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Contact: Scott Relyea at (703) 739-0800
Copyright © 1997 American Bankruptcy Institute

ALEXANDRIA, Va., December 9, 1996 -- Personal bankruptcies continue to set new national records, according to data released today by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. A total of 1,058,444 individuals filed for bankruptcy during the 12-month period ended September 30, 1996. This figure again represents approximately 95 percent of the total business and personal filings for the period, which stood at 1,111,964, also a record.

The third quarter of 1996 marks the first time in history filings for a single quarter averaged more than 100,000 per month, standing at 303,309 total business and non-business filings for the period July 1 through September 30, 1996. During this time a record 290,111 of these were personal filings.

Total filings for the third quarter represents a 14 percent increase over the first quarter's totals of 266,149 and a 30 percent increase over the third quarter of 1995. Each of the three quarters in 1996 have successively set records, eclipsing the previous high for a single three-month period of 250,622, set in the second quarter of 1992.

The increase in personal bankruptcies again far outpaced the increase in business bankruptcies, jumping by approximately 34.4 percent over the previous twelve month period -- total filings increased by 25.9 percent.

"The latest filing statistics are an alarm bell for the financial community and policy makers alike that rising consumer debt levels can lead to the need to seek bankruptcy relief," said Samuel J. Gerdano, ABI Executive Director.

For the first time since at least 1980, chapter 11 filings as a percentage of total filings dipped below one percent at 0.09 percent. Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code is used predominately to reorganize a business, although individuals with particularly large federal or state tax obligations may also file under chapter 11.

For the third consecutive quarter, every state in the country recorded an increase over the previous 12-month period. And the Virgin Islands for the first time this year joined each of the 93 other federal judicial districts in recording an increase (1.6 percent) for the period, with only the Eastern District of New York reporting an increase of less than 10 percent (9.3 percent).

The district recording the greatest percentage increase in filings, as compared between the 12-month periods ended September 30, 1995, and September 30, 1996, was the Northern District of West Virginia at 50.8 percent. Following close behind at second was the District of Hawaii with an increase of 49.4 percent. After leading the country in this category for four consecutive quarters, the Eastern District of Arkansas had the third highest percentage increase in filings at 47.0 percent.

The remaining districts reporting an increase in filings of more than 40 percent for the 12-month period were: Middle District of Louisiana (45.9 percent); District of Guam (44.7 percent); Middle District of North Carolina (43.4 percent); Western District of North Carolina (42.1 percent); Southern District of Alabama (42.1 percent); District of New Mexico (41.5 percent); District of Wyoming (41.2 percent); and Western District of Louisiana (40.6 percent). The Central District of California remained the district reporting the largest number of filings in the country with 97,311 for the three-month period.

ABI is the largest multi-disciplinary, non-partisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. ABI was founded in 1982 to provide Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of bankruptcy issues. The ABI membership includes more than 5,200 attorneys, bankers, judges, professors, turnaround specialists, accountants and other bankruptcy professionals providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. For more information on ABI, visit ABI World at

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