The Hon. Robert E. Littlefield, Jr., Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Norther District of New York has denied Joseph J. O'Hara a bankruptcy discharge. In re O'Hara, NDNY Bk #08-12108; AP #09-90055; decision April 18, 2011.
The debtor, who holds both a law degree and MPA from Cornell, has been involved with two dozen different businesses and non-profits in the past thirty years. The plaintiffs in the discharge lawsuit were individuals who were creditors to the tune of $1.25 Million. The Chapter 7 trustee also intervened, joining the request for discharge to be denied.
The Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, based on bankruptcy Code Sect. 727(a)(3), on the grounds that the debtor, a sophisticated business person, failed to maintain adequate records of his business dealings. "The Debtor is not your average wage earner. . . . A simple finding that bthe Debtor 'was engaged in business pre-petition' woulkd be a gross understatement: the defendant has owned or managed at least two mu;lti-million dollar operations." Decision, pg. 15.
The court outlined the case law requiring debtors to maintain records and disclose information to creditors during the bankruptcy process. The description of the facts runs several pages, but the court was particularly irritated by the debtor's attitude in refusing to answer certain questions. Citing one deposition in the decision (pg 7), the debtor refused to answer a question this way: "Q: did you send this email, which is Exhibit 5? A: Let me take the words one at a time. I'm not going to answer any questions about that. Are there any of those that you don't understand?". Apparently the debtor was pleading the Fifth Amendment, in regard to an alleged $150,000 payment of a debt to an off-shore gambling business.