New Light on Twyne's Case
94 American Bankruptcy Law Journal 1 (2020)
84 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2020 Last revised: 27 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 10, 2020
Twyne's Case, a 1602 English Star Chamber decision, is one of the most durable decisions of the American common law tradition. The case famously concerns fraudulent conveyance, which occurs when a debtor transfers some or all of his assets to a third party with the intent to "hinder, delay, or defraud" the debtor’s creditors. The case continues to provide judges with a test to evaluate when a transfer, even one made for good consideration, was done with the intent to defraud.
The opinion, as reported by Edward Coke, is still regularly cited in US courts. However, it turns out that the the facts that Coke reported, and the embellishments that have grown up around it, are not accurate. (Teaser: the case was not about sheep.) This article uses previously unknown trial documents to retell the the complex and surprising story behind Twyne's Case. In so doing, it also opens for further study the role, within the larger premodern credit economy, of transfers of title without transfers of possession—conveyances that have, since 1571, often been declared fraudulent.
Keywords: legal history, England, fraudulent transfer, bankruptcy, Star Chamber, fraud, credit, fraudulent conveyance, voidable transfers
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