American Bankruptcy Institute Update

December 8, 2005

In This Issue

Highlights

Correction: Kentucky Court Has Not Issued Order Making “Debt Relief Agency” Label Inapplicable

Tuesday’s Update reported that the Western District of Kentucky Bankruptcy Court (Louisville Division) had issued an order declaring §§526, 527 and 528 of the new Code inapplicable to attorneys practicing in the district. While a motion to this effect has been made, it is pending, and thus no such order has been entered by the court. ABI regrets the error.

PENSION REFORM

Thomas Disputes Blunt's Take on Pension Measure

A day after House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that pension overhaul was off the House's agenda for the year, a key lawmaker said it was back on, and that a vote on the legislation might come next week, CongressDaily reported today. Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said yesterday that he had spoken to House leaders and said he had "a high comfort level" that the bill he authored with Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) would get a vote the week of Dec. 12. "We continue to educate members about the broad support for the bill," a Boehner spokesman said. "We're working to have the bill on the floor as soon as possible."

Both the House and Senate bills tighten the rules governing how companies fund their pension plans, although there are differences in the two versions. House action next week would improve the chances that Congress will enact a new pension law before a temporary pension fix expires at the end of the year (see next item).

OPINION: UAW Fuels Logjam on House Pension Bill

The United Auto Workers union, with behind-the-scenes backing from General Motors Corp., has stymied efforts by the Bush administration, Republican leaders and business groups to pass legislation on the government insurance fund for corporate pensions, the Wall Street Journal editorialized today.

After two years of debate—and recent maneuvering that seemed to produce a compromise—Republican sponsors of the House bill are becoming resigned to postponing action until next year, even though the Senate has passed a similar bill. Fearful of losing momentum, Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) are working to schedule a floor vote in the next few days, but internal Republican politics —namely Boehner's rivalry with acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)—is adding to the obstacles. Read the full story.

SUPREME COURT: DISABLED CAN'T ESCAPE STUDENT LOANS

America's seniors and disabled cannot avoid debts from old student loans, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, freeing the government to pursue Social Security benefits as part of an effort to collect billions in delinquent loans, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
The Bush administration prevailed in its argument that the ability to withhold Social Security benefits as an offset is an important tool in the pursuit of $5.7 billion in student loan debt that is over 10 years old. Overall, outstanding loans total about $33 billion.

Government lawyers said there is a limit on how much can be taken from benefit checks—15 percent—and that the Education Department can forgive debts in some hardship cases. Read the full story.

REPORT EXAMINES U.S. CREDIT CARD GROWTH FACTORS

The U.S. credit card industry continues to expand in terms of usage, the arenas in which credit cards are accepted, and the variety of cards accepted by merchants, according to Credit Cards in the United States, thewisemarketer.com reported yesterday.

The report says that consumers who once saved credit cards for emergencies are now accustomed to using them for small, everyday purchases. And while credit card companies are enlarging their target market, individuals are dealing with growing debt. Disposable personal income has risen while personal savings have decreased. But although consumers are learning how to better manage debt, many have taken to increasing their use of debit cards, which has become a major factor to the growth of the credit card industry. Consumers are also realizing that debit cards are becoming just as convenient as credit cards, providing the convenience of plastic while anchoring spending to account balances. Read the report.

STATES: IOWA DEMS WANT TO PUT BRAKES ON CAR TITLE LOAN INDUSTRY

Statehouse Democrats say they’ll push for legislation to put the brakes on the car title loan industry in Iowa after a homeless veteran who lived in his car saw his only shelter repossessed when he couldn’t repay the loan, WCFCourier.com reported yesterday.

Critics of car title loans say that they allow consumers with bad credit and low incomes to receive short-term loans at exorbitantly high interest rates. Those who take out the loans put their vehicles up as a security, but in some cases aren’t able to repay them with interest rates that can in some cases hit 360 percent.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said that the car title loan industry brings "unconscionable social costs" to Iowa and is fundamentally unfair. Read more.

ANALYSIS: MOTOWN LOSES ITS MOJO, INSOLVENCY INEVITABLE?

The bankruptcy of Delphi Corp. has transfixed Michigan in recent weeks. Will the giant auto-supply firm's reorganization help guide American car makers out of the $76-an-hour wilderness—or will it drag the industry to its grave by triggering a cataclysmic strike? But another bankruptcy is looming, and this one involves a real welfare state: the city of Detroit. Fiscally challenged communities across the country may find themselves watching Motown with equal fascination, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The near-collapse of General Motors, Ford and their major suppliers is posing a big drag on city finances. This comes atop a long-running failure to adjust to Detroit's declining population to less than 900,000 residents from a peak of more than 1.8 million after World War II. With an accumulated deficit of $300 million, union opposition to reform and a bond rating rapidly approaching junk status, Detroit is in crisis. As Joseph Harris, the city's auditor general, flatly declared: "Insolvency is certain. The only question is the timing of the inevitable." Read the full analysis.

NEW TECHNOLOGY & TELECOMMUNICATION COMMITTEE NEWSLETTER NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE

Read about jurisdictional issues affecting interconnection agreements, preparation of the lay witness for the e-arena and more in the Technology & Telecommunication Committee Newsletter.

NEW: BLOG ON BAPCPA

ABI World is now home to a blog on the latest case law interpreting the bankruptcy amendments. Created by David L. Rosendorf, ABI member and a shareholder at Miami’s Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A., the ABI BAPCPA Blog provides regular commentary, analysis and an opportunity for you to post comments. This week’s post covers a Nov. 29 opinion from Minnesota on the new automatic stay rules in the case of a serial filer. Check out the blog here, and feel free to weigh in.

REGISTER NOW FOR ABI’S CARIBBEAN INSOLVENCY SYMPOSIUM

Join ABI in Miami Beach for the Second Caribbean Insolvency Symposium, to be held Feb. 9 - 10, 2006 at Eden Roc Resort & Spa.
This year’s program brings together top international speakers to discuss up-to-the-minute issues in international insolvency and restructuring. The program features a faculty of outstanding scholars, judges and practitioners from across the United States, the Caribbean and South America. 

Timely topics include:
* CAFTA and new chapter 15: forum-shopping in the Caribbean
* Introduction to the new bankruptcy and restructuring law in Brazil 
* Small business and individual chapter 11 under BAPCPA 
* Tough ethical dilemmas after BAPCPA 
* Dealing with disasters: the new bankruptcy law after a natural disaster
* Views from the bench (featuring judges from Florida and Puerto Rico)

Register today and earn up to 5.25 hours of CLE credit!

NEW ON-DEMAND CLE: BEST OF MID-ATLANTIC WORKSHOP 2005

“Anything but Bankruptcy: ABCs, Receiverships & Other Alternatives” will be held live on Jan. 18, 2006, at 2 p.m. EDT. This “Best of ABI” program covers winning strategies involving state and federal receiverships, assignments for the benefit of creditors, out-of-court workouts and more. 90 minutes, $95. Click here for more information.

GET INVOLVED!

Do You Know?From publishing opportunities to committee involvement, ABI offers many options for members to raise their professional profiles. Click here for more opportunities.

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: