American Bankruptcy Institute Update

September 22, 2005

In This Issue


Legislative Report

Bankruptcy Law Reprieve Unlikely for Storm Victims

Efforts of consumer activists and a handful of lawmakers to get Hurricane Katrina victims some breaks from a stringent new bankruptcy law are looking like a long shot, the Post-Cox News Service reported today. Through letters, e-mails and proposed legislation, the advocates are trying to convince the Republican-controlled Congress that Katrina's economic aftermath will be so severe that the law's Oct. 17 effective date should be delayed a year for Gulf Coast residents, or other temporary reprieves should be granted.

But even some of the advocates acknowledge that their chances of success are slim despite the number of homes, businesses and lives the storm destroyed. Congress does not have many other fights on its hands right now, and any debate about bankruptcy rules is burdened by nearly a decade of partisan politics that preceded the bill's enactment. Read the full story.

Roberts Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved John Roberts' nomination as chief justice in a 13-to-5 vote, clearing the way for a final vote by the full Senate next week, the Associated Press reported. A number of Democrats not on the committee said this week that they would oppose Roberts when the Senate votes, indicating a split over whether they can or should mount even symbolic opposition to the successor to late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.


A widely followed gauge of future economic activity fell for the second straight month during August as consumer confidence sagged even before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the Washington Post reported today. The Conference Board said that its Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.2 percent last month to 137.6. July's slight increase was revised to a small decrease, and there were downward revisions to previous months.
The private research group said that consumer expectations, one of the components of the index, fell during August. The data for the index, collected before Katrina's devastation, is consistent with the economy continuing to expand more moderately in the near term, the Conference Board said. But Katrina was likely to send future LEI readings lower.
"Even before Katrina we saw a big run-up in energy prices. September is going to be very weak. It is going to show the impact of Katrina," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital Markets.

In a separate economic report yesterday, the Labor Department said that the number of Americans thrown out of work by Katrina and seeking jobless benefits now totals 214,000. Overall jobless claims rose to 432,000 last week, the highest level for total jobless claims since July 5, 2003. Read the full story.


Consumer understanding of and access to credit scores improved over the past year but still is insufficient, according to the second annual consumer credit score survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Providian Financial. The survey results were released on Tuesday.

"In the past year, consumer understanding of these scores has improved, in part because many consumers have obtained their scores," said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck. "Unfortunately, most consumers still do not know basic facts about credit scores and their financial significance," he added.

Now that a wide range of businesses, not just creditors, use credit scores in product pricing and availability, the costs of low scores, and savings from high scores, can be considerable. "If consumers were to raise their credit scores by only 30 points, on average, they would save $16 billion on lower credit card finance charges alone," said J. Christopher Lewis, Providian’s Chief Public Policy Officer. Read the full story.


The Environmental Trust Inc. grew and grew during the past 15 years, collecting roughly 90 properties as developers set aside open land in San Diego County to offset the impact of their construction projects, the San Diego Union Tribune reported yesterday. But the trust's leaders faltered badly, driving one of the region's oldest land-conservation groups into an unusual bankruptcy. The shaky finances that caused the trust's collapse raise questions about the long-term stability of land trusts, which own and manage open areas across the United States. At a hearing yesterday, a federal judge in San Diego discussed divvying up about 4,000 acres owned or managed by the trust.

The collapse of The Environmental Trust provides a window into scandals swirling around one of the most common options for protecting undeveloped parcels. Read the full story.


Get 'em while you can! A limited quantity of printed 2005-2006 ABI Membership Directories will be available for sale beginning in October. Pre-orders are now being taken. The Membership Directory is your quick-reference guide to more than 11,000 insolvency professionals. This edition allows you to search for colleagues in a variety of ways, including geographic region, profession, practice area and committee. Also included is a multiple "Members by Firm" section, which permits you to easily locate all members from a particular law, accounting or turnaround firm. The Directory is the single largest source for the top decisionmakers in the field. Pick up this excellent addition to your complimentary membership directory on CD-ROM, which will be mailed with the November issue of the ABI Journal.

Cost: $55 each, including shipping (ABI members only). Order Now!


ABI’s Detroit Bankruptcy Conference, "Practice Under the New Bankruptcy Law" brings together the area’s top insolvency professionals for one day of intense learning. The event will be held November 11, 2005, at the Novi Sheraton. Topics include:

    • U.S. Trustee Implementation: Entering, Getting Through and Exiting the Process
    • The Means Test: An In-depth Analysis
    • Chapter 13 Changes
    • What Debtors Get to Keep (And Not): Homestead Exemption; Household Goods; Privacy Issues
    • The New Super-Creditor: Domestic Support Changes
    • The New World of Chapter 11: Small Business Rules, Strategies in Real Estate Cases, Lease Rules, Preference and Reclamation Issues and Ethics
    • Tax Changes

Register today and earn up to 7 hours of CLE credit.


Join ABI for the 17th Annual Winter Leadership Conference in beautiful Indian Wells, California at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa, one of the Palm Spring area’s most luxurious hotels.
The program of 14 CLE credit hours (including 3 hours of ethics) features a faculty of renowned scholars, judges and practitioners from across the United States. A wide variety of committee educational sessions will be offered. Timely topics—all updated with the latest legislative revisions—include:

    • The Year in Review (other than legislation) and Emerging Issues for 2006
    • Solemn Promise or Past Sin? Implications of Pension Terminations
    • Pre-petition Sanctions, Contempt (Civil/Criminal), Penalties and Punitive Damages: Allowability and Enforceability
    • Ten Hints to Surviving the New Consumer Bankruptcy Law
    • A Gift by Any Other Name: Absolute Priority Rule after Armstrong World
    • New Realities for Financial Advisors under the New Law and Other Emerging Problems
    • Right Without a Remedy?: Individual and Small-Business Chapter 11 under the New Code
    • Breakfast Educational Program: New Law in Practice
    • Ethics: Swearing Contest—Certifications of Information and Other Ethical Quandaries of the New Law
    • Ethics: Special Conflicts Counsel: Best Practice or Big Case Aberration?

This year’s meeting will feature stand-up comedian Steve Bridges (a.k.a. “Mr. President”) and the all-ABI member rock-and-roll band, the Indubitable Equivalents. Optional events will include golf, tennis, The Living Desert, hot air ballooning, a Joshua Tree Jeep Eco-tour, off-road quad tours and a cooking class.

Register Today!


The new bankruptcy law provides that courts will take into account board certification when awarding attorney fees under Section 330. The American Board of Certification is offering its exams several times this fall. You can prepare for the exams with a handy and affordable CD-ROM prepared by board-certified ABI members. The CD includes materials on consumer bankruptcy, business bankruptcy, ethics and creditors’ rights. Sample exam questions and answers are also included. Member price is $195.

Buy Now!


Does the revised Article 9 increase the risk of fraud through unsigned termination statements? How detailed must a reasonable and diligent search be? Read about these topics and get the 2005 ABI Winter Leadership Agenda here.


A new online tutorial shows you how to find daily news stories, information and bankruptcy opinions on ABI’s comprehensive Web site. The tutorial features a visual demonstration of how to locate these documents quickly and easily, and guides you through the navigation process. This is the fourth in a series of tutorials that will highlight the many resources and services available at ABI World.

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: