TaxMasters, the tax-resolution firm, sought bankruptcy protection after coming under fire from multiple states’ attorneys general. The company listed debt of more than $1 million and assets of less than $50,000 in Chapter 11 documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston. TaxMasters said it has between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors. The company estimates that funds will be available for distribution to unsecured creditors.
While saving up to declare bankruptcy sounds odd, that’s exactly what many people have had to do since the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act was passed. Many families wait for their tax refund to file for bankruptcy, and this trend has been increasing as costs related to filing have gone up. Researchers have looked at the relationship between tax refunds and bankruptcy filings in 2001 and 2008, two years when a high percentage of Americans received refund checks.
A top Senate Democrat took aim at the private student-loan industry, calling for new rules that would allow educational debts to be wiped away during bankruptcy. Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) convened a Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday to address what one consumer group has called the nation’s next potential “debt bomb.” Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Americans owe about $870 billion in student loans — surpassing the amount of outstanding credit-card debt or auto loans.
For years economists and financial advisers have scratched their heads and wondered how so many Americans wound up in bankruptcy. The numbers show that total U.S. bankruptcies are in decline. U.S. bankruptcies dropped by 12% from November 2010 to November 2011. The total number of U.S. consumer bankruptcies should come in lower than 1.4 million.
Research has shown that Americans tend to wait far too long to look into bankruptcy protection, primarily out of shame and wounded pride.
Consumer debt, which drove almost 1.37 million consumers into bankruptcy during 2011, is on the rise. Yet, consumer bankruptcies slowed down last year from the 1.55 million bankruptcy filings in 2010, a decline of 12 percent. Some experts attribute it to more cautious consumer spending and a decline in credit card debt, others say that we’re just running out of people who can benefit from filing.
Bank of America, one of the five banks in the $25 billion settlement with the government over foreclosure practices, has struck a side deal that will allow it to reduce penalties in return for bigger cuts to borrowers’ mortgage balances. Bank of America will make deeper and broader cuts than other banks, which will allow it to avoid as much as $850 million in penalties and give more than 200,000 financially strapped households the opportunity to sharply reduce their mortgage balances.
Bank of America could be far from clear of securities claims over the scandal under a ruling allowing a mortgage-backed securities investor to press allegations over suspect mortgage documents. A U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles refused to dismiss federal and state securities claims alleging BofA and its Countrywide unit failed to properly assign loans and deliver their files to MBS trusts.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal has entered an opinion in favor of a foreclosing bank. The opinion states that the trial court should have allowed plaintiff to amend the complaint in their foreclosure action where the Plaintiff sought to amend its foreclosure complaint to add a count to re-establish a lost promissory note. Unable under penalty of perjury to verify the alleged facts were true, the Plaintiff added the qualifying language “to the best of my knowledge and belief.” The trial court relied on inapplicable case law imposing a more stringent standard than the verification rule requires.
A controversial measure to speed up foreclosures was not passed as the lawmaker session ended. The proposal would have accelerated foreclosure proceedings on abandoned properties and made it easier for lenders to complete proceedings when both parties agreed to end the process. For consumers, the bill would have reduced the length of time lenders could go after a borrower following a foreclosure sale from five years to one year.
Although the Home Affordable Mortgage Program doesn’t allow for private federal actions against banks over their implementation of the program, a homeowner can bring state law claims, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The Home Affordable Mortgage Program and its enabling statue do not contain a federal right of action, but neither do they preempt otherwise viable state-law claims.