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Contact: John Hartgen
             (703) 739-0800
             jhartgen@abiworld.org

FIRST QUARTER BANKRUPTCY FILINGS FALL TO LOWEST LEVELS SINCE 1985

May 26, 2006, Alexandria, Va. The total number of U.S. bankruptcies filed during the first three months of 2006 were the lowest on record in more than 20 years as filings fell to 116,771, according to data released today by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The total filings for the first calendar year quarter of 2006 (January 1-March 31, 2006) have not been experienced since the 1985 fourth calendar year quarter (October 1-December 31, 1985), when bankruptcy filings totaled 114,021. The 2006 first quarter calendar year filings also represent a 82.5 percent drop in filings from the previous quarter (October 1-December 31, 2005) when 667,431 new cases were filed. It is also represents a 70.89 percent drop compared to the 401,149 total filings for the same three-month period ending March 31, 2005.

A new bankruptcy law went into effect on October 17, 2005. The new law requires that consumers first go through credit counseling before being eligible for bankruptcy. The new law also reduces the scope of bankruptcy relief.

“Congress hoped the new law would reduce the number of new consumer bankruptcies and the latest figures reflect that intention, though there are still many families under financial stress,” said Samuel J. Gerdano, ABI Executive Director. “We haven’t seen numbers this low since the mid-1980’s, when a gallon of gasoline was $1.20.”

Consumer filings represented the largest drop-off as they decreased 82.79 percent to 112, 685 for the three-month period ending March 31, 2006 from 654,633 the previous three-month period ending December 31, 2005. They also represent a 71.33 percent decrease from the same period in 2005, which had a total of 393,086 nonbusiness filings.

Business filings for the three-month period ending March 31, 2006 also experienced significant decreases as the total of 4,086 filings were down 68.02 percent from the 2005 fourth quarter total of 12,798 and 49.32 percent from the 8,063 business cases filed in the same quarterly period of 2005.

However, total filings increased for each month of the three-month period ending March 31, 2006, as nearly half of the total filings (44.26 percent) occurred in the month of March with 51,683 filings. January 2006 totaled 28,368 filings, while 36,720 total filings were recorded for February 2006. The steady increase was in stark contrast to the previous quarter’s steep monthly drop due to the October 17, 2005, implementation of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA). Filings fell from a high of 630,468 in October 2005 to 14,480 for November 2005 and 22,927 for December 2005.

The total filings for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006 were sustained by the surge of debtors filing for bankruptcy before the October 2005 implementation of BAPCPA. Total filings rose 12.81 percent to 1,794,795 compared to 1,590,975 bankruptcy cases filed in the 12-month period ending March 2005. Prior to the March 2006 12-month reporting period, bankruptcy filings rose 30 percent in the 12-month period ending December 31, 2005, which was also attributable to the rush prior to BAPCPA’s implementation.

Nonbusiness filings for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006, totaled 1,759,503, up 12.86 percent from the 1,559,023 total nonbusiness filings in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2005. Business filings for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006, totaled 35,292, up 10.45 percent from the 31,952 bankruptcy petitions filed in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2005.

Chapter 7 filings rose to 1,432,074 for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006, representing a 25.43 percent increase from the 1,141,715 filings from the same period in 2005. Chapter 13 filings fell 19.48 percent, to 355,756 in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006 from 441,838 in the same period last year. Chapter 11 filings also declined, falling 8.69 percent to 6,497 in 2006 from 7,115 in 2005. Chapter 12 filings rose 93.65 percent from 189 in 2005 to 366 in 2006.

BUSINESS FILINGS for the 3-month period ending March 31, 2006, totaled 4,086, down 49.32 percent from the 8,063 bankruptcy business cases filed in the same period in 2005. NON-BUSINESS FILINGS for the 3-month period ending March 31, 2006, decreased 71.33 percent from 393,086 in 2005 to 112,685 in 2006.

The chapter* breakdown of BUSINESS filings for the 3-month period ending March 31, 2006, is: 2,147 chapter 7s, 1,291 chapter 11s, 84 chapter 12s and 540 chapter 13s.

The chapter breakdown of NON-BUSINESS filings for the 3-month period ending March 31, 2006, is: 63,250 chapter 7s, 121 chapter 11s and 49,314 chapter 13s.

Districts with the Highest Percentage INCREASE in Total Filings for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006 (compared to the identical period in 2005):

  1. District of Vermont: 39.76%
  2. Northern District of Indiana: 35.86%
  3. District of Alaska: 35.10%       
  4. Northern District of Ohio: 33.76
  5. Western District of Oklahoma: 33.37%

Districts with the Highest Percentage DECREASE in Total Filings for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2006 (compared to the identical period in 2005):

  1. Southern District of Georgia: 19.32%
  2. Middle District of Georgia: 17.14%
  3. Southern District of Alabama: 15.02% 
  4. District of South Carolina: 14.93%       
  5. District of Utah: 12.05%

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ABI is the largest multi-disciplinary, nonpartisan 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 11,500 attorneys, accountants, bankers, judges, professors, lenders, turnaround specialists and other bankruptcy professionals providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. For additional information on ABI, visit www.abiworld.org. For additional conference information, visit http://www.abiworld.org/conferences.html.

*Definitions from Bankruptcy Overview: Issues, Law and Policy, by the American Bankruptcy Institute

Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is available to both individual and business debtors. Its purpose is to achieve a fair distribution to creditors of the debtor’s available non-exempt property.  Unsecured debts not reaffirmed are discharged, providing a fresh financial start.  

Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for both business and consumer debtors. Its purpose is to rehabilitate a business as a going concern or reorganize an individual’s finances through a court-approved reorganization plan.

Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code is designed to give special debt relief to a family farmer with regular income from farming. 

Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for an individual with regular income whose debts do not exceed specific amounts; it is typically used to budget some of the debtor’s future earnings under a plan through which unsecured creditors are paid in whole or in part.

 


 

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