postings by Bob Lawless

How to Get Involved with the ABI Consumer Commission

posted by Bob Lawless

As Jason Kilborn noted last month, the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) has formed a Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy. More information about the Commission is available on its web site including the unfortunate news that it got saddled with me as the reporter. We very much invite input and suggestions about the Commission's work. Right now is an especially good time to get involved as the Commission sets its agenda.

The ABI has charged the Commission with "researching and recommending improvements to the consumer bankruptcy system that can be implemented within its existing structure. These changes might include amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, changes to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, administrative rules or actions, recommendations on proper interpretations of existing law and other best practices that judges, trustees and lawyers can implement."

Continue reading "How to Get Involved with the ABI Consumer Commission" »

Secured Transactions in the Funny Pages

posted by Bob Lawless

From the always wonderful Pearls Before Swine, some humor for the secured lending crowd.

Katie, Remember Us When

posted by Bob Lawless

It is with incredibly mixed feelings that I pass along to our readers that Professor Katie Porter is leaving our blog. Katie was one of the original bloggers on Credit Slips back in 2006. There were a number of us who were working together in an intensive data-collection phase of a research project, and a blog was a great way to have some intellectual interaction that was more than how to word a survey question. It worked and somehow the blog stayed around. Katie's posts are insightful, thought-provoking, and witty. We will miss her contributions.

If we have to lose one of our founding bloggers, it is at least for a very exciting reason. Katie is leaving Credit Slips is to focus her efforts on her recently announced candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 45th Congressional District. Speaking for myself, I think Katie would be fantastic in Congress. She is whip-smart and a determined advocate for consumers. Former Credit Slips blogger Elizabeth Warren put it succinctly: "Katie is a fighter!" I wish Katie nothing but success in her campaign.

We also have made a change to the way we list our blog contributors. At one time, it made sense to distinguish between more frequent and less frequent contributors. Now, everyone is simply listed as a contributor. This change is long overdue, and I had been meaning to make it for a while. My day job seems to keep interfering with the many ideas I often have to improve the blog.

Bankruptcy Fees in the Trump Budget

posted by Bob Lawless

Thanks a tweet to the sharp-eyed Drew Dawson at the University of Miami, I saw this article in Politico that among the surprises in Trump's budget is an increase in bankruptcy filing fees (see item 5). Well, this seemed important to those of us in the bankruptcy world so I thought I would check it out. It proved surprisingly more difficult in this day and age than one would think to get a PDF copy of the Trump budget outline, but I finally found one. I am not sure the characterization of an increase in "bankruptcy filing fees" is entirely accurate.

Trump Budget Screen Grab

Above is a screenshot from p. 30 of the document (clicking on it should bring up a full-sized image in a popup window). Keep in mind this is an outline of the underlying budget document. What appears to be proposed in an increase in the quarterly U.S. Trustee fee for chapter 11 filers and not a general increase in all bankruptcy filing fees or even the chapter 11 filing fee. Of course, the paragraph does characterize it as an increase in bankruptcy filing fees so maybe there is such a broad increase in the budget itself.

Does anybody know for certain?

Arbitrating the Discharge

posted by Bob Lawless

The Second Circuit currently has a pending case (Anderson v. Credit One Bank, No. 16-2496) that raises the question of whether an alleged violation of the bankruptcy discharge injunction is subject to a predispute arbitration agreement. Professors Ralph Brubaker and Bruce Markell have joined me on an amicus brief explaining why the answer has to be "no." You can download the brief from SSRN. (UPDATE 3/3: The link was broken but should be fixed now.)

Bankruptcy specialists know the "discharge" means the forgiveness of prebankruptcy debts. The "discharge injunction" comes from section 524 of the Bankruptcy Code, which states that the entry of a discharge shall operate as an injunction against attempts to collect prebankruptcy debts. Indeed, one of the things the brief tries to make clear is that the "discharge" and "discharge injunction" are different concepts. Historically, filing bankruptcy gave rise to a discharge, but there was no enforcement of that discharge in the federal court that issued it. Rather, the debtor could plead the discharge as an affirmative defense in a state-court collection action.

Continue reading "Arbitrating the Discharge" »

Bankruptcy Filings for 2017 -- Let's Say 767,000

posted by Bob Lawless

2016 Annual Filings ChartAccording to Epiq Systems, there were 771, 894 total U.S. bankruptcy filings in 2016, a decline of 5.8% from 2015. The overall annual decline in 2015 was 10.0% and was 11.8% in 2014.  As I noted yesterday, the rate of decrease is decreasing.

At the beginning of 2016, I projected 780,000 filings for the year. That forecast was only 1.0% off. Pride goeth before a fall. Here is my thinking for 2017.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Filings for 2017 -- Let's Say 767,000" »

Bankruptcy Rate Rises in December . . . A Blip and Not a Blip

posted by Bob Lawless

2016 Month Over Month TrendsSomething happened in the U.S. bankruptcy courts that had not happened since October 2010. The daily filing rate increased on a year-over-year basis. There were 56,394 filings in December 2016 as compared to 53,844 in the previous December. Also, because the 2016 filings were spread over one less business day than in 2015, the rise represented a 9.7% increase in the daily filing rate. The lighter-red line in the graph to right the shows just how dramatic the spike was.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy Rate Rises in December . . . A Blip and Not a Blip" »

ABI Podcast on Race and Chapter 13

posted by Bob Lawless

In October, a panel at the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges explored the role of race and implicit bias in the bankruptcy system. Called "The Color of Money: The Implications of Race and Ethnicity in Addressing Debt," the panel included a presentation by yours truly about our research exploring the intersection of race and chapter 13. If you were not at NCBJ, the American Bankruptcy Institute was kind enough to ask me to do a podcast about our research and the updates to it since its original appearance in 2012. The podcast is a little over seventeen minutes long if you want to give it a listen.

ABA Journal Blawg 100!

posted by Bob Lawless

HonoreeBadgeCredit Slips is honored to have been selected as part of the ABA Journal's Blawg 100, their annual list of the top 100 blogs about law and lawyering. It is our second year in a row for inclusion on the list.

We appreciate all of our readers and are humbled by the time you spend with us. The comments to the posts continually demonstrate that one of the things that makes this blog work is our readership. Thanks for visiting.

The Big 1-0

posted by Bob Lawless

10th BirthdayToday is the tenth anniversary of the launch of Credit Slips. We started the blog in the middle of a big research project as an exercise in team building We also thought the blog might be a place where we could try to reach a wider audience about the scholarship coming out of the project. It is hard to believe we are still chugging along after 10 years.

A lot has happened in 10 years. When we started, blogging was relatively new and especially new for academics trying to reach outside the ivy-covered walls. There weren't no Twitter or Facebook, and Pokemon was passé. Looking back at that first post, four of the original seven bloggers are still with the blog. Things have moved on considerably for most all of the original bloggers. One of us got hired and tenured at one of this nation's leading law schools. A few of us have moved universities. One of us even became the senior United States senator from Massachusetts. Some of our newest bloggers are people we were mentoring as junior scholars or even students ten years ago. For myself over the past 10 years, I managed to move to a new faculty office down the hallway.

We have been talking about a few changes to the blog to keep current with the times, but the changes will not affect our topical focus. Our goal remains what it has been from the start, which is to reach outside the legal academy to have conversations with who care deeply about the policy issues surrounding credit, finance & bankruptcy. Thanks for being part of the conversation.

Porter's Modern Consumer Law

posted by Bob Lawless

Porter Consumer LawCredit Slips blogger Katie Porter has produced a new textbook in consumer law that anyone teaching the subject should consider adopting. Indeed, law professors not teaching consumer law should to take a look at it and consider whether they should add the class to their teaching portfolio. A 2013 poll on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports named consumer law as the number one "area of law which deserves more attention in the legal academy." Next academic year I will be picking up a new course, and the emergence of Porter's new text made the decision easy for me as to which course it will be.

In the preface, Porter makes explicit her three-pronged approach to the topic of consumer law:

  1. The book situates consumer law within the business-law curriculum. "Consumer law is big business," she notes. Understanding the legal issues requires understanding the "deal," the information flow, and the market in which the transaction occurs. Porter expressly recognizes, "the world of consumer practice offers opportunities for lawyers to represent consumers (as government lawyers, policy advocates, and plaintiffs’ attorneys) and to represent businesses (as in-house counsel, defense attorneys, and
    lobbyists)."
  2. The book provides a strong theoretical frame by situating consumer law at the intersection of tort and contract. The book does not present consumer law as a hodgepodge of cases and statutes loosely organized around the term "consumer." Rather it recognizes that a lot of what travels under the law of "consumer law" responds to the gaps that traditional contract and torts doctrines have when it comes to the issues that consumer transactions create.
  3. The book explores where the social-science literature has learning for consumer law. Porter looks to see what psychology, sociology, marketing, and economics can add to our understanding of the legal issues. By doing so, the book explores the difference between law on the ground and law in the books. 

The book uses a problem-based method of instruction that will be familiar to users of Porter's co-authored bankruptcy textbook or my co-authored secured transactions textbook. The problems range from straight-forward statute readers to teach doctrine to tough client counseling problems that focus on real-world lawyering skills.

More information, including a table of contents and a sample chapter, can be found at Aspen Publishers.

Annual U.S. Bankruptcy Filings on Track for 6.7% Decline

posted by Bob Lawless

Filings per 1000.July 2008 to June 2016It has been a while since I last checked in on bankruptcy filing rates. The arrival of the latest figures from Epiq Systems was a welcome reminder to do so.

We are at the halfway point for the year, and the U.S. has had 398,000 bankruptcy filings. It is tempting to simply double that figure to get an estimate of what filings will total for all of 2016, but that estimate would be too high. Bankruptcy filings are somewhat more concentrated in the first six months of the calendar, which have accounted for about 52% of yearly filings for the past two years. Extrapolating from recent experience would mean there will be 764,000 filings for the calendar year.

That would be a 6.7% decline in filings from 2015. Back in January, I forecasted a 5% decline or 780,000 filings for 2016. Given that we are well within the confidence interval of that estimate, I will take that. Although we still have half the year left to go, the model I use for the forecasting looks to be holding up.

In terms of trends, we have had 68 straight months of year-over-year declines in the daily filing rate. The annualized filing rate per 1,000 currently stands at 2.46. The graph shows a 12-month moving average for filings per 1,000 persons since 2008. The discerning eye will note the tail of the graph is flattening. The year-over-year decline is slowing. Where we saw double-digit declines in 2013-14, the declines are in the 5%-8% figures now.

Continue reading "Annual U.S. Bankruptcy Filings on Track for 6.7% Decline" »

Law & Society, 2016 Panels on Household Finance

posted by Bob Lawless

If you happen to be at the 2016 Law & Society Association meetings in New Orleans, stop by the panels from the Collaborative Research Network (CRN) on Household Finance. This group got its start as an international collaborative studying overindebtedness thanks for the leadership of people like the late Jean Braucher, Johanna Niemi, Iain Ramsay, and Bill Whitford. We have scholars from all over the world and from diverse disciplines thinking about how law on the ground affects household financial outcomes. Below the fold is a listing of panels, topics, and presenters for this year. If you are an academic and want to be on the CRN email list, contact me or Credit Slips blogger Dalie Jimenez.

Continue reading "Law & Society, 2016 Panels on Household Finance" »

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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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