn Industries, a successor company to an asbestos manufacturer that had emerged from bankruptcy, but subsequently sought to exit that agreement because of concerns that they might still end up being responsible for legal liability created by the original company’s asbestos products. Elizabeth served as an expert witness for Platinum, examining the possibility that Platinum could face such liability despite the prior bankruptcy proceeding. The Delaware court ruled against Platinum.

In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, No. 05-MD-1720 (Multidistrict, filed 2005). Elizabeth served as an expert on behalf of several merchants who had sued Visa and Mastercard, along with several banks, for violating federal antitrust laws by artificially inflating the fees that merchants pay for every credit card transaction and preventing merchants from steering customers to credit cards with lower swipe fees. This multi-year litigation is still ongoing.

MC Asset Recovery, LLC v. Southern Co., No. 06-0417 (N.D. Ga., filed 2006). In this case, Elizabeth worked to ensure that creditors were treated fairly in the bankruptcy process. After Mirant’s parent company allegedly fraudulently forced Mirant to pay it billions of dollars, pushing Mirant into bankruptcy, Elizabeth worked as an expert in order to help Mirant recover that money so that it could fully repay its creditors. The parties settled the lawsuit.

Mediator

In re Mirant Corp., No. 03-46590 (Bankr. N.D. Tex., filed 2003). Elizabeth served as a court-appointed, neutral mediator in a tax dispute between Mirant, an energy company that had filed for bankruptcy, and New York towns in which the company had operated. The towns had asked the Bankruptcy Court to compel Mirant to pay property taxes for two power plants that it owned for the years after Mirant filed for bankruptcy. Thanks to Elizabeth’s efforts, the parties reached an agreement whereby Mirant would receive refunds of overpaid taxes for certain years but would also pay unpaid property taxes to the local governments.