- Law firms
- Robert Drain has been on the bench for almost 20 years
- Judge says retirement makes ‘sense’ right now
- Supervision of Purdue, Sears and Hostess Brands bankruptcies
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September 28 – A popular judge among attorneys who like to bring their complicated Chapter 11 cases to him will retire next year, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York said on Tuesday.
U.S. bankruptcy judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York, who recently oversaw on how to file bankruptcy of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and approved controversial legal protections for members of the Sackler family who owned the business, will retire June 30, 2022. Prior to joining the bench in 2002, he was a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
The judge retires eight years before the expiration of his mandate.
“When I retire in June, I will have been on the bench for 20 years and turned 65, so the timing seemed logical,” Drain said in an email to Reuters.
In addition to Purdue, Drain has overseen a number of notable Chapter 11 cases, including Sears Holdings Corp, Hostess Brands Inc, Windstream Holdings Inc, Frontier Airlines, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Reader’s Digest.
In 2019, he chaired two Chapter 11 cases that were resolved in less than 24 hours: clothing retailer FullBeauty Brands Operations LLC and technology company Sungard Availability Services Capital Inc.
For many years, Drain was the sole judge sitting in the White Plains division of New York’s Southern District Bankruptcy Court. This allowed companies that wanted Drain to oversee their bankruptcy to file their cases specifically with White Plains, where they could be sure it would be attributed to him.
Many judges who oversee large and complex Chapter 11 cases endorse legal protections known as third party releases for officers, directors, owners, and others related to the bankrupt company against future litigation relating to the company. Drain has come under fire for his role in the high-profile Purdue case in light of the releases he approved for members of the Sackler family in return for their $ 4.5 billion contribution to a settlement trust. The Sacklers have been accused by many states, municipalities and individuals of fueling the national opioid crisis by pushing Purdue to aggressively market OxyContin while downplaying the risk of abuse and overdose.
The tendency to file complicated bankruptcies before judges who lawyers say will be favorable to their interests has prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation to ban the practice.
Drain was known among some lawyers for an almost encyclopedic knowledge of bankruptcy law which he whimpered in court hearings. He also sometimes used colorful language or lost patience with lawyers if he felt their arguments were a waste of time. He has previously described the criticisms of former Sears chairman Edward Lampert, who he said compared Lampert to a ruthless thief baron and blown sitcom character as “significant verbal abuse.”
Drain received his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1979 and his JD from Columbia University School of Law in 1984.
The judge is currently an assistant professor at Pace University School of Law and was previously an assistant professor in the LLM in Bankruptcy Program at St. John’s University School of Law.
Drain is also Chairman of the Bankruptcy Judges Advisory Group established by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and a member of the American College of Bankruptcy. He wrote a novel, “The Great Work in the United States of America”.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Judge Drain.
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