Random Thoughts on Reform

posted by Michelle Harner

I just finished discussing the “random walk” theory in my Corporate Finance class, so I thought I would close out my stint on Credit Slips with some “random thoughts” on reform.

First, two expressions of sincere gratitude: I want to thank Bob Lawless and everyone at Credit Slips for the opportunity to blog about reform these past two weeks. It has been great fun. I also would like to thank the many practitioners, judges, financial advisors, academics, and industry groups who participated in the ABI Commission reform study process. Everyone made a meaningful contribution to the project. 

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Bankruptcy Valuations: A Pair of Modest Proposals

posted by Adam Levitin

I want to take up Michelle Harner's call for "innovation and new approaches to valuation". Valuation may well be the most important issue in bankruptcy, and it is also the issue that is least subject to meaningful judicial review. Imagine a Court of Appeals trying to parse through discounted cash flow models or what are proper comparables. The lack of meaningful appellate review makes it all the more important that we get valuation right. 

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Valuations: A Pair of Modest Proposals" »

To Hedge or Not to Hedge

posted by Stephen Lubben

Much is being made of American Airlines' "bold" decision to avoid hedging its fuel costs.

I fully believe that corporations engage in way too much hedging, mostly to the benefit of big financial institutions. But let's be clear, a just out of bankruptcy counterparty is not going to be doing a lot of swaps deals anyway.

The Art of Valuation

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_247765387Anyone who has ever litigated a valuation issue knows that valuation is more art than science. Experts often arrive at widely divergent valuations. Yet, these valuations are of the same company, for the same time period, based on the same data, and often invoke the same model. How then can the valuations be so different and, more importantly, which expert is right? Valuations of course can vary for a number of reasons, including different assumptions and inputs, and sometimes because of the methodology itself. But as one of my very astute students in Corporate Finance recently pointed out, valuations also likely differ because of the legal position (he actually used the term "self-interest") of the party employing the expert and offering the particular valuation into evidence.

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Second-Liens and the Leverage Option

posted by Adam Levitin

Susan Wachter and I have a new (short!) paper up on SSRN. It's called Second-Liens and the Leverage Option, and is about the curious absence of negative pledge clauses in US home mortgages, which enabled enormous amounts of second-lien leverage (much more than anyone realized) during the housing bubble. We have a very simple, narrowly tailored legislative fix that should make additional mortgage leverage via junior liens a bargained-for matter between the borrower and the senior lienholder(s), rather than an absolute right of the borrower. 

Abstract is below the break:

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Deflate Gate and Bankruptcy Reform

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_246224011People (and institutions) like rules that give them a competitive edge. You need only to look at the recent headlines and the media coverage of “Deflate Gate” to understand this basic concept. Reportedly, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and other quarterbacks lobbied the NFL to allow each team to supply its own set of footballs for use by that team’s quarterback during games. Note—I am not suggesting ill motive on the part of either Brady or Manning (or the others).  Although I never played quarterback, I can understand a quarterback’s desire to select personally his own game-day equipment. 

How does any of this relate to chapter 11 reform? To answer that question, ask yourself a different one: Do you like how chapter 11 currently resolves your client’s key issues in most instances? If you answered “yes,” you likely see no reason for reform. If you answered “no,” you likely would favor reform, but perhaps only those aspects of reform beneficial to your client. Therein lies the ever-present dilemma for policymakers:  implementing the best policy for the overall federal bankruptcy system in the midst of so much noise.

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The Melting Ice Cube Fallacy

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_216629227Can a company really melt? Putting aside a business with a perishable product or inventory, does management really wake up one morning and say, “Wow, if we do not sell this company in 30 days or less, we will lose significant value for our stakeholders.” I highly doubt it. Rather, I think a company “melts” because management leaves the freezer door open too long, or perhaps a particular stakeholder has its foot in the door. (For a thoughtful article on the melting ice cube issue, see here.) 

If the Code simply did not permit expedited sales, what would happen? Could it be that the possibility of an expedited sale with all of the bells and whistles of a confirmed plan enables management and senior creditors either to delay the chapter 11 filing or to manufacture urgency? From my perspective, this question is the central difficulty with section 363 going concern sales. A company should be able to reorganize through a value-maximizing sale in chapter 11. But those sales should not include quick fire sales that offer little opportunity for a robust auction or the need to use chapter 11 tools to enhance value in that auction. Chapter 7 is already well suited for such fire sales.

Continue reading "The Melting Ice Cube Fallacy" »

Why? Why?

posted by Stephen Lubben

I'm totally with this guyHershey's move to keep British Cadbury's products out of the US is un-American. Anyone who has tasted the British version of Cadbury's knows that it's a far superior product.

But what's the bankruptcy angle? After all, this is still a bankruptcy blog ... broadly defined.C Bar

Well look at the Times article about this scandal:  it seems that the agreement between Hershey's and Cadbury, and Hershey's rather aggressive enforcement of the same, is apt to drive a few small businesses into bankruptcy.

That really seems un-American.

(Ok cynics, have at it.)

Rethinking “Small” Business Bankruptcies

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_228943780It may surprise some, but approximately 90% of all chapter 11 debtors have less than $10 million in assets or liabilities, less than $10 million in annual revenues, and 50 or fewer employees (see data on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the ABI Commission Report, here). These companies are the heart of chapter 11. Nevertheless, most of the media and caselaw coverage discusses only the megacases—e.g., Caesars, American Airlines, Tribune Company, etc.—representing approximately 2-3% of chapter 11 debtors. It is time to change the focus of the conversation.

When a small business closes its doors, an entire community feels the impact. Consider the following description of the ripple effects of the closing of a small mine in Lincoln County, Montana:

In addition to the workers and families directly impacted by the loss of jobs, the ripple effects of the loss of that income will impact local businesses at every level. Restaurants, stores and other shops depend upon local consumers to keep themselves afloat, the dollars that are paid to those employees find their way into the hands of a number of additional places, keeping a small local economy alive.  (Full story here.)

Similar stories occur most everyday in towns across America (see, e.g., here).

Continue reading "Rethinking “Small” Business Bankruptcies" »

Shockingly, They Are Hypocrites – Just Like Everyone Else

posted by Stephen Lubben

As Germany vs. Greece, and Germany vs. the EU Southern and Western edges, heats up yet again, some important historical context, over at Spiegel.

Businesses Need Certainty; Distressed Businesses Need It Even More

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_179420726The general counsel of a financially distressed company calls you.  She of course clearly states that her company does not need to file a chapter 11 case, but she is curious to understand how a chapter 11 case might work for her company.  Specifically, she wants to know: Can the company continue to use intellectual property it licenses and has integrated into its business operations?  Will some or all of the company’s existing shareholders be able to retain their ownership if they contribute to the company’s reorganization?  If the company decides to pursue a sale, can the company sell its assets free and clear of all claims?  Will she and the company’s other executives be released from any alleged liability if the company confirms a plan of reorganization?  What if the company reorganizes through a going concern sale instead?

All very astute questions, to which you will likely have to answer, “it depends.”  It depends primarily on where the company files its chapter 11 case.  These and other key issues in chapter 11 are subject to splits in the case law that create uncertainty and increase costs.  The splits require companies (and their creditors) to perform extensive jurisdictional analyses of issues likely to be important in any chapter 11 case.  Not surprisingly, one jurisdiction may be favorable on one issue, with another jurisdiction more favorable (or silent) on a different, equally critical issue. 

Continue reading "Businesses Need Certainty; Distressed Businesses Need It Even More" »

Let’s Not Just Create Jobs, Let’s Save Them, Too

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_120243664In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama talked a lot about job creation. I am all for growing the economy and creating more U.S. jobs, but I also am for saving jobs and keeping people employed at U.S. companies, even if those companies fall upon hard financial times. Strikingly, approximately 18,500 people lost their jobs when Hostess closed its doors; 34,000 people lost their jobs when Circuit City suffered the same fate; and over 9,900 people were let go as a result of four casinos in Atlantic City closing in the past twelve months.

It is undeniable that chapter 11 changes people’s lives. It can save an employee’s job, continue a customer relationship for a vendor, and preserve a tenant for a landlord. It also can, however, devastate all of these relationships in what feels like a nanosecond—relationships that many people rely on to support their families or their own business operations. As I suggested in an earlier post, I believe that the human face of chapter 11 often gets lost in all of the noise concerning the rate of return to creditors, disputes among institutional creditors, and whether a company should be sold quickly, or at all, through the chapter 11 process.

Continue reading "Let’s Not Just Create Jobs, Let’s Save Them, Too" »

Little Big Mistakes: The Second Circuit Rules on GM/JP Morgan

posted by Melissa Jacoby

PencilCulminating a two-year appeals process, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit just ruled that the statement filed to terminate a financing statement perfecting a security interest was effective. Yes, the parties intended to terminate a different financing statement, but that doesn't change the outcome under the facts of this dispute (these facts have been the subject of several prior Credit Slips posts; see here and here and here).

Today's per curiam decision cites the Restatement (Third) of Agency for the proposition that "Actual authority . . .  is created by a principal's manifestation to an agent that the agent take action on the principal's behalf."  And, says the panel, that's what happened. Again, full (and fairly brief) opinion is here.

Pencil image courtesy of Shutterstock

Thanks to Matthew Bruckner

posted by Bob Lawless

We want to thank Professor Matthew Bruckner of Howard University for hanging out at Credit Slips for a while. We appreciate him sharing his thoughts on some of the finance issues facing legal education and issues surrounding student debt.

Have Retail Reorgs Gone the Way of the Dodo?

posted by Michelle Harner

Shutterstock_157426502-3In the past two months, four retailers have filed bankruptcy cases. RadioShack is rumored to be preparing a chapter 11 filing, and other retailers certainly appear to be struggling (see Stephen Lubben’s post here). But if you were counseling any of these retailers, would you recommend a chapter 11 filing? Okay, put aside the professional fees you might earn—would filing really be in the best interests of your retail client? (For a discussion of fees and costs in chapter 11, see Part IV.A.8 of the ABI Commission Report.)

Consider this: from 2006-2013, the number of retailers liquidating in chapter 11 increased significantly. Although no data are perfect, the various data we have on chapter 11 filings are quite telling. For example, according to the UCLA-LoPucki Bankruptcy Research database, during 2006-2013, 41.2% of large public retailers (excluding eating and drinking places) emerged from chapter 11 and 58.8% liquidated while, during 1980-2005, 60.5% of large public retailers emerged from chapter 11 and only 39.5% liquidated. Likewise, a quick look at the New Generations Public and Major Private Companies database suggests a similar trend for 2006-2013: approximately 62% of retail cases in the database ended in a liquidation (36 of 58). A chapter 11 filing has, quite literally, become a “bet the company” decision for retailers.

Continue reading "Have Retail Reorgs Gone the Way of the Dodo?" »

Who’s Looking Out for the Students?

posted by Matthew Bruckner

Shutterstock_230939425Last week at the Brookings Institution, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Director Richard Cordray described his greatest challenge as CFPB director as coordinating his agency’s response with those of other agencies whose responsibilities overlap with the CFPB. Although he didn’t mention the U.S. Department of Education (the “ED”) by name, perhaps he was thinking of them when he spoke, given the two agencies’ widely divergent responses to the ongoing Corinthian Colleges debacle. For those who aren’t aware, both agencies recently accused Corinthian Colleges of misleading students about their job prospects at graduation. But the agencies appeared to part ways on the appropriate response. 

Continue reading "Who’s Looking Out for the Students?" »

The Fount of Bankruptcy Jurisdiction Overfloweth in the Most Recent ABLJ

posted by Bob Lawless

Those fascinated by the logic and limits of the Bankruptcy Clause, Article III courts, and bankruptcy courts power will want to check out the most recent issue of the Amercan Bankruptcy Law Journal (vol. 88, no. 4):

  • Kurt F. Gurynne, "Pandora's Box and Peace on the Darkling Plain: Setting the Article III Limits on Congress' Power to Assign Claims to Article I Bankruptcy Judges"
  • Randolph J. Haines, "The Conservative Assault on Federal Equity"
  • Adam M. Langley, Hon. David S. Kennedy & Hon. W. Homer Drake, "The Case for a Constitutional Bankruptcy Court"
  • Stephen J. Lubben, "Puerto Rico and the Bankruptcy Clause"

Update: Yes, the headline to this post did originally say "font." Yes, I am that big of an idiot. In my defense, I caught it myself.

How the Disappearance of Locally-Owned Banks Hurts Rural Economic Development

posted by Nathalie Martin

In preparation for some upcoming projects with sociologists, including my new collaborator Rob Mayer (Utah) and on another project, Alan Burton (UNM Sociology professors and UNM law student), I am beefing up on my sociology research. Alan directed me to a recent article, Restructuring the Financial Industry: The Disappearance of Locally-Owned Traditional Financial Services in Rural America. This article explains how the loss of small banks in rural America has negatively affected economic development, which has in turn reduced opportunities for rural communities to increase income, reduce poverty, decrease out-immigration, and reduce crime rates.

Continue reading "How the Disappearance of Locally-Owned Banks Hurts Rural Economic Development" »

Shopping and Dropping

posted by Stephen Lubben

Some thoughts on the recent spate of retail bankruptcies, over at DealB%k.

What’s Fairness Got To Do with It? When the “It” Is Chapter 11, a Lot….

posted by Michelle Harner

For those of you who are not familiar with my scholarship, I am fairly conservative in my approach, and I strive to remain objective in my analysis and balanced in my proposals. I believe that most companies try to get it right, I respect markets, and I do not think that financial institutions and private funds are evil. In fact, some of my scholarship suggests that private funds may actually add value to matters (see example here). I mention these things only to help you understand the lens through which I analyze corporate governance and restructuring issues, including the chapter 11 reform topics that will be the focus of my posts over the next several days.

Based on my research and my ten-plus years in private practice, chapter 11 is not just a value maximization and distribution scheme. It is much more. I was in Judge Bodoh’s courtroom during the LTV Steel cases when hundreds of steelworks packed the courthouse during hearings. I was in Judge Wedoff’s courtroom during the United Airlines cases when pilots and flight attendants would often be on hand. And I worked on several asbestos cases (see, e.g., here and here), which affected not only the livelihoods of thousands of people, but also the health and well-being of several thousand more. In each of these cases, and many others I worked on, the people—not the continuation of some fictitious legal entity or a particular creditor group’s return on its investment—were at the heart of the process.  (For another example of this principle, see here.)

Continue reading "What’s Fairness Got To Do with It? When the “It” Is Chapter 11, a Lot…." »

Welcome Back to Michelle Harner

posted by Bob Lawless

We are happy to welcome back Professor Michelle Harner of the University of Maryland and the reporter for the American Bankruptcy Institute's Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11. Harner has kindly offered to blog on her perspectives on the Commission's report. So she does not have to say -- anything she writes represents only her own views and not her views in her capacity as the reporter.

Antonio Weiss Nomination Post-Mortem

posted by Adam Levitin

There've been a bunch of post-mortems of the Antonio Weiss nomination in the press the last few days (see, e.g., here, here, and here). When I read them I often feel like I'm reading a story about a kid who went to a fancy eastern boarding school, where he was head of the literary society, lettered in three sports, and did lots of charity work, but didn't get into the Ivy League school where all of his family and family friends went. The result: shock and outrage that the kid was denied his birthright! 

Being nominated for Undersecretary of the Treasury isn't quite like getting into Harvard (or even Yale). Yet reading Weiss's defenders' (and their all-too-willing jouralist abetters), one would think that's the story. And that underscores precisely what the problem was with the Weiss nomination, and what Weiss's defenders just don't get (or want to admit they get): the assumption that Wall Street success entitles someone to an important policy position for which they have no apparent qualifications.

Continue reading "Antonio Weiss Nomination Post-Mortem" »

Small Cap Chapter 11

posted by Stephen Lubben

Former Slips guest blogger Michelle Harner has a piece up on Dealb%k this morning about the ABI's SME proposal – one of my favorite parts of the ABI's larger chapter 11 reform proposal.

Betting on the House: The Dueling Caesar's Bankruptcies

posted by Adam Levitin

It's turning into a wild week in Chapter 11 with the dueling bankruptcy petitions for Caesar's Entertainment.  On Monday, an involuntary petition was filed in Delaware against Caesar's by some of its Second Lien noteholders. Today, Caesar's filed a voluntary petition in the Northern District of Illinois. It's not the year of the Four Emperors yet, but it is the year of the Two Caesar's petitions.  

So what's going on? Here's the story, at least as I've been able to figure out so far.  It's a sordid and quite fascinating tale of private-equity vs. hedge funds grappling in an age-old bankruptcy dance: the squeeze play. 

Continue reading "Betting on the House: The Dueling Caesar's Bankruptcies" »

The "Overwhelming Incentives" to Avoid Bankruptcy

posted by Matthew Bruckner

Shutterstock_118095742In an earlier post, I claimed that Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s recent debt restructuring was the rational response to its recent financial difficulties. I closed that post by suggesting that bankruptcy was not a viable option for Thomas Jefferson’s creditors because of U.S. Department of Education (“E.D.”) regulations. Those regulations provide that a voluntarily bankruptcy filing terminates an institution’s eligibility to participate in Title IV loan programs (e.g., Stafford, Perkins and Plus loans). As a result, law schools and their creditors ordinarily share “overwhelming incentives . . . in avoiding bankruptcy”. See Marblegate Asset Mgmt. v. Education Mgmt. Corp., 2014 WL 7399041,*11. (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 2014).

A brief discussion of those regulations and their implications follows after the jump.

Continue reading "The "Overwhelming Incentives" to Avoid Bankruptcy" »

Corporate Recidivism? Ocwen's Charter Problems

posted by Adam Levitin

Last month mortgage servicer Ocwen (that's NewCo backwards) was mauled by the NY State Department of Financial Services. Now the California Department of Corporations is seeking to revoke Ocwen's license to do business in that state. 

Here's the thing that is often forgotten:  this ain't the first time!  Ocwen used to be a federal thrift. In 2005, however, Ocwen "voluntarily" surrendered its thrift charter in the face of predatory lending/servicing investigation. And here we are, a decade later. What's changed?  By the NY and California allegations, not much. In other words, we're looking at a potential case of corporate recidivism. I'll refrain from commenting on the merits of the allegations, but there should be zero tolerance for corporate recidivism. 

Continue reading "Corporate Recidivism? Ocwen's Charter Problems" »

Consumers Don't Shop for Mortgages and the CFPB Intends to Change That

posted by Matthew Bruckner

Shutterstock_191007053

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gave a short speech today at the Brookings Institution. In his speech, he outlined several steps the CFPB is taking to help fix the mortgage market. In his view, one of the chief problems with the mortgage market is that consumers do not shop around for mortgages the same way they shop for other products, including houses. According to a recent CFPB study, "almost half of all borrowers seriously consider only a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply."

The CFPB's aims to solve this problem with some new tools. More after the break.

Continue reading "Consumers Don't Shop for Mortgages and the CFPB Intends to Change That" »

Churches as an Alternative to Payday Lenders

posted by Pamela Foohey

Payday loans are exceedingly expensive, often trapping borrowers into a cycle of rolling their loan over for many months while interest compounds. Postal banking has been suggested as a way to provide people with better access to less-expensive loans. And the CFPB has indicated that it intends to regulate payday and similar high-cost loans (maybe that will happen soon?). In the meantime, some churches apparently have taken matters into their own hands.

A recent Washington Post article describes how churches in Virginia have helped some of their members secure manageable loans from the Jubilee Assistance Fund (very apt name) and the Virginia United Methodist Credit Union. ("Faith-based" credit unions exist across the country and also offer loans to churches. A few of these credit unions end up as creditors in churches' Chapter 11 cases). The article reports that similar church-run lending programs are sprinkled across the country, with churches in some states seemingly having more coordinated efforts.

In the face of the payday industry, these programs undoubtedly are a blessing to the lucky church members who are able to obtain loans. The existence of these programs--and the interesting personal stories in the article--perhaps show how crucial regulation of the high-cost lending industry is, as well as indicate how desperately many people want and would benefit from access to lower-cost lending options.

Waiting for Wellness

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Shutterstock_208016377To get ready for the January 14, 2015 Supreme Court oral argument on Wellness International Ltd. v. Sharif, read this National Bankruptcy Conference report.

Why Troubled Law Schools May Remain Open

posted by Matthew Bruckner

Shutterstock_69583900For years, pundits have declared that many law schools were on the verge of closing. In particular, low-ranked, stand-alone law schools operating in competitive marketplaces were repeatedly highlighted as being at the highest risk of closing. And with enrollment plummeting at law schools around the country, many were wondering which law school would be the first to keel over. Thomas Jefferson School of Law was often highlighted as a particularly likely candidate. But instead of closing, Thomas Jefferson recently restructured $127 million in bond debt, writing down $87 million and having the interest rate on its remaining $40 million reduced to 2%. In exchange, the school handed over the only significant asset it had on its balance sheet—its new law school building. But the building was promptly leased back to the school and Thomas Jefferson remains open for business. This ignited my curiousity and I decided to investigate.  

A look at Thomas Jefferson’s audited financial statements helps make sense of the school’s restructuring and what it implies for other law schools.

Continue reading "Why Troubled Law Schools May Remain Open" »

Welcome Matthew Bruckner

posted by Nathalie Martin

Today we welcome Matthew Bruckner as a guest blogger. Professor Bruckner teaches at Howard University School of law. I first became acquainted with him through his wonderful scholarship applying virtue theory to bankruptcy law. He teaches a variety of business and commercial law courses, including contracts and bankruptcy. Professor Bruckner has previously taught at St. John’s University School of Law and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. His academic interests center on commercial bankruptcy issue and his most recent scholarship focuses on how to reduce the cost of professional representation in corporate bankruptcy cases.

Prior to law teaching, Professor Bruckner was an attorney practicing in the areas of bankruptcy, bank regulatory, M&A, and other general transactional matters with Allen & Overy, LLP. Professor Bruckner also undertook a number of pro bono engagements for the Public International Law and Policy Group, where he led a team working on comparative constitutional law issues. After leaving Allen & Overy, Professor Bruckner clerked for the Honorable Allen L. Gropper of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. In a prior life, he was a stagehand at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Welcome Matthew!

Bankruptcies Down 12% in 2014, Forecast Predicts the Same Decline for 2015

posted by Bob Lawless

2015 Projected Filings from JanuaryThe final count for 2014 U.S. bankruptcy filings is in, thanks to the data from the ever-helpful Epiq Systems. There was a total of 910,090 total bankruptcies in 2014, a decline of 11.8% from the previous year.

In early June, my prediction was for 2014 bankruptcies to be "just over 900,000," a solid prediction but with half the data already in the books.

My prediction for 2015 bankruptcies is somewhere around 800,000, which would be another decline of 12%. I arrived at that figure in two ways.

Continue reading "Bankruptcies Down 12% in 2014, Forecast Predicts the Same Decline for 2015 " »

ABA Reminder to Prosecutors: Owing Money Is Not A Crime

posted by Bob Lawless

In November, the American Bar Association issued a formal opinion that it was unethical for prosecutors to allow debt collectors to use prosecutorial letterhead when no member of the prosecutor's staff reviews the file to determine if it is likely a crime has been committed. The most amazing thing about the opinion is that it had to be said at all.

I missed the story when it first came out, but Deepak Gupta was all over it at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog with a post and some screen shots of what these letters look like. Also, the ABA Journal has a story abou the ethics opinion.

A Good Question

posted by Stephen Lubben

In today's Short View Column, Dan McCrum examines falling oil prices and the futures market, and then concludes:

But the point of this story is not that some think they know what will happen next. Rather, it is that the price of one of the most widely used and heavily traded commodities has been able to halve in a matter of months.

The oil price is not some arcane derivative tied to dodgy mortgages, or a stake in an internet start up. It is the price of an industrial input paid by thousands of large and well-informed buyers. Low oil prices are not an unimaginable abstraction, merely something not seen for a while.

So, a question presents itself: if financial markets can be so wrong about the price of oil, what else are they missing?

 

Bankruptcy Attorney Advertising in the Digital Age

posted by Pamela Foohey

Yellow Pages--maybe not so much anymore. Websites, AdWords, and social media--yes, yes, and occasionally.

Little has been written about bankruptcy attorney advertising. The last Credit Slips post focused on bankruptcy attorneys' ads in the 2013 Yellow Pages and surveyed the wording that attorneys used to describe their roles as debt relief agencies. One of the comments on the post suggested that the Yellow Pages remained a fruitful advertising venue for consumer bankruptcy attorneys. But my current research seems to point in a different direction.

As part of my research regarding nonprofits' use of reorganization to deal with financial distress, over the last year, I've spoken with 76 attorneys who represented religious organization debtors in their Chapter 11 cases. Many of these attorneys' practices are predominately consumer debtor oriented. Half of the attorneys maintain practices that are at least 70% consumer debtor work. The attorneys also are located across the country--from Massachusetts to Colorado to California.

As part of the interviews, I asked the attorneys if and how they advertise their practices. The results are anecdotal, but the attorneys' experiences may signal a switch from print and television advertising to complete reliance on websites, Internet leads, and social networking sites.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Attorney Advertising in the Digital Age" »

Nostradamus-Style Predictions for Consumers in 2015

posted by Nathalie Martin

First some easy ones you all know:

1. The stock market will drop, perhaps precipitously, making now great time to rebalance retirement portfolios.

2. The price of gas will inch up and in the meantime, more states will add a little gas tax here and there to quietly fill empty coffers.

On Mortgage Lending:

3. There will be more low rate, “no closing costs” home refinancings available to good credit risks, as lenders try to figure out what to do with themselves. Not much of a spoiler here, since this is already happening.

4. More lenders will be answering the phones when borrowers want to settle up their mortgages. Lenders will be cutting the red tape that is costing them a fortune. Also, more lenders will be settling pending home foreclosure litigation. Something is better than nothing, some might be thinking. 

5. Cases that don’t settle will result in more large judgments against lenders, in part because lenders did not do some of the things mentioned above all along.

On High -Cost Lending:

6. The CFPB will announce its long-awaited payday lending rules, which will apply to all high-cost loans, including payday loans, title loans, and high-cost installment loans.  These new rules will go a long way (though perhaps not all the way) to curbing high-cost lending abuses and protecting consumers from the debt trap. After all, the bureau is called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Lenders will not like the rules much and may even sue over them but they won’t have a high-cost leg to stand on.

Continue reading "Nostradamus-Style Predictions for Consumers in 2015" »

Safe Banking

posted by Adam Levitin

Just in time for the new year, I've got a new article called Safe Banking up on SSRN. The article is a first principles reexamination of the industrial organization of financial services. It identifies the institutional combination of deposits and lending as the key problem in our financial system. We've developed an enormous financial regulatory state to attempt to hold these lending and deposits together, but it might be time to admit that bank regulation just doesn't work and can't. Our bank regulatory system is simply too complex and too politicized to work flawlessly as it must.

My solution is a radical, yet conservative structural change that has become possible because of recent technological and market changes: mandate the institutional separation of deposits from lending in both traditional and shadow banking markets, a reform I call "Pure Reserve Banking". Pure Reserve Banking means 100% reserve banking plus withdrawal of the entire panoply of government support and subsidization of shadow banking products. There's a host of financial stability and political economy benefits that would flow from such a change, but at core Pure Reserve Banking means ending the subsidization of a volatile growth economy in which gains are privatized and losses socialized and shifting to a more stable—and inherently equitable—growth economy.

The abstract is below the break:

Continue reading "Safe Banking" »

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