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Missing GAO study?

posted by Katie Porter

The much-maligned Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Prevention Act (BAPCPA) may have a bright side for a certain subset of consumers--those who want better bankruptcy statistics, including the media, policy wonks, and academics. Much of the recent bankruptcy reform debate was a battle of numbers as illustrated by the debate about the misnamed and miscalculated $400 "bankruptcy tax." In a forthcoming University of Missouri symposium piece entitled "The Bright Side of BAPCPA," I take a look at the potential of the new law to shape the world of bankruptcy data collection and dissemination.

As part of my research, I learned that the GAO has missed a statutory deadline to produce a research report. Under section 230 of BAPCPA, the GAO was to produce a study on requiring trustees to report debtors to the Office of Child Support Enforcement. The report was due 270 days after BAPCPA's enactment, yet GAO officials confirmed that the study has not even begun. Has bankruptcy slipped to the bottom of the GAO's priority list now that Congress has taken it off the top of its agenda?

Apparently the GAO has made some progress on the reaffirmation study required by BAPCPA. Perhaps the best news in this regard is that they have interviewed Professors Michaela White and Marianne Culhane, authors of the leading academic study on reaffirmation. Hopefully, other government agencies doing post-BAPCPA research will seek collaborations with academics and other researchers. For our part as consumers of bankruptcy data, we should let the GAO and other agencies know that we care about the required reports and expect them to be timely and carefully executed.


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