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Articles Tagged with bankruptcy rules

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This post was prepared by yours truly, with contributions from Phil Bradford, a financial web content writer. Phil graduated from New York University School of Law and recently joined Herald University as a reporter. He has also written for websites such as debtfreeguys.com and disabilitycanhappen.org

An now, on with the post…

Those who’ve exhausted their financial options or are unable to meet obligations due to illness, divorce, job-loss, or other life-altering events, may consider filing Bankruptcy to get their life back on track.  Here is a quick-guide to help you navigate the process with the help of a good Bankruptcy Lawyer:

Basic Types of Bankruptcy

The most basic distinction when thinking about Bankruptcy is the one between a liquidation (Chapter 7) and a reorganization (Chapter 13 for most people). Whether you need to file a Chapter 7 or 13 case will depend on several factors, including:

  • Total “household” income
  • The value of your property
  • What you stand to lose
  • What you intend to keep

That said, below you will find a few of the most important points when considering if Bankruptcy is right for you.
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By Andrew Jackson  Edited by Mazyar M. Hedayat, Esq.

In this post we will skim the surface of how the Automatic Stay, put into effect via Section 362 if Title 11 of the United States Code, helps clear the air for people and companies that file Bankruptcy; allowing them to repay their creditors the best they can. What Is the Automatic Stay? Bankruptcy is the Federal process by which an individual, a couples, or a business entity is permitted to shed liabilities and obtain a fresh start. This process can take the form of a one time liquidation or a reorganization that unfolds over time. But all forms of Bankruptcy have one thing in common: the Automatic Stay found at 11 USC 362.  So what is the Stay? It is

a self-executing, universal injunction that goes into effect the moment a case is filed and keeps most creditors from exercising control over the assets of the Bankruptcy Estate.

Why An Automatic Stay?

To ensure that similarly-situated creditors get treated equitably in a Bankruptcy, Congress wrote the Bankruptcy Code to ensure that nobody could get the advantage. The Automatic Stay ensures that there is enough to go around, and that no single Creditor gets too much; even if what is left to distribute is only pennies on the Dollar. Under the Code, fairness equals equitable distribution.To ensure fairness, Section 362 makes it a punishable offense for most creditors to take actions such as:

  • Filing or pursuing a lawsuit to collect
  • Garnishing wages or issuing a citation
  • Filing or foreclosing a mortgage or lien
  • Demanding payment orally or in writing

What if the Stay is Violated?

Because the intent of Congress in creating the Automatic Stay was to usher in a quiet period during which the Bankruptcy Trustee could take stock of assets and liabilities without having to fight the Debtor’s battles, penalties for violation of the Stay are harsh. Any breach of the peace, with or without the creditors’ knowledge, is considered contempt of Court punishable by injunctive, monetary, and in proper circumstances punitive, damages. This is worth repeating:creditors can be punished even if they did not know  that they were violating the Automatic Stay. As long as the Stay is in effect – that is, a Bankruptcy case was filed – violation by a creditor is a civil offense. Note however; Congress considered some things too important even for the Automatic Stay. Thus, Criminal matters are not affected; nor are family law (i.e. Divorce) matters.

How is the Automatic Stay Put Into Effect?

Neither a Debtor, the Debtor’s Lawyer, nor the Court needs to take any action to activate the Stay – it comes into existence by operation of law when the case is filed. How do creditors know? Every creditor listed in the Bankruptcy Petition is served notice by the Court Clerk.

What if My Creditors Say They Didn’t Know?

All creditors identified in the Petition receive notice of the case from the Court Clerk, and all recipients are bound by the provisions of §362 whether or not they know they are violating it. You read that right: even if a creditor was unaware of the Stay when they violated it, they can nonetheless be punished by the Bankruptcy Court. In fact, the Automatic Stay is so powerful that it restrains not only creditors but the majority of Judges and Attorneys from exercising dominion or control over assets of the Bankruptcy Estate.

How Long Does The Automatic Stay Last?

In practice, the Automatic Stay lasts for a relatively short time in the case of liquidation and much longer in the event of reorganization. In Chapter 7 the Automatic Stay protects all non-exempt property that can be administered by the Trustee for about 90 days (the length of most Chapter 7 cases). That is, until a discharge is issued, the Stay protects all items in the Bankruptcy Estate. In Chapter 11 and 13 the Stay remains in effect for as long as the Plan of Reorganization is active. In Chapter 13 that means a maximum of 5 years. In Chapter 11 that means a long as it takes to repay creditors according to the Plan approved by the Court and a majority of unsecured creditors. Wrapping It All Up After reading this article it should be evident that the Automatic Stay is a powerful tool. While we have discussed only a fraction of its ramifications here, you should now have a better understanding of this portion of the Bankruptcy Code. Take advantage of your new appreciation for the law by contacting M.Hedayat & Associates to set up a telephone or office consultation.

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How does a company with $69.8 million in assets and only $9.2 million in liabilities end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection? The answer is crime doesn’t pay, especially when you get caught hiring a hit man to make someone “stop breathing.”

An Offer A Creditor Can’t Refuse…Unless Someone’s Wearing a Wire.

Daniel Dvorkin, a local developer who was formerly in charge of Dvorkin Holdings LLC, was arrested in July after telling a federal informant that he would pay $100,000 for the informant to find a hit man that would make sure one of his creditors would sleep with the fishes. The cooperating witness was wearing an audio and video recording device for several of the conversations with Dvorkin. The target was an attorney who owned a corporation that had recently won an $8.2 million judgment against Dvorkin.

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Alan J. Mandel Law Offices had been representing a Debtor in Possession (DIP) in Chapter 11 and sought final payment for Attorneys’ fees as well as expenses. Ultimately Mandel received only part of the requested compensation due to its overly broad reading of the Bankruptcy Code and the resulting attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Officially “No” … Unofficially “Yes”

Multiut, an Illinois Corporation, filed a Chapter 11 Petition on May 14, 2009 due largely to litigation between it and Dynegy Marketing and Trade. Mandel, who was eventually retained with Court approval, served as outside general counsel to Multiut during the litigation and even acted as Bankruptcy Counsel. But Mandel was not hired by Multuit until January 22, 2010 and was not “officially” retained until February 1, 2010; at which point it sought payment for fees and costs retroactive to the Petition Date via a legal technique known as nunc pro tunc (Latin for ‘now, for then’).

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While Bernie Madoff serves out his 150-year sentence, the fight over how to satisfy his creditors rages on. Now, an infamous 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court limiting the power of bankruptcy courts may have a bizarre and unintended affect: many of the investors that recovered money when Madoff was first exposed may lose it (again) because the Bankruptcy Court may have overstepped its bounds by giving it to them in the first place. Confused yet?

Collateral Damage

Here’s the problem. Irving Picard, Trustee in the Madoff Bankruptcy, is now attempting to recoup funds lost to Madoff’s Ponzi schemes by means of fraudulent transfer suits. A Ponzi scheme is an illegal investment scheme that involves investors getting returns on their investment not based on profits but by subsequent investors. The enticement for new investors is usually short-term investments that offer an unnaturally high rate of return. Because it is not based on actual profits, it is destined for collapse. Madoff, on his way to becoming the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, created a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of billions of dollars. A fraudulent transfer suit is when in an effort to mislead creditors, the debtor transfers assets he knows he does not have. This is a fraudulent conveyance. The “suit” part is when a creditor, or a Bankruptcy Trustee, sues the recipients of the fraudulent conveyances demanding the funds back. In the case of Madoff and his Bankruptcy Trustee Picard, Picard is trying to augment the bankruptcy estate by suing people who originally invested in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and received a “return” on that investment from Madoff. Picard wants the investors’ funds back, despite it being Madoff who created the fraudulent scheme in the first place. So if you are one of those investors, what do you do?

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