What is a chapter 11 bankruptcy and how do they work?

A chapter 11 bankruptcy is designed to first protect and then help a business survive and succeed.  If a business is struggling under the weight of a tremendous debt then a chapter 11 can be filed to preserve the business.  Public policy says that a business is a going concern that employs people and thus should be saved from breakup and destruction.

A chapter 11 can also be filed by an individual instead of a business if that individual has debt that exceeds the debt limits of a chapter 13.  This is less common than business chapter 11s but it gives individuals with a great amount of debt an opportunity to file a payback type of bankruptcy if they can’t file a chapter 7.

A chapter 11 business filing will theoretically give a business time to reorganize and develop a plan to pay back the creditors at least partially.  The problem is that though many are filed most chapter 11 bankruptcies for small businesses do not work.

If a business is failing then it is unlikely that a suspension of the collection efforts of creditors will save it.  There is usually insufficient income generated by the business to pay much of its debts.  If the business reaches this point where it needs a chapter 11 then the business model is probably unworkable.  Most attorneys will advise their clients to at least consider the possibility of closing the business.  In the end most chapter 11s are converted to chapter 7s or they are dismissed.

In addition chapter 11s are very expensive to file.  The filing fees are over $1000 and in addition there are administration fees charged by the court.  There is a tremendous amount of work for the attorneys to do too and thus large attorney fees are also required.  There are also numerous legal documents and motions that must be filed on the first day and then more of these within the next 7 days.

There are also numerous trips to court.  Court appearances are necessary to ask the judge for permission to do many things like pay your attorneys.  The business becomes the “debtor in possession” after the filing but the business must take out all new bank accounts after the filing is done and it must close all of the old bank accounts.  On each account it must be stated that this business is in chapter 11.  The debtor in possession can run the business though during the chapter 11.

Then there are the reports.  Profit/loss statements must be filed along with balance sheets and monthly operating reports.  Keeping business accounts in a chapter 11 is very difficult and must be done correctly.   The court must be specially petitioned for permission to pay an accountant and other experts to do this kind of work.

All of this is why chapter 11s work better for a large business than a small one.  Most law firms will charge $20,000 at least to do one and the court fees, accountants, and business specialists must be paid are in addition to these fees.  Large law firms handling large businesses are the norm in workable chapter 11s.

There is also the problem of the creditors committee that must be set up with a chapter 11.  The creditors of the business must be gotten together to approve of the reorganization plan for the business and the reorganization plan must be carefully produced.  The reorganization plan is a plan that the business comes up with to both run the business and pay back part of the debts.  This plan must then be approved by the creditors committee.

With a small business the formality of a creditors committee may be waived but if there is one or two large creditors they are definitely have something to say.  They may be foreclosing on property or want their other assets back or they may want to break up the business.  Creditors can even demand that the management of the business be turned over to someone else (instead of the business owner) resulting in you losing control of the day-to-day operations of the business.

There are advantages to a chapter 11 like it does not have a five-year limitation to paying back creditors like a chapter 13.  Also you may be forced into one if you have more debt than is allowed in a chapter 13.  (And remember that individuals can file a chapter 11 bankruptcy in cases where their debt exceeds 13 limits and where a chapter 7 will not work).

But remember the purpose of the 11 is to turn around a business and make it work.  If the judge thinks you are using it for another purpose like stalling the paying of creditors or for stalling a foreclosure then he could move for sanctions, move to dismiss the case, and even lift the automatic stay.

In a SARE cases (single asset real estate) it is common that the debtor/business filed when a foreclosure was pending.  The creditor/mortgage holder will then move to lift the stay and sell the property unless the debtor makes payments or files a “workable” plan.  Both of these things the debtor may not be able to do.  Therefore in these cases the lifting of the stay is often allowed and the property is then sold at foreclosure.

You can see from this short blog on chapter 11s that they are expensive, time-consuming, extremely complicated, and prone to dismissal or failure.  The good news it that there are alternatives to these 11s.  Contact a competent bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options if you are considering filing a chapter 11 bankruptcy.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation about a chapter 11 bankruptcy or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!  For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Can I still go to debtor’s prison if I owe money? Look out Charles Dickens, in some states unfortunately it appears that it is happening now!

(My most recent debtors prison blog is found here: http://bit.ly/I2qMO2 .

There are numerous articles posted online that describe cases where people appear to have been put in jail in some states for merely owing  monetary debts.  This can happen to debtors who either owe money to the court or to private parties.  And this has happened in spite of the fact that debtor’s prisons were outlawed federally in 1833.  Most of the states followed suit after 1833 and included clauses in their constitutions prohibiting imprisonment for owing money to someone.

In spite of these prohibitions debtor’s prisons seem to be making a comeback.  There are states where it’s possible to put someone in jail for failure to pay a debt.  I am surprised that lawyers in these states have not put together constitutional challenges to someone who was thrown in jail for such a monetary debt.

According to blog I found online people are languishing in Illinois jails, in Champagne and other counties, for owing unpaid traffic tickets.  A law professor from Notre Dame Law School quoted in the article says that we do have “de-facto” debtor’s prisons because of this practice of jailing debtor’s for merely owing money in spite of constitutional prohibitions even if the money is owed to the state.   According to this law professor this creates a situation where debtors are scrambling to come up with money by any means just to stay out of jail.

An article in the Saint Petersburg Times points out that it costs the jails $53 per day (in Florida) to incarcerate these people who often don’t owe much money.  So the taxpayers pay for the jailing, the judge, and the whole judicial system that wastes time and money trying to collect from these destitute people.  In Florida they have an ominous sounding “Collections Court” that handles these cases and about a third of Florida counties have these courts.  Even in the counties without these courts people are still being jailed for owing money.

According to the Times article it costs the system $62,085 to bring in $80,450 in debt.  Those languishing in jail for these unpaid tickets are certainly poor and often minority but anyone without means can get caught up in this travesty of justice.  How is it still a possibility that you could go to jail for owing money?  Were debtors prisons not outlawed in the 1800s?  Didn’t Charles Dickens inform us 200 years ago about the foolishness of this practice?

The Times article points out that you can be jailed for violating a court order or for failing to make court ordered payments.  So technically they are not being jailed for owing money but it amounts to the same thing.  Jail time is usually given to people who owe spousal and child support but legal experts argue that it is all illegal.

Now there is more and more disturbing chatter on the internet about debtors being jailed for owing a purely private company money.  There are horror stories emerging about arrests made and persons jailed for owing money to private parties.  On such woman was arrested one day, handcuffed, put in a very cold police car, brought to jail and no one told her why for some time while the contents of her purse were unceremoniously dumped in a plastic bag.  She spent a cold night in jail keeping her hands under her armpits for warmth until 16 hours later when she was informed that she missed a court hearing concerning some private debt.

In that case she had missed a court hearing but in Indiana a man faced jail for just failing to pay a purely private debt.  His incarceration had nothing to do with violating a court order.   According to an online article in the Minnesota StarTibune a lawyer challenged the constitutionality of a debtor being threatened with jail for owing a debt.  The appellate judges agreed with the lawyer and he won the case because debtor’s prisons were made illegal in Indiana in the 1850s.

The article in the Star Tribune points out that there is an inconsistency with who is locked up when, and for how much debt, and that all of these things vary from state to state and county to county.  It also makes mention that no one knows how often this happens as no statistics are kept of these incidents.  One man in Illinois was locked up by a judge “indefinitely” for owing $300 to a lumber yard.

Now it seems that the collection agents are influencing the legal system more and more to be more creditor friendly.   Some would say that the collectors are subverting the legal system and using the threat of jail and jail time extract money from people who cannot afford to pay anything towards these privately held debts.

The good news is though that bankruptcy can remove most debts from your balance sheet.  After a bankruptcy discharge you legally no longer owe the debts anymore so no creditor can try to collect on them or try to get you put in jail if you don’t.  Your legal obligation to pay these debts is eliminated.  With debt collectors gaining in power and money and influence this is a very good thing.

In California I know that the courts can threaten jail if you do not attend the court ordered “debtor’s exam”.  This is where a creditor can ask you all sorts of personal questions about your assets and your financial situation.  The courts cannot jail you if you do not pay the creditor in California but they threaten to jail you if you don’t show up for the court ordered exam.

I filed a case for a client the day before his debtor’s exam and he brought his bankruptcy case number to the debtor’s exam.  The other attorney did not know what to do but the judge threw the whole case out right there and told her to go to bankruptcy court for any money.  My client had nothing and the creditor had no reason to declare his debts non-dischargeable so that is the last we ever saw of the creditor.  My client got his discharge without a problem.  Bankruptcy is indeed a powerful mechanism to defeat over-zealous creditors.

You almost always don’t have to argue whether you owe a debt after bankruptcy and you don’t have to argue whether any punishment is constitutional.  I wrote another blog about debtor’s prisons here: http://bit.ly/JmsMFt .

I am a bankruptcy lawyer practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego California.   For more information related to debt, bankruptcy, or debtor’s prison please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com and www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call me directly for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!  For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Can I still go to debtor’s prison if I owe money? Look out Charles Dickens, in some states unfortunately it appears that it is happening now!

(My most recent debtors prison blog is found here: http://bit.ly/I2qMO2 .

There are numerous articles posted online that describe cases where people appear to have been put in jail in some states for merely owing  monetary debts.  This can happen to debtors who either owe money to the court or to private parties.  And this has happened in spite of the fact that debtor’s prisons were outlawed federally in 1833.  Most of the states followed suit after 1833 and included clauses in their constitutions prohibiting imprisonment for owing money to someone.

In spite of these prohibitions debtor’s prisons seem to be making a comeback.  There are states where it’s possible to put someone in jail for failure to pay a debt.  I am surprised that lawyers in these states have not put together constitutional challenges to someone who was thrown in jail for such a monetary debt.

According to blog I found online people are languishing in Illinois jails, in Champagne and other counties, for owing unpaid traffic tickets.  A law professor from Notre Dame Law School quoted in the article says that we do have “de-facto” debtor’s prisons because of this practice of jailing debtor’s for merely owing money in spite of constitutional prohibitions even if the money is owed to the state.   According to this law professor this creates a situation where debtors are scrambling to come up with money by any means just to stay out of jail.

An article in the Saint Petersburg Times points out that it costs the jails $53 per day (in Florida) to incarcerate these people who often don’t owe much money.  So the taxpayers pay for the jailing, the judge, and the whole judicial system that wastes time and money trying to collect from these destitute people.  In Florida they have an ominous sounding “Collections Court” that handles these cases and about a third of Florida counties have these courts.  Even in the counties without these courts people are still being jailed for owing money.

According to the Times article it costs the system $62,085 to bring in $80,450 in debt.  Those languishing in jail for these unpaid tickets are certainly poor and often minority but anyone without means can get caught up in this travesty of justice.  How is it still a possibility that you could go to jail for owing money?  Were debtors prisons not outlawed in the 1800s?  Didn’t Charles Dickens inform us 200 years ago about the foolishness of this practice?

The Times article points out that you can be jailed for violating a court order or for failing to make court ordered payments.  So technically they are not being jailed for owing money but it amounts to the same thing.  Jail time is usually given to people who owe spousal and child support but legal experts argue that it is all illegal.

Now there is more and more disturbing chatter on the internet about debtors being jailed for owing a purely private company money.  There are horror stories emerging about arrests made and persons jailed for owing money to private parties.  On such woman was arrested one day, handcuffed, put in a very cold police car, brought to jail and no one told her why for some time while the contents of her purse were unceremoniously dumped in a plastic bag.  She spent a cold night in jail keeping her hands under her armpits for warmth until 16 hours later when she was informed that she missed a court hearing concerning some private debt.

In that case she had missed a court hearing but in Indiana a man faced jail for just failing to pay a purely private debt.  His incarceration had nothing to do with violating a court order.   According to an online article in the Minnesota StarTibune a lawyer challenged the constitutionality of a debtor being threatened with jail for owing a debt.  The appellate judges agreed with the lawyer and he won the case because debtor’s prisons were made illegal in Indiana in the 1850s.

The article in the Star Tribune points out that there is an inconsistency with who is locked up when, and for how much debt, and that all of these things vary from state to state and county to county.  It also makes mention that no one knows how often this happens as no statistics are kept of these incidents.  One man in Illinois was locked up by a judge “indefinitely” for owing $300 to a lumber yard.

Now it seems that the collection agents are influencing the legal system more and more to be more creditor friendly.   Some would say that the collectors are subverting the legal system and using the threat of jail and jail time extract money from people who cannot afford to pay anything towards these privately held debts.

The good news is though that bankruptcy can remove most debts from your balance sheet.  After a bankruptcy discharge you legally no longer owe the debts anymore so no creditor can try to collect on them or try to get you put in jail if you don’t.  Your legal obligation to pay these debts is eliminated.  With debt collectors gaining in power and money and influence this is a very good thing.

In California I know that the courts can threaten jail if you do not attend the court ordered “debtor’s exam”.  This is where a creditor can ask you all sorts of personal questions about your assets and your financial situation.  The courts cannot jail you if you do not pay the creditor in California but they threaten to jail you if you don’t show up for the court ordered exam.

I filed a case for a client the day before his debtor’s exam and he brought his bankruptcy case number to the debtor’s exam.  The other attorney did not know what to do but the judge threw the whole case out right there and told her to go to bankruptcy court for any money.  My client had nothing and the creditor had no reason to declare his debts non-dischargeable so that is the last we ever saw of the creditor.  My client got his discharge without a problem.  Bankruptcy is indeed a powerful mechanism to defeat over-zealous creditors.

You almost always don’t have to argue whether you owe a debt after bankruptcy and you don’t have to argue whether any punishment is constitutional.  I wrote another blog about debtor’s prisons here: http://bit.ly/JmsMFt .

I am a bankruptcy lawyer practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego California.   For more information related to debt, bankruptcy, or debtor’s prison please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com and www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call me directly for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis! 

For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

What do the election results mean for bankruptcy and foreclosure?

The reality of our political situation is that no matter what you think of any political party, the democrats are in general friendlier to debtors.  I am not a democrat or a liberal but I say this because it is just the way it is.

So if you are in debt the democrats will probably pass more laws that will help you (years ago Hillary Clinton put forth legislation to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy).  With the Republican takeover therefore there will probably not be as much relief  for debtors as there would be if democrats stayed in power.

For instance the writing down of mortgages to the value of the homes is being proposed by a democrat.  This is being sponsored by the democratic senator from Rhode Island and it will probably not happen now because the dems lost the house.  Neither will a foreclosure moratorium.  A halting to all foreclosures has been called for but it is unlikely top pass with republicans controlling the house of representatives.  Republicans are more likely to want to see the foreclosures happen.

But that does not mean that republicans are more in bed with big banks.  They just believe in personal responsibility and that if you can’t afford a mortgage then you should go out of your house.  For many of my clients this is my advice and I point out to them how it’s probably cheaper to rent than to make their high payments for an upside down house.  But for others I advise them to try to get a modification and stay in the home because they are attached to the home or they have made major improvements to it.

The republicans will be faced with the emergency of an increasing number of these foreclosures and they may be forced to take more drastic action than they would otherwise take due to seriousness of the problem.

Remember too that bankruptcy is still going to be always available and it is unlikely to change.  The law was majorly overhauled in 2005 and will probably be only tweaked now.  That 2005 bankruptcy law and the means test that it created is considered unfriendly to debtors.  If your income is too high then you are forced into a chapter 13.

Vice president Biden voted for that 2005 change to the bankruptcy law along with many other democrats so it was not just republicans who supported it.  But bankruptcy is still available and its often the most sensible solution for people who do not have too much income but they do have a lot of debts they cannot pay.

So there is unlikely to be a foreclosure freeze now or a mortgage write down but there may be some other relief coming for debtors if both parties can work together.

I am a bankruptcy lawyer in San Diego.  If you need more help please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com.