American Bankruptcy Institute Update

December 27, 2005

In This Issue

Highlights

RETAIL SPENDING ROSE 8.7 PERCENT IN ’05 HOLIDAY SEASON

After a few slumping weeks in early December, consumers came back to stores in the last days before Christmas to deliver a solid, if not spectacular, holiday season, according to one early projection, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Holiday spending climbed 8.7 percent ahead of last year, according to SpendingPulse, a retail-sales data service from MasterCard International's MasterCard Advisors unit. Demand for flat-panel television sets, MP3 players and digital cameras helped spur gains, as did sales of home furnishings. But sales of jewelry fell this season following years of solid gains.

"Overall, we got off to a very strong start, then that evolved into a solid finish," says Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors. But he cautioned, "It didn't blow the barn doors off." The SpendingPulse data covers a 30-day shopping season this year compared with only 29 days in 2004. The projection is based on data and analysis that includes purchases made via credit and debit cards, cash and checks. Click here for the full story.

VIRGINIA CHAPTER 13 TRUSTEE PREDICTS FILINGS WILL PICK UP AGAIN IN SPRING

Richmond, Va., chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee Robert Hyman said about 450 cases came through his downtown office in the last three months of 2004, The Richmond Times Dispatch reported today. The total so far in the same span this year: 25. Hyman guesses that activity will pick up again in the spring, but at this point he admits that a good guess is about all he has. "You figure Christmas debt will start catching up around February, so around April you can [anticipate] some filings," he said.

Just not at the same pace as before. More than 4,100 area residents filed for bankruptcy protection at the federal court in Richmond in October. Last month, 86 consumer petitions were filed. While the drop-off might suggest that consumers' financial woes aren't as bad as advertised, Hyman said that doesn't necessarily mean people aren't swimming in debt. "The same people that had financial troubles on Oct. 1 still had financial trouble on Nov. 1," he said. "I just think that really anyone who thought about [filing for bankruptcy] has already done it. There are always going to be unforeseen circumstances. But I don't think it's ever going to get back to where it was." Click here for the full story.

SOME COLLEGE STUDENTS SEE BANKRUPTCY AS QUICK FIX

Consumer bankruptcy petitions for 2005 already exceed 2 million, surpassing the previous record of 1.66 million filed in 2003. Last year, just under 1.6 million petitions were filed. The fastest-growing groups of filers include the elderly and the very youngest consumers, which makes this an important topic to discuss with your young adult, the Delaware News Journal reported yesterday. Easy access to credit cards and hefty college loans have contributed to the situation. College students accumulate an average of $2,864 in credit card debt, according to Nellie Mae, a major issuer of student loans. On top of that, the average graduating student owes about $18,900 in tuition debt. This means many young people are deep in debt before they've even earned their first paycheck. Click here for the full story.

OPINION: CREDIT CARD COMPANIES TRYING TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS

It might seem counterintuitive that many credit card companies would inundate the recently bankrupt with solicitations for new cards. It's especially perplexing that those same companies would do so after having spent more than eight years and $100 million lobbying Congress to protect them from irresponsible borrowers with a draconian new bankruptcy law, according to a Monday New York Times op-ed piece.

But the truth is that credit card companies aren't all that interested in customers who pay their bills in full every month. They really want the so-called revolvers, people who don't cover their balances and pony up those juicy interest payments and fees. The tighter repayment provisions in the new law will encourage companies to trawl for even less-qualified customers. Click here for the full story.

LAW FIRMS EXPERIENCED ECONOMIC UPSWING IN SECOND HALF OF 2005

For law firms, 2005 is proving to be a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of year. After a robust 2004, firms posted lukewarm results for the first half of 2005, according to a survey of firm finances by the Law Firm Group at The Citigroup Private Bank, The American Lawyer reported on Friday. However, business has picked up significantly in the second half. The net effect is a year that will likely fall just shy of 2004's results, but augurs for a strong start to 2006.

Most of Citigroup's hard data for the first six months of 2005 indicates modest growth. Revenue growth slowed, and gross billable hours were up only modestly, dragged down by the sluggish pace of the transactional sector. Expenses rose at the same pace as revenue, producing flat margins. Big-ticket litigation, though still plentiful, didn't provide the same kick as in recent years. But conversations with a broad cross-section of managing partners suggests that business accelerated significantly in the second half, especially on the transactional side. In fact, Thomson Financial says that mergers and acquisitions had their strongest third quarter, measured by global dollar volume, since 2000, with announced deals totaling $563 billion on 6,930 transactions. We expect this upsurge to continue into 2006, although much will depend on whether the transactional sector can sustain its momentum. Click here for the full story.

UPDATE TO MINI-RULES BOOK

The publisher of the 2006 edition of the Mini-Rules book, AWHFY Publishing, has issued an update to the book, which may be downloaded here. The one-page update label should be placed in your 2006 Mini-Rules on the last Note page at the back of your book. The label will update your Interim Rules with the most current amendments. We will apprise you of any additional updates as the publisher makes them available.

ANALYSIS ON CONSUMER PROVISIONS OF BAPCPA

ABI Member Michael Barnett (Michael Barnett, PA; Tampa, Fla.) has prepared an analysis of the consumer provisions of BAPCPA, updating it with case law as becomes available. Click here to view the analysis.

REGISTER NOW FOR ABI’S 24th ANNUAL SPRING MEETING

Join ABI in Washington, D.C., for its 24th Annual Spring Meeting, April 20-23, 2006. Top bankruptcy judges and nationally acclaimed practitioners will convene in the Nation’s Capital for four days of networking, CLE/CPE programming and headliner entertainment. Don’t miss a special Friday morning plenary session where Kathleen Ligocki, president and CEO of Tower Automotive, will discuss the problems U.S. manufacturers face today. Political pundit Mort Kondracke is the Friday luncheon program keynote speaker. In addition, this year’s program features the Tenth Annual Great Debates on hot topics and, among others, the following educational panels: 

    •         New World of International Insolvencies: Chapter 15 and Beyond
    •         Professional Compensation in the Post-BAPCPA Environment
    •         Implementing BAPCPA: More Rules and New Roles
    •         Judges Roundtable - Hot Splits in the Circuits
    •         Anatomy of a Health Care Insolvency
    •         Turnarounds after BAPCPA: Should We All Become Liquidators?
    •         Asset Protection after BAPCPA:  Testing the Limits
    •         Consumer Lawyer vs. Client: The Ethics of Disclosure after BAPCPA
    •         Business: Ethics and the Plan Process - When Is the Client a Fiduciary, and What Does That Mean?

You can also participate in numerous Educational Committee Sessions on Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22. Get involved in ABI’s committees and earn CLE credit! Register early and save $80.

Register today and earn up to 19 hours of CLE credit!

UPDATED FOR THE NEW LAW: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE: BANKRUPTCY AND ITS IMPACT ON DOMESTIC RELATIONS AND FAMILY LAW, THIRD EDITION

Divorce and bankruptcy are alike in that each attempts to provide a "fresh start," but the laws are often in conflict. This resource, now updated to include BAPCPA changes, was developed for an ABI educational program to help family court judges better identify and deal with bankruptcy issues, such as the impact of the automatic stay, the power of the courts to enjoin state courts, property of the bankruptcy estate, the impact of the bankruptcy discharge on alimony, child support, maintenance and property settlements, post-petition divorce actions and exempt property. Appendices feature relevant sections of the Bankruptcy Code, a list of cases and articles on the topic, and a directory of bankruptcy judges and bankruptcy court clerks. Softbound, 120 pages. Order today!

Product #05-029

Member: $22  Non-member: $27

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: