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John Coleman refuses to answer questions at creditors meeting

Wednesday, December 29, 2021, 3:16 pm News Flash Archive

All the while that the Express Grain bankruptcy saga has been ongoing, EG's president John Coleman has also been waging his own bankruptcy case.

But at the bankruptcy creditors meeting of November 24, 2021, Mr. Coleman's attorney, Craig Geno, informed the presiding official, Ms. Abigail Marbury, that Mr. Coleman would not answer any questions from the creditors or their attorneys.

Ms. Marbury reported in the official record, the following:

Debtor [John Coleman] filed a voluntary Motion to Dismiss approximately 6 minutes before the convening of the meeting of creditors. Debtor's counsel made clear that Debtor would not answer any questions and requested that the meeting be continued. In light of the refusal to answer questions, and the pending Motion to Dismiss, the UST has continued the meeting of creditors.

The official minutes of the creditors meeting in Mr. Coleman's personal bankruptcy case may be seen here: Proceedings of the Creditors Meeting

As can be seen, both Mr. Coleman and his attorney attended the meeting, but Mr. Coleman was not questioned. Normally at such a meeting, the creditors are permitted to question the bankrupt debtor, and to discuss ways in which they might be paid at least some of what is owed to them.

Also present were Jacob Jenkins, representing Dr. Michael Coleman, John Coleman's father and co-owner of Express Grain.

Three attorneys representing the largest creditor, UMB Bank, also attended. UMB claims debts around $70 million owed by Express Grain.

Attorneys representing production lenders Bank of Commerce and Southern Ag Credit also attended. These creditors have liens on the crops that were financed by the farmers with crop loans.

Several dozen farmers who are owed money were also represented by their attorneys.

Indeed, Mr. Coleman's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the bankruptcy case just minutes before the scheduled time for the creditors meeting. That motion to dismiss may be seen here: Motion to Dismiss Coleman bankruptcy case

Coleman's attorney states that pursing the case is not "affordable" to Mr. Coleman because his previous salary has been eliminated.

Although Coleman claims that he has very few creditors, a review of his filing listing the creditors shows they have claims of almost $69 million against him. That bankruptcy schedule may be seen here: Individual Debtor's Schedules

In all, John Coleman claims he owns assets worth $613,334.22. The value of his interest in Express Grain (of which he owns .77%) is listed as "unknown."

As to his debts at the time of the bankruptcy filing, Coleman lists $186,884.00 as debt owed by him to Express Grain. These appear in other filings to be mostly personal credit card charges Coleman placed on a company credit card, and which he would repay to EG from time to time.

But John Coleman's largest listed creditor is UMB Bank, with claims of almost $69 million. These debts are said to be shared with others, presumably Express Grain itself.

Many of the creditors in the Express Grain bankruptcy have filed objections to Coleman's motion to drop his bankruptcy case. These objections may be seen here:

Farmers Objection to Dismissal

Production Lenders Objection to Dismissal

MS Department of Agriculture Objection to Dismissal

The Farmers basically assert that Mr. Coleman has "converted corporate assets to his own personal use" before the bankruptcy was filed. In addition, they assert the right to question Coleman at a creditors meeting, since he refused to answer questions at the first attempt to hold such a meeting. They also express concern that Coleman may still be involved in the management of Express Grain, and that Express Grain has a duty to pursue possible claims against Coleman.

Left unsaid and unasked is the question of how Express Grain would pursue possible claims against John Coleman, when both Express Grain and Coleman are represented by the same attorney.

The Production Lenders focus on their claim that Coleman has not listed all his creditors, and that bankruptcy law, they claim, does not permit him to dismiss his bankruptcy at this time. They assert that dismissal of Coleman's bankruptcy case is not in the best interest of the creditors.

As for the MS Department of Agriculture and Commerce, it asserts that:

The Department has reason to believe that the Debtor, John Coleman, acting for and on behalf of Express Grain Terminals, LLC, Case No. 21-11832-SDM, submitted documentation to the Department which was materially false, the extent and details of which cannot be disclosed at this time, with regard to the Department's issuance of its current Grain Warehouse License.

MDAC concludes:

It is in the best interest of creditors and parties in interest, including the Department, that the Court maintain jurisdiction over John Coleman and all possible assets of the Debtor.

As of this afternoon, the bankruptcy judge has not ruled on Coleman's motion to dismiss his case. Instead, a hearing on the matter has been set for Thursday, January 6, 2022.

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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