Burton R. Lifland, a U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York whose 34 years on the bench included unwinding Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and changing how asbestos liability is treated, has died. He was 84.
He died of pneumonia on Jan. 12 in New Haven, Connecticut, the New York Times reported, citing his son, Craig.
Major bankruptcies overseen by Lifland included those of Johns Manville Corp., LTV Corp., Eastern Airlines, R.H. Macy & Co., Bethlehem Steel Corp., Bear Stearns Structured Funds and Lomas Financial Corp., according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.
A day after his death, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York upheld one of his most important decisions in the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities Inc.
In 2011, Lifland approved the largest single recovery by Madoff trustee Irving Picard, a $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of the late Jeffry M. Picower, who ran funds that fed Madoff’s business. The settlement was contingent on an injunction barring Madoff victims from suing Picower’s estate.
Lifland approved the injunction, a ruling upheld in March 2012 in Manhattan federal court and again yesterday by the appeals court.
His work on Johns Manville produced a structure that Congress later adopted for companies to shed liability for asbestos personal-injury claims.
Rather than allowing an asbestos maker off the hook for causing cancer deaths, Lifland’s Manville structure let companies remain in business to provide greater recoveries than asbestos victims would get if the business were liquidated for an inability to forestall future claims.
Lifland was considered one of the leading U.S. authorities on cross-border bankruptcy and was one of the drafters of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code’s Chapter 15, which governs multinational cases.
Burton Raymond Lifland was born on Sept. 30, 1929, in Brooklyn, according to the Times. He received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in 1951 and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 1954. He worked in private practice until his appointment to the bench in 1980.
When a special bankruptcy appeals panel was convened in New York between 1996 to 2000, he served as its chief judge.
Survivors include his wife, Elaine; two sons, Howard and Craig; five grandchildren and a great-grandchild, according to the court.