Archive for January, 2010

Heller Ehrman Art Up For Sale at Bonham’s

A faithful reader and ex-Heller employee from San Diego (who is still without employment!), alerted us to the next sale of artwork from Heller Ehrman LLP taking place at Bonham’s in San Francisco on 8 February 2010.

Here is a link to the catalog with all 340 lots and while looking through the works I was able to remember some of my favorites from the San Francisco office.  I also see several Dale Chihuly works which, I assume, were in the Heller Seattle office.

Some works just are begging to be bought and I am seriously thinking that either a visit to San Francisco is in order (I have a thing for paddles – auction paddles that is!) or I might sign up to bid over the phone.

And other works just seem to describe what transpired at Heller, don’t they?

Dogma, 1999
Brian Burke (Canadian, born 1952)

“Ha ha ha! And you should have seen the employees’ reaction when we just shut that mother down!”

Natural Ziggurat, 2004
Yvonne Domenge (Mexican, born 1946)

“The proverbial Heller screw”

Lover of Time, 2000
Stephanie Frostad (American, born 1965)

“Hmmmmm, I wonder what the little people from Heller are doing today . . .”

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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Signifigance of New Schedule E Filing

I’ve received the following information from Blum Collins regarding why claim amounts  may have changed for some ex-Hellerites with the Amended Schedules Filing a few weeks ago.

Some folks have raised questions concerning the significance of the new Schedule E that the Heller Ehrman estate filed on about December 11, 2009, especially how it came to be that the priority amount for some employees was reduced even though the total amount available for priority payments went up.

The Blum|Collins lawyers have been in contact with Alexa Morgan, who was at Manatt until January 1, 2010 and who is continuing to advise Heller on labor law issues. Alexa has investigated the changes in Schedule E through conversations with the in-house person at Heller who made the changes. Here is what we have learned:

  • The new Schedule E was prepared and filed in order that the revised calculations are in compliance with the Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”). Most employees benefited in minor amounts from one global change, but three categories of employees may have been adversely affected by other changes.
  • First, on a positive note, the original Schedule E was prepared using December 28, 2008 (the bankruptcy filing date) as the cut off date for calculating the 180-day priority period. The Code allows that the cut-off date be the earlier of a) the last day Heller did business or b) the date of filing. The last day Heller did business was October 31, 2008 so the 180 day priority period was moved back. This change slightly benefited most Heller employees.
  • The first category of employees whose priority amount may have decreased are those who continued to work at Heller beyond October 31, 2009 (the last date Heller did business) to assist with the wind down and were paid wages that were earned before October 31 but paid after that date. The effect of these payments is to reduce the amount of the priority portion of the wage claim by the amounts paid on account of the priority portion actually paid. In addition the claims of retained employees were adjusted to accurately reflect pre-petition vacation used or paid after Heller ceased doing business. The precise calculations are more complicated than this description, but this is the substance of what happens.
  • The second category of potentially adversely affected employees are those who have sabbatical claims. Heller originally treated all sabbatical claims as priority claims but it since has learned that only sabbatical amounts that vested within 180 days of October 31, 2008 are entitled to priority status. That is consistent with the Blum|Collins construction of the Code. That change could have a significant impact on a few employees with accrued but unused sabbatical.
  • A few number of employees are in a third group that may have had small changes in their priority amounts because of the way in which claims for wage priorities integrate with claims for pension plan priorities. The Blum|Collins lawyers have not attempted to get to the bottom of this because of their understanding that not many employees are affected and that the priority amounts involved are relatively small.

The Blum|Collins lawyers will try to get more information for anyone whose priority amount was significantly reduced after you have tested the reduction against this additional information. Heller’s interest and ours is identical:  that all employees be paid what they are owed under the Bankruptcy Code and our settlement, so we will keep pushing to make sure that is happening.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee


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Remember the words of Rev. Frank Scott (Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure):

". . . sitting on our butts is not going to help us either. Maybe by climbing out of here, we can save ourselves. If you've got any sense, you'll come along with us."

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Last Modified: September 14, 2008

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