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Express Grain Bankruptcy Court denies Examiner's request for access to discovery data

Friday, April 1, 2022, 6:59 pm News Flash Archive

At this afternoon's hearing, the bankruptcy court denied Albert Altro's request to be given access to the confidential discovery documents in the Express Grain bankruptcy case.

This is the second time where access to the data has caused controversy, the first being attorney Don Barrett's alleged leaking of confidential information from the secret documents on the Paul Gallo Show.

The court had previously appointed Mr. Altro as the Bankruptcy Examiner to investigate the circumstances in the John Coleman personal bankruptcy case. Mr. Coleman is the president of Express Grain, also now bankrupt. To see our reporting on the Altro appointment, read here: Bankruptcy Court rebukes John Coleman for "bad faith conduct" in his bankruptcy case

Kept in an electronic "data room," the confidential documents consist of a huge amount of information disclosed in confidentiality for the purposes of the 557 Final Determination Hearing, where the ownership and interests in the EG grain inventory will be hashed out starting April 18. The material contains much propriety and sensitive financial information, and under the court's protective order, it may not be disclosed to the public. Only parties and attorneys working on the 557 issues are allowed to access the data room.

Mr. Altro sought permission to gain access to the data room to advance his investigation into Mr. Coleman's activities. Altro stated that the CR3 management team at EG had already given him access. See Mr. Altro's request here: Examiner's request for data room access

Altro told the court:

To further his investigation into payments made and transfers of assets on behalf of John Coleman, the Examiner previously gained access to the Interest Data Room by contacting CR3 Partners, LLC, the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Debtor, pursuant to the directions of the Notice of Establishment of Interest Data Room.

In the interest of fulfilling his duties pursuant to the Appointment Order and 11 U.S.C. Section 1104(c) to investigate John Coleman, his assets, any and all payments made on behalf of John Coleman prepetition, and any other transfer of assets by John Coleman or on his behalf and compile and submit to the Court a report on related findings, the Examiner respectfully requests that the Court enter an order authorizing the Examiner to access the Interest Data Room solely for the purposes of conducting his investigation and preparing a report for the Court. The Examiner, his employees, agents, and counsel of record will abide by the terms of the Protective Order, including but not limited to its requirement that no parties with access to the Interest Data Room disclose any Documents as defined by the Protective Order.

EG filed a limited objection to Mr. Altro's request. It told the court:

A broad reading of the Motion could lead one to believe that the Examiner [Mr. Altro] is about to undertake an examination of this Debtor [Express Grain] - and not John Coleman - because there is a vast amount of information in the Interest Data Room that has nothing to do with the task assigned to the Examiner in the John Coleman case....

While the Debtor has no objection to the motion as a general matter, it is concerned that this investigation appears to be one of Express Grain Terminals and not of John Coleman. The Debtor does not have the funds available to undergo such an examination if it is intended.

See EG's objection here: Express Grain Limited Objection to Altro Request

UMB Bank filed a stronger objection to Mr. Altro's request. It quoted the court's order establishing the data room:

"Documents and the substantive information contained within such Documents shall not be given, shown, made available to, disclosed or communicated in any way, except to those individuals and entities with a need to access such Documents for purposes of the Section 557 Procedures and shall be limited to attorneys for, employees of, or agents of the Participating Parties."

UMB Bank continued its objection:

Examiner Albert Altro seeks access to all of this information "to investigate John Coleman, his assets, any and all payments made on behalf of John Coleman prepetition, and any other transfer of assets by John Coleman or on his behalf and compile and submit to the Court a report on related findings"....

As admitted in the Motion, the Examiner does not seek this information for an approved purpose under the Protective Order. The Examiner is not a participant in the 557 proceedings.

To ensure adequate protections for the large quantity of Documents with sensitive information, and to be consistent with the Court's prior orders, UMB respectfully requests that the Examiner be denied further access to the Interest Data Room and ordered to destroy any documents previously obtained from the Interest Data Room.

Given the sheer volume of information in the Data Room, in addition to being consistent with the Court's prior orders, UMB suggests it would be more cost effective to the John Coleman bankruptcy estate that the Examiner pursue more targeted discovery efforts that do not require broad access to all information in the Interest Data Room.

WHEREFORE, UMB requests the Court bar the Examiner from accessing the Interest Data Room in the future; order the Examiner to destroy any documents previously pulled from the Interest Data Room; and grant such other and further relief as is justified under the circumstances.

UMB Bank's objection may be seen here: UMB Bank Objection to Altro Request

Macquarie also joined in UMB Bank's objection to the request.

And so this afternoon, the court denied Mr. Altro's request for access to the data room.

 


To read all our coverage of the Express Grain bankruptcy case, see here: Index of Express Grain articles

 

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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