The act of an insolvent debtor who pays one or more creditors the full amount of their claims or a larger amount than they would be entitled to receive on a pro rata distribution.
For example, a debtor owes three creditors $5,000 each. All three are equally entitled to payment, but the debtor has only $12,000 in assets. Instead of paying each creditor $4,000, the debtor pays two creditors in full and pays the third creditor the remaining $2,000.
The common law does not condemn a preference. Some state statutes prescribe that certain transfers are void—of no legal force or binding effect—because of their preferential character. If a state antipreference provision protects any actual creditor of the debtor, the trustee in bankruptcy can take advantage of it.
Bankruptcy law does condemn certain preferences. The bankruptcy trustee can void any transfer of property of the debtor if the trustee can establish the following:
- The transfer was "to or for the benefit of a creditor."
- The transfer was made for or on account of an "antecedent debt"—that is, a debt owed prior to the time of the transfer.
- The debtor was insolvent at the time of the transfer.
- The transfer was made within 90 days before the date of the filing of the bankruptcy petition or was made between 90 days and one year before the date of the filing of the petition to an insider who had reasonable cause to believe that the debtor was insolvent at the time of the transfer.
- The transfer has the effect of increasing the amount that the transferee would receive in a liquidation proceeding under chapter 7 of the bankruptcy law (11 U.S.C.A. § 701 et seq.). 11 U.S.C.A. § 547.
Other statutory provisions, however, create exceptions; if a transfer comes within an exception, the bankruptcy trustee cannot invalidate the transfer even though the aforementioned five elements exist.
pref·er·ence / ˈpref(ə)rəns/ • n. 1. a greater liking for one alternative over another or others: a preference for long walks and tennis over jogging | he chose a clock in preference to a watch. ∎ a thing preferred: my musical preferences are blues and swing. ∎ favor shown to one person or thing over another or others: preference is given to those who make a donation.2. Law a prior right or precedence, esp. in connection with the payment of debts: debts owed to the community should be accorded a preference.