American Bankruptcy Institute Update

February 8, 2005

In This Issue

Highlights

Legislation Update

Senate to Hold Hearing on Bankruptcy Reform on Thursday

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. on bankruptcy reform. The bill (S. 256), introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), is similar to legislation that passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate. Witnesses are not confirmed yet, but Prof. Elizabeth Warren has been invited to testify.

Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has announced his hope to mark the bill up next Thursday, Feb. 17. No further hearings are planned at this time. This fast track could put bankruptcy on the Senate floor before the Easter recess, which begins March 21.

Senate Begins Debate on Class-action Bill

As the Senate began debate yesterday on a bill to overhaul rules for class-action lawsuits, supporters urged members to pass the legislation as-is and opponents pushed for amendments addressing civil rights, employment protections and other issues. Monday's floor action was limited to opening statements, but opponents were expected to offer amendments today. Under a unanimous consent agreement, all amendments must be relevant to the bill.

Supporters of the bill contend the class-action system mainly benefits trial lawyers and is unfair to defendants. Opponents -- including trial lawyers and a coalition of consumer, environmental and civil rights groups -- argue it would make it more difficult for plaintiffs to seek redress against corporate wrongdoers. Opponents are pushing hard for an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to give federal judges guidance for certifying class-action cases based on state consumer laws. Another likely amendment by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) would exempt wage-and-hour suits filed in state court.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said today he expects to make quick work of class-action legislation this week, and he is planning to quickly move to a supplemental spending bill and bankruptcy legislation next week.

The House will take up class-action legislation next week, but only if the Senate passes a clean bill without amendments, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said today. "If the Senate passes any amendments then they are jeopardizing class action because the House won't pick up the bill, and we'll go to regular order and have hearings," he said.

Frist Asks Specter to Hold Off Introducing Asbestos Measure

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has asked Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to hold off on introducing asbestos legislation, CongressDaily reported. Specter said he has been planning to formally introduce a final bill, but Frist last Thursday asked him to hold off for a week or more. Frist told reporters he wanted to give members more time to review the bill before it is formally introduced. Specter's efforts to produce a bill have been slowed not only by members but by stakeholder groups attempting to negotiate a compromise, he said. Specter said he welcomes any substantive revisions to the bill Frist or others might propose, and is reaching out to Democrats. But whether he will garner broad support for the bill remains unclear.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a Judiciary member who was the only Democrat to vote for the panel's asbestos bill last session, said she thought a delay would give senators a chance to come to address the most contentious issues. But Feinstein has her own asbestos bill drafted and plans to introduce it if she is not satisfied with Specter's version. Faced with the prospect of another delay, Specter noted the asbestos bill would stall amid pressing Senate leaders' other priorities. "This is the last best chance ... the Judiciary calendar is absolutely jammed," he said, referring to judicial nominees -- including a possible Supreme Court vacancy -- class-action legislation and a bankruptcy bill.   

Feds Release January 2005 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey On Bank Lending Practices

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System released yesterday the January 2005 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices. The survey addresses changes in the supply of, and demand for, bank loans to businesses and households over the past three months. 

Domestic and foreign banks reported in the January 2005 survey that they had eased lending standards and terms for loans and commercial real estate loans.  Demand for loans increased at domestic banks, but was unchanged at foreign institutions.  Demand for commercial real estate loans rose at both domestic and foreign banks in recent months.  A small number of domestic banks eased standards on residential mortgages over the past three months, while standards and terms for consumer loans were about unchanged.  Relatively large fractions of domestic banks reported weaker demand for both residential mortgages and consumer loans, the survey reported. Read the full report.

Primer on Municipal Bankruptcies Available at ABI World

A Primer on the Treatment of Municipalities Under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, by Alexander M. Laughlin of Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP ( McLean, Va.) is available online.

The primer offers an overview of municipal insolvency issues and includes guidelines for potential creditors and debtors in dealing with the unique treatment of municipal debts under chapter 9 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. From Constitutional limitations to eligibility requirements to the steps for filing a chapter 9 through the discharge of a municipality’s debts, the primer provides a concise yet comprehensive treatment of this growing area of concern.

Directory CD-Rom Now Arriving in Members’ Mailboxes

If you haven’t received your copy of the new ABI Membership Directory on CD-rom, please call us at (703) 739-0800. This year’s directory, free to all members, contains the same robust search functionality as the online directory featured on the ABI World web site. Also included is the capacity to sort your search results by name, company and city/state, as well as the ability to e-mail members directly from their listing. This format makes for a perfect traveling companion, allowing you to locate other professionals when you are away from the office. The CD-rom is easy-to-use and launches itself once inserted into your computer. Help files are available, however, for those who need assistance at http://www.abiworld.org/cdsearch.html.

ABI Legislative, Consumer Committee e-Newsletters Available Online

The February issue of ABI’s Legislative Committee e-Newsletter is available online. Read articles on the latest legislative developments in bankruptcy, class action, asbestos and corporate governance. Learn about the committee’s agenda at the Annual Spring Meeting.

ABI’s Consumer Committee e-Newsletter is also available online. Read an article on proof required for claims based on credit-card debt. The issue will also be discussed by the committee’s panel at the Annual Spring Meeting . The panel will also address the recently promulgated Director’s Procedural Form 210, Notice of Transfer of Claim Other Than for Security.

Save the Date!

Save the date for the following popular ABI programs:

May 9 – The Annual New York City Bankruptcy Conference (with Fundamentals of Bankruptcy program on May 6) at the Millennium Broadway. The bankruptcy judges of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York will join leading practitioners on the faculty for a full day of high level continuing education. Just added is Prof. Lynn LoPucki in a defense of his controversial new book critical of venue selection in large cases.

May 23-23—2005 Litigation Skills Symposium at the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. Learn-by-doing at this intensive training program on necessary litigation skills, including examination of witnesses, preparing experts, evidence and more. The program concludes with live trials in federal court before bankruptcy judges. Limited enrollment. Check the ABI World homepage soon for more details on each program.

Latest Job Postings at ABI Career Center

Check out the ABI Career Center. The Center is a one-stop site for job seekers and employers in the insolvency community. Career Center resources are available free to both employers and job seekers. New positions are featured daily. The latest listings include: