40 pages' worth of claimants say Pettit owes them money

Staff writerJune 22, 2014 

Hundreds of Pettit customers and suppliers have filed claims with the bankruptcy court hoping to recover money they say the bankrupt oil company owes them.

The list of claimants now is nearly 40 pages long.

A claim is no guarantee that customers will receive any money from the court.

If Pettit’s original estimates prove correct, the company’s assets fall nearly $4 million short of covering all of its liabilities.

Deborah Crabbe, a Seattle attorney representing bankruptcy trustee Kathryn Ellis, estimated that the process of selling Pettit’s assets, recovering money that may have been inappropriately paid out before the bankruptcy filing and sorting through the claims could take two years longer.

Many of Pettit’s assets have been sold. The trustee sold several of the company’s “cardlock” commercial fueling stations to Aberdeen’s Masco Fuels. Several other fueling properties were scheduled to be sold.

Rival petroleum companies have bought trucks and other equipment.

Crabbe said she expects most of the assets will have been sold by mid-summer.

Once that phase of the bankruptcy liquidation is complete, she said, the bankruptcy will enter a second phase. In that phase, the trustee will review the company’s financial records to determine whether Pettit made payments to others in anticipation of bankruptcy that were inappropriate because they paid for goods or services that the company had not yet received.

If the trustee finds such payments, the recipients will be asked to refund the money. If they refuse, she said, lawsuits will be filed in an attempt to “claw back” those payments.

“In many cases, we’ll reach settlements because the cost of litigation is so high,” she said.

Simultaneously, those in charge of the bankruptcy will begin sorting through the hundreds of claims to determine which have priority for repayment.

In the case of home heating oil customers, each claim will have to be examined individually, Crabbe said. Their status will be determined based on when they paid their money and what they received.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@thenewstribune.com john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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