Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When is a debtor's transfer of property fraudulent under TUFTA?


TUFTA section 24.005(a) provides that a transfer made or obligation incurred by a debtor is fraudulent as to a creditor, whether the creditor's claim arose before or within a reasonable time after the transfer was made or the obligation was incurred, if the debtor made the transfer or incurred the obligation (1) with actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud any creditor of the debtor; or (2) without receiving a reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the transfer or obligation, and the debtor: (a) was engaged or was about to engage in a business or a transaction for which the remaining assets of the debtor were unreasonably small in relation to the business or transaction; or
(b) intended to incur, or believed, or reasonably should have believed the debtor would incur, debts beyond the debtor's ability to pay as they became due. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann § 24.005(a)(1), (2) (West 2009).
The judgment creditor has the burden to prove the fraudulent transfer by a preponderance of the evidence. Walker v. Anderson, 232 S.W.3d 899, 913 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2007, no pet.); G.M Houser, Inc. v. Rodgers, 204 S.W.3d 836, 842 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2006, no pet.). It is the creditor's burden to offer evidence addressing the elements of fraudulent transfer as to each transfer. Walker, 232 S.W.3d at 913; G.M Houser, 204 S.W.3d at 843.
“Ordinarily, whether the transfer was made with the actual intent to defraud creditors is a fact question.” Walker, 232 S.W.3d at 914. Direct proof of a fraudulent intent is often unavailable, so circumstantial evidence may be used to prove fraudulent intent. Id.; G.M. Houser, 204 S.W.3d at 842; Mladenka v. Mladenka, 130 S.W.3d 397, 405 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, no pet.). TUFTA section 24.005(b) sets out a non-exclusive list of “badges of fraud” to be considered in determining whether a transfer was made with actual intent to defraud. Walker, 232 S.W.3d at 914; G.M. Houser, 204 S.W.3d at 842. They include:

(1) the transfer or obligation was to an insider;

(2) the debtor retained possession or control of the property transferred after the transfer;

(3) the transfer or obligation was concealed;

(4) before the transfer was made or obligation was incurred, the debtor had been sued or threatened with suit;

(5) the transfer was of substantially all the debtor's assets;

(6) the debtor absconded;

(7) the debtor removed or concealed assets;

(8) the value of the consideration received by the debtor was reasonably equivalent to the value of the asset transferred or the amount of the obligation incurred;

(9) the debtor was insolvent or became insolvent shortly after the transfer was made or the obligation was incurred;

(10) the transfer occurred shortly before or shortly after a substantial debt was incurred; and

(11) the debtor transferred the essential assets of the business to a lienor who transferred the assets to an insider of the debtor.

Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann § 24.005(b). Under TUFTA, “reasonably equivalent value” is defined as including, “without limitation, a transfer or obligation that is within the range of values for which the transferor would have sold the assets in an arm's length transaction.” Id. § 24.004. Value is determined as of the date of the transfer. Mladenka, 130 S.W.3d at 407.

An individual badge of fraud is not conclusive but a concurrence of many badges of fraud in the same case can make a strong case of fraud. See G.M. Houser, 204 S.W.3d at 843; see also Tex. Sand Co. v. Shield, 381 S.W.2d 48, 53 (Tex. 1964). While evidence of a transfer to an insider is one factor to consider in determining actual intent to defraud, that fact alone does not support a conclusion the transfer constitutes a fraudulent transfer. See G.M. Houser, 204 S.W.3d at 843. Fraudulent intent is deduced from facts and circumstances that “the law considers as mere badges of fraud and not fraud per se,” so “these must be submitted to the trier of fact, which draws the inference as to the fairness or fraudulent characterization of the transaction.” Flores v. Robinson Roofing & Const. Co., Inc., 161 S.W.3d 750, 755 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2005, pet. denied).

SOURCE: DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS - 05-10-01510-CV - 5/8/2012

Doyle did not present any evidence contesting the value of KBI's Ford F-150, Dodge Dakota, or its computer, office furniture, and equipment. She also failed to present evidence regarding the value, if any, of KBI's goodwill, or that any goodwill of KBI was transferred to Elegant without reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the transfer or obligation. As the fact finder, the trial court was the judge of the weight and credibility of Bains's testimony, so we defer to the trial court's determination. After reviewing the evidence under the appropriate standards of review, we conclude the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's findings that Bains did not conspire with Elegant or engage in any fraudulent transfer to Elegant. We overrule Doyle's first issue.

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