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Consumer Protection and Bankruptcy; How Do They Relate?

posted by david lander

Every other year Richard Alderman holds an extraordinary conference at the University of Houston Law School for faculty from around the world who teach in the consumer law area. It mixes a super learning experience with networking and with a lot of fun. Most of the folks in attendance do not teach in the bankruptcy area but at each of the last two conferences there has been a healthy minority of people who teach in both fields. So, what is the relationship between consumer protection faculty and bankruptcy faculty and what should it be?

Elizabeth Warren has nurtured a new generation of bankruptcy scholars and teachers and activists who fit in both fields (often along with commercial law) and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for that conscious nurturing.

I wandered into this question when I realized how few advanced consumer bankruptcy courses there were and decided to offer one. It seemed to me that a course that looked at bankruptcy as one of several consumer protection devices made more sense for me to teach and that has turned out to have been a good choice. This year Richard’s conference offered an insightful program on the teaching of bankruptcy law within the consumer protection courses; seems to me this is an partnership that we might want to focus upon. It is also interesting to compare such an endeavor and course with the course on Economic Justice taught by Emma Coleman Jordan at Georgetown. 

Years ago i thought that Secured Transactions and Real Estate Finance courses bore the strongest relationship with bankruptcy.  But the corporations law and tax have a close connection to business bankruptcy  and many of the most pressing bankruptcy topics in recent years have dealt with employment and employee benefit issues.

One of the most fascinating and challenging aspects of teaching or practicing bankruptcy law is the fact that its tentacles reach into so many other areas.   


What are the consumer's rights if a company files chapter 7 bankruptcy? Services are paid for but never the actual service is rendered (such as in travel)? I am trying to find out.


BAPCPA - The GOP would have us believe that they are linked in the legislation......NOT! Bankruptcy does add those extra set of eyes on not only how much is owed but how they arrived at the numbers claimed and who owns the note. I guess from there you can go about protecting consumers (if you have the time to look at the “p”s and “q”s). In the context of a 7, unless you are looking for a payout in attorneys fees, it is almost pointless. If you wanted to, and you are a volume consumer bankruptcy firm, you can go about farming the cases for “Unfair Practices”. Provided you have the staff, attorneys, and capital to do so. You can close your eyes and pick a BK case and probably find something you can take to court. When there was a down turn in the biz after the new law, to get us thru, I did actively look for those types of cases. It got us thru the hard times, when the “trustees’” check wasn’t so good. Now, we have our hands full just keeping up with the “regular” stuff in bankruptcy. That used to be the fun part of my job. Boooo. :(

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