postings by Bob Lawless

Student Loans and Other Doings for the ABI Consumer Bankruptcy Commission

posted by Bob Lawless

The American Bankruptcy Institute's Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy has been hard at work (Full disclosure: I am the Commission's reporter.) Yesterday, the Commission submitted written comments to the Department of Education's request for information (RFI) on the "undue hardship" standard for the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy. As the Commissions make clear in the cover letter, our comments respond to the RFI and thus focus on what can be accomplished at the regulatory level. Recommendations for statutory change will appear in our final report. Indeed, we had intended to release only the complete set of recommendations at the end of our work, but given the Department of Education's RFI, the Commission voted to release its recommendations that were responsive.

The Commission's recommendations fall into two broad categories. First, the Commission advocates for the adoption of bright-line rules that will identify persons for whom repayment of student loans will be an undue hardship, such as an existing governmental determination of disability or income below 150% of the federal poverty line. Second, the Commission made a number of recommendations around the judicially crafted Brunner test that courts use to determine undue hardship. You can read the full set of recommendations from the link above.

Continue reading "Student Loans and Other Doings for the ABI Consumer Bankruptcy Commission " »

Welcome (Back) to Patricia McCoy

posted by Bob Lawless

Credit Slips is pleased to welcome back Professor Patricia McCoy as a guest blogger. Professor McCoy is the Liberty Mutual Insurance Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. She is a nationally known scholar, writing in the area of consumer financial regulation area. Professor McCoy worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during its earliest days, and I understand some of her guest posts will offer her perspective on the current state of the CFPB. We look forward to her contributions.

Bankruptcy Venue Reform -- Yes, Again, But Maybe This Is the Time?

posted by Bob Lawless

As many Credit Slips readers will know, chapter 11 venue reform has been an issue for decades. As corporate filers have flocked to the Southern District of New York and the District of Delaware, the real reason some observers say is that these courts favor corporate managers, dominant secured lenders, bankruptcy attorneys, or a combination of all of them. Regardless of the merits of these claims, it certainly undermines respect for the rule of law when faraway federal courts decide issues affecting local interests. A great example comes from right here in Champaign, Illinois, where local company Hobbico has recently filed chapter 11. The company, a large distributor of radio-control models and other hobby products, has more than $100 million in debt. The company has over 300 employees in the Champaign area who own the company through an employee stock ownership plan. Yet, the company's fortunes are now in the hands of a Delaware bankruptcy court.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Venue Reform -- Yes, Again, But Maybe This Is the Time?" »

Welcoming Mitu Gulati

posted by Bob Lawless

Regular readers of Credit Slips will know that Mark Weidemaier will often co-post with Professor Mitu Gulati of Duke University. These posts, often on sovereign debt issues, are among our most widely read and commented upon. We are very pleased to announced that Mitu is joining as a permanent blogger. When trying to figure out how to introduce Mitu to our readership, I looked at his faculty bio, which is too good not to share in its entirety:

Mitu Gulati is a professor at Duke University. His research interests are currently in the historic evolution of concepts of sovereign immunity and the role that law can play as a symbol. He has authored articles in the Journal of Legal Studies, the Review of Finance and Law and Social Inquiry. He has won no awards, other than a second place finish in the fancy dress competition in 3rd grade (photo not available).

Characteristically, Mitu's bio is unduly modest. He is a very accomplished and prolific scholar who is well known within the legal academy. It is our honor and pleasure to have him join this often merry band of bloggers. We hope you enjoy his contributions.

ProPublica: The Bankruptcy System Fails Black Americans

posted by Bob Lawless

It's been a busy day, but before I sign off for the evening, I would be remiss not to flag Paul Kiel's outstanding piece that came out this morning, How the Bankruptcy System is Failing Black AmericansProPublica and The Atlantic co-published the article. An extensive data analysis also accompanies the article. Anyone who follows Credit Slips will want to read these pieces.

Kiel finds chapter 13 filings are about three times higher in predominately black zip codes as compared to predominately white zip codes. Of course, these findings very much parallel our earlier work, which I blogged about here back in 2012. Like our work, the disparities Kiel finds remain even after statistically controlling for financial and other variables that should determine chapter choice. Because chapter 13 is generally a more expensive choice than a chapter 7, requiring a payment plan that many debtors don't complete (and hence don't receive a discharge), the racial differences are troubling.

Where Kiel's article really shines are the interviews with the attorneys and bankruptcy debtors in Memphis, Tennessee. The interviews put faces and stories to the statistics that we can't do in academic studies. Check out Kiel's work.

Update on ABI Consumer Bankruptcy Commission

posted by Bob Lawless

This afternoon, I am off to New Orleans and the annual meeting for the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees (NABT).  Tomorrow (September 15) from 12:30 - 2:30 PM, we are holding a public meeting for the Committee on Chapter 7 of the American Bankruptcy Institute's Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy. If you are at the NABT meeting, come and listen to our full schedule of fourteen speakers. The room location should be in the program and will be in the public meeting space for the conference.

If you would like to speak to us, there will be another opportunity for persons attending the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) in Las Vegas. The Committee on Case Administration & the Estate will be holding a public meeting at NCBJ on the morning of October 10. More information about requesting a time to speak is available at the call for participation. There also will be public meetings for the full Commission at the ABI's Wedoff Consumer Bankruptcy Conference to be held in November in Chicago, Illinois, and the Winter Leadership Conference to be held in December in Palm Springs, California.

Of course, you don't have to come to a meeting to send us your suggestions and comments. Anyone can send an email to ConsumerCommission@abiworld.og. I route all of those emails directly to the persons working on the issues raised as well as make them available to everyone involved with the Commission. Now is a particularly good time to write us as the committees are working on preliminary drafts. The topics the Commission is addressing are also available on our web site.

Come Talk to the ABI Consumer Bankruptcy Commission at NABT

posted by Bob Lawless

As careful Credit Slips readers will remember, I was inflicted on the American Bankruptcy Institute's Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy as the Commission's reporter. Things are off to a roaring start. Taking the suggestions of many different stakeholders in the consumer bankruptcy system, the Commission has developed a list of topics and assigned them to different committees. In turn, the committees have broken down into working groups to study the issues.

The Commission and its committees already have had two successful public meetings, hearing from persons at the annual meeting for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) in Orlando, Florida, and from persons at the annual seminar for the National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees (NACTT) in Seattle, Washington. The Commission web site has videos and, where available, written statements from both the NACBA meeting and the NACTT meeting.

The next public meeting is for the Commission's Committee on Chapter 7, which will occur on September 15 at the annual meeting for the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees in New Orleans, Louisiana. Come talk to us. Subject to time availability, we hope to allow participants to make statements of about five minutes each. Written statements are very welcome and encouraged. Further details appear in the call for participation on the Commission web site. For full consideration, requests to participate must be received by September 6.

Commentary on the CFPB Arbitration Rule

posted by Bob Lawless

A few weeks ago, Adam did a great post about the CFPB's new arbitration rule, analyzing whether we would get a veto from the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). My own, much more modest effort, explaining the arbitration rule for our local NPR station (WILL) appeared this morning. With all the daily nonsense out of Washington, this story is falling through the cracks.

Gilbert Index Q&A

posted by Bob Lawless

The Gilbert Index blog was kind enough to feature Credit Slips in a Q&A. For those of you who are interested in how Credit Slips came about, check it out.

An Explanation for the Low Bankruptcy Rates: Debt

posted by Bob Lawless

Yesterday, I noted the U.S. bankruptcy filing rate of 2.38 per 1,000 persons is at historic lows. The next question is always why. In this post, I am going to try to walk through an explanation in four graphs. The upshot is that consumer debt is low but rising. As I like to say, it takes years of study to come to the conclusion that people file bankruptcy because they are in debt. This is not to say that other factors are not contributors -- unemployment, general economic conditions -- but the primary macroeconomic driver of bankruptcy filings is the amount of debt on household balance sheets.

Continue reading "An Explanation for the Low Bankruptcy Rates: Debt" »

Bankruptcy Filings Holding Steady for the First Half of 2017

posted by Bob Lawless

2017 Projected Filings from JuneUsing data from Epiq Systems, we appear to be on track for 774,000 bankruptcy filings for the 2017 calendar year. That would basically be the same rate of filings as in 2016 when total filings were just under 772,000. This calculation comes from a simple extrapolation. There were just under 400,000 bankruptcy filings for the first six months of this year. To get an estimate of what filings will be for the entire year, we cannot simply double the six-month figure because bankruptcy filings tend to be higher in the first part of a year. In the past two years, the first six calendar months have seen 51.6% of the total filings for the year. Thus, just under 400,000 filings for the first six months of a calendar year would imply about 774,000 filings for the entire year.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Filings Holding Steady for the First Half of 2017" »

Eleven Years

posted by Bob Lawless

Section 1111The number eleven has a lot of significance in the bankruptcy world. The Bankruptcy Code is, of course, title 11 of the United States Code. There is chapter 11. And, within chapter 11, one can make the eleven-eleven election under section 1111 -- an election that is as difficult to explain in a bankruptcy classroom as it is to understand it.

The number eleven has new significance. Credit Slips launched on this date in 2006, making us eleven years old today. I hope that doesn't mean we have to repeat middle school.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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