Mortgage Modification Amendment Defeated in Senate

I just received an email from NACBA – National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyers. They say that the mortgage modification in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy amendment which NACBA was trying to get passed was defeated today in the Senate. The amendment in question was to be part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act.

I think that means it’s totally dead for this session of Congress. Had it passed, I was going to have to find a class or seminar to attend to learn what all the bill contained as finally passed. NACBA has it’s convention in Chicago at the end of this month, and I would have had to be sure that I got there. As it is, I can probably wait till next year without missing anything essential.

Recession Sing Along

While you are waiting to come down with the swine flu, you might want to have a good laugh. The funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time is a recession sing along at the Newsday web site. Click the following for a direct link to the animated video.

Maybe you have to be old enough to remember the West Side Story movie from the 1960s to fully appreciate this thing. I don’t see how the mortgage broker singing “I Feel Greedy” could quite have the full intended impact unless the viewer is familiar with the original “I Feel Pretty” from the movie.

A sales tax for filing bankruptcy? Some change!

It seems that the leadership of our Minnesota state legislature is considering slapping a sales tax on legal services. If they have to do that, I would suggest that there be an exception for legal services connected with bankruptcy filings. I just sent the following email to Minnesota State Representatives Kelliher, Sertich, Lenczewski and Benson; and to State Senator Bonoff:

I am a lawyer who does bankruptcy work. Many people who contact me cannot afford to file a bankruptcy the way it is. Adding a sales tax to my fee would make that much worse.
A sales tax for filing a bankruptcy. Some change that would be.

So much for bankruptcy law change.

An email I received today from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyers (NACBA) says that Senate Bill S. 61 is stalled. It might never get to the floor for a vote. This is the bill that passed the House about a month ago, and which would have provided bankruptcy judges with authority to rewrite mortgages.

Bankruptcy judges were going to be allowed to reduce balances, lower interest rates and extend terms of mortgages. Only a very narrow group of people would have qualified for this benefit, but it still would have been – as we native Minnesotans say -a pretty big deal.

If it had passed it was my plan to attend a three day convention – basically three days of classes on bankruptcy law – which is scheduled by NACBA in Chicago for the end of May. I would have expected that there would have been plenty of classes and materials explaining the proposed changes, if they had passed. Now I think I’ll skip it for this year. I did go last year, and without those changes it would be a lot of the same material.

In a way it’s a relief. Learning a lot of new stuff would have been a bit of work. I must say, however, that I am disappointed to see all the hoopla and fanfare followed by nothing but a big thud.

Warning about Debt Management Scams

I’m looking this morning at the March 15th tip of the day from Kim Komando. It’s a rather long article entitled Beware of debt management offers. She describes three different types of programs which one will find when running a Google search: 1) Debt negotiation, 2) debt consolidation, and 3) debt elimination. Personally I would like to add one more type: 4)debt management.

The third one – debt elimination – is always a scam. These are people who are trying to sell information that they claim is secret that you can use to make your debt just go away entirely. If anybody tells you they have that sort of a program, which sometimes is in the form of a magic form you can fill out and then send to the creditors, run away as fast as you can. There is no such program.

Debt negotiation or debt consolidation programs may or may not be legitimate. The Komando article suggests that you should make sure that any agency you use is licensed by your state and also accredited by one of two organizations, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. I would also suggest that you make sure they are on the approved Department of Justice list for counseling programs acceptable for the pre-filing and post-filing credit counseling required by the bankruptcy statute. You can find a link to the Department of Justice list of approved bankruptcy counseling agencies on my web page at http://www.mn-bankruptcy.com/chapter7.html. At that page click on “Credit Counseling Requirement.”

My two favorite local places to go for real counseling are Lutheran Social Services and Family Means. Both have offices fairly close to my office. Both are non-profit. Both do debt management, my Item 4 on the above list. Debt management might involve negotiation, but not necessarily. They are not trying to make money out of your desperate situation. They are tying to figure out how to get you on a payment plan that will actually work. And if that is a hopeless idea for you, they will tell you and suggest that you talk to someone like me.

My Dentist, My Accountant and Me.

This week I have gone to see both my dentist and my accountant. I like both of these guys, but going to see them tends to be a painful experience. I need both of these guys, but I wish I didn’t.

I suspect that the way I feel about seeing my dentist and my accountant may provide some insight into how people feel when they need to come see me for legal advice or representation. I am fairly certain that very few of my clients are glad about being my client – in fact none are glad about it. While I am certainly glad to see them, seeing me or having anything to do with me must certainly be difficult. If my clients had a choice, I’m sure they’d rather be somewhere else.

I mentioned these thoughts to one of my clients, who stated as follows : “I’m glad to have the company, but I’d rather have a different topic.” Credit to him for putting it profoundly and succinctly.

I’ll share one more fact. Between the dentist and the accountant, I’d rather go see the dentist.

Come on Vacation, leave on Probation

I had to post this. I just heard from one of my lawyer buddies that the above is the slogan of the prosecutors for Aitkin County. Apparently is stems from a propensity for certain individuals to get arrested while ice fishing or snowmobiling in that county.

I have seen similar situations where individuals from out of state get arrested in the Twin Cities for DWI while here on business or for a wedding or funeral. I can’t explain why, but for some reason in my experience this seems to happen a lot in Eden Prarie. Typically after returning home they find me through my Minnesota DWI web site and retain my services.

Credit Card Industry Profits Increased

I find myself looking at a 32 page report, complete with colorful graphs and charts, written by a gentleman by the name of Michael Simkovic. Mr. Simkovic was a fellow in law and economics at Harvard Law School between 2006 and 2007. He published this report last July. His subject is the effect of the 2005 “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.” Many of us call that BAPCPA (pronounced “bapceepa“).

The report begins by reminding us that supporters had claimed that ultimately this law would benefit consumers, because it would lower the cost of credit card debt. The data shows, however, that while credit card company losses decreased, and the card companies had record profits, costs to consumers actually increased. “In other words,” says Mr. Simkovic, “the 2005 bankruptcy reform profited credit card companies at consumers’ expense.”

No big surprise there. But thanks to Mr. Simkovic for laying out the details and proving it beyond a reasonable doubt. This seems to be very consistent with a series of articles published in the Star Tribune last October which stated, among other things, that BAPCPA has been one of the contributors to our current economic meltdown.

Regime change without gunfire.

Before I was licensed to practice law, I was licensed to teach history. Like everyone else in this country, I have been watching the attention being given to the ritual unfolding in Washington, D.C. A lot of attention is being given to various details of the event. Underlying it all, however, is a tradition that I haven’t seen anybody say anything about; and this tradition is something that we should give ourselves much more credit for than we do.

The tradition I’m talking about is that every four years, or at the least every eight, we have a peaceful regime change in Washington. It’s been going on for over 230 years. The old president steps down and a new guy takes over, without troops having to be called in, without an assassination, without brown shirts taking over the TV and radio stations, without a civil war. I believe if a study were to be done of the subject, going back say three hundred years, and covering the entire globe, it would be found that in the vast majority of places during the vast majority of the time, regimes don’t change without somebody getting killed or something being blown up.

So lets all enjoy the party, and let’s all be very proud. Notwithstanding all the imperfections, nobody else and nowhere else has anybody come this close to getting it right.