FORT LAUDERDALE -- ASTA scored a partial victory in the
long-running battle over attempts by the estate of Renaissance
Cruises to recall agent commissions for canceled cruises when the
bankruptcy court here ruled that the commissions are not the
"property" of the estate.
But that doesn't mean agents can keep the funds. As ASTA has
framed the issues in the court proceeding, the trustee is relying
on four different legal arguments to support the commission
The decision knocked out only one of them, related to a
provision in bankruptcy law that persons holding property of or
owing a debt to the estate must turn it over to the trustee.
ASTA, on behalf of Accent on Travel in Towson, Md., argued that
these provisions of bankruptcy code do not apply to commissions
that have been paid, and the court agreed.
Still to be determined, however, is whether the trustee is
entitled to reclaim the commissions on other grounds.
A key question is whether Renaissance received something of
"equivalent value" for the commissions. ASTA argued that
Renaissance received the passengers' funds and paid the commission
in a "quid pro quo."
That the line later canceled the cruise is irrelevant to the
validity of the transactions, ASTA said.
As to the question of "unjust enrichment," ASTA said the concept
doesn't apply because the agency received "exactly what it was
entitled to receive" as an agent of Renaissance.
The court ruled, however, that there are unresolved factual
issues relating to those arguments that require further
ASTA, for example, has cited case law to the effect that a
broker's commission is earned when it brings the buyer and seller
together, even if the buyer and seller fail to consummate their
But the trustee has asserted that it is standard industry
practice that "a commission is not earned until the ship