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Bankruptcy Web Bookmarks

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What are the best stops on the web for bankruptcy information and reorganization resources? The answer lies in your purpose. There are sites that deliver the Code, recent filings and important case law updates. There are commercial sites that blatantly prey upon "bankruptcy information" as a key word and are targeted at troubled consumers who are then steered to online credit counselors. The proliferation of these sites complicates the search process for quality and reliable information, so I've compiled the listing of my favorites below to help you get the most out of your web time.

As a reorganization professional, I depend on certain sites that always deliver just what I am looking for. For the most part, I've discovered that the best sites are those that specialize in a narrow range of information. The more limited the topic, the better the information. I make extensive use of these sites by using bookmarks or placing the web address in my favorites folder.

PACER

pacer.psc.uscourts.gov. PACER (Public Access of Court Electronic Records) is the only place on the web for official court information. Other services extract PACER data or obtain hard-copy filings from the courts. Therefore, a working knowledge of PACER is both cost-efficient and carries the weight of official information.

PACER is a common national system, but each court maintains its own information under the auspices of the clerk of the court. Although each court maintains its own web site,2 almost all of the courts use the PACER system so that the organization of the data and the search routines are fairly consistent among the courts.

If you are interested in a particular case, you must know in which court the case was filed. For instance, a corporation organized in Delaware has the option of a Delaware filing, so the address of the corporate headquarters may not be a good indication of where the case is filed.

PACER is fee-based, and therefore is best used to download specific data, like a creditor or docket listing. Downloading this information for use in spreadsheets or word processing programs can be an enormous time-saver. To do this, simply highlight the information you want copied and then click edit/copy on your browser. The information is then copied to the Windows clipboard and can be pasted to your spreadsheet or word processing program. The current fee structure is $.07 per page displayed, so make sure you have a good idea of what you want to do before you sign on. Before you begin your search, you can assign job numbers or client codes to the cost of each page displayed, which can help you recover your costs at a later date.

Before you access the court records, you must become a PACER subscriber. The application is free and online, but you must register for each court you are likely to do business in. Because bankruptcy is evolving more into an interstate business, I would suggest registering for all courts.

The best way to access PACER is to go through each court's web site. There is plenty of free information including address and map information to the court, court hours and names of judges and trustees, local rules and forms. All of the court web sites contain bankruptcy primers that are good sources of information for new debtors, creditors and the general public. You will also find valuable links to local bankruptcy organizations. For instance, on the California Central District web site, you will find a link to the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum and the Orange County Bankruptcy Forum. If your firm has a web site, you should provide a link to the local court.

EDGAR

www.sec.gov. EDGAR is an acronym for Electronic Data Gathering and Reporting and is the online reporting and retrieval system for companies that file Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reports. Access is free and the retrieval and download of company reports is very easy. I prefer EDGAR over the for-profit reporting systems because (1) the information is not abbreviated and (2) I can copy the report to my hard drive for offline access and later extract verbatim quotes.

Because EDGAR facilitates a search based on the type of report, it is fairly easy to search for 8-k filings (significant events not reported elsewhere) and 10-q filings (quarterly reports). These reports most often contain the warnings issued by financial management of pending financial difficulty. Additionally, significant contracts and agreements are required to be filed as attachments. This means that you can probably get an electronic version of the latest credit agreement or executive compensation agreement and maintain an electronic file instead of paper.

After the SEC home page loads, simply click on "search EDGAR," and then "Quick Forms Lookup." You'll be prompted to key in the first 20 characters of the company you are searching for and the SEC form number. You can leave the form number blank, and you will get a search result of all forms filed in the last three years. I am sure you will find this to be a very fast and easy-to-use site.

ABI World

www.abiworld.org. ABI World is the official site of ABI. The site contains discussion boards on business and personal bankruptcy, access to publications, certified insolvency professionals, and the membership roster. The site has a rich reservoir of bankruptcy statistics.

ABI World offers a free e-mail newsletter for members that I have found very useful. The newsletter kept me abreast of the changes to and progress of bankruptcy reform legislation.

Hoovers

www.hoovers.com. Hoovers offers both a free and a paid subscription service, and reports on both public and private companies. Because I find EDGAR so easy to use, I use only the free subscription.

Hoovers provides excellent contact and brief business summary information. If the company you are researching has a web site, a link appears just below the street address. Additionally, Hoovers classifies companies into standardized classifications and tells you who the major competitors are. It is very easy to become completely familiar with all the major players in an industry—in less than an afternoon's work.

Hoovers also provides a free e-mail service that can be tailored to alert you to references made to specific companies or industries. I advise you to be specific and narrow in your criteria regarding these e-mail alerts. Use of a broad subject like "bankruptcy" or "reorganization" or an industry such as "telecommunications" will leave you inundated with too much information. Use a specific company name to get the best result.

Floptracker

www.thestandard.com/trackers/flop. There are scores of sites that purport to report on the dot-com bubble burst. I have found most of these sites to be nothing more than rumor-posting opportunities for disgruntled employees and investors. The fact is many of these sites ultimately provide you with a link to the Floptracker, which is published by a reliable source, The Standard. This is the best list of dot-com failures. You can search by company name or review the chronological list.

The Standard has been publishing specialized lists and industry coverage since 1998 and was founded by true computer industry pioneers.

The Turnaround Management Association

www.turnaround.org. The Turnaround Management Association (TMA) is the only international nonprofit association dedicated to the development of a stronger economy through the restoration of corporate value.

This site is geared primarily to the service of TMA's membership, but it can be a useful research tool for non-members as well.

There is an excellent resource listing called "related sites." You'll find a complete listing of resources including accountants, auctioneers, consultants, lenders, collection specialists, law firms and venture capitalists.

Legal Information Institute

www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/11. This is an excellent online publication of the Bankruptcy Code. The site has a very good search engine. Hyperlinks by Code section number are available, and what I particularly like is that Code sections referenced in the text are also hyperlinked. The site is fast and efficient.

BankruptcyData.com

www.bankruptcydata.com. This is a well-organized for-profit site. Bankruptcydata. com purports to have data on all U.S. bankruptcies for companies that reported assets of $10 million or more. The site has an index of business bankruptcy filings by year, a search by company name and a nice assortment of free offerings. You can obtain creditor listings and other reports that have been filed on PACER. This service is more expensive than PACER, but is more convenient and easier to use. The site also produces a free e-mail newsletter that is quite informative.

Matthew Bender

www.bender.com. Matthew Bender is now part of Lexis-Nexis. This is a good place to get a downloadable copy of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2000 and the 1999 Amendments to Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. One of the features of this site is the Bankruptcy Case Update, which contains summaries of all recent decisions affecting bankruptcy law. You can opt to receive the summaries via the web or you can have a PDF document e-mailed to you.

Legal Research Associates

www.lra4law.com/forms.htm. This is a for-profit site that has lots of free downloads of commonly used forms and motions. The files are in Microsoft Word format. This is a very good resource for creditors and small firms who can significantly reduce the time spent in drafting motions or searching for forms.

Conclusion

There are many options on the web. This listing is far short of an exhaustive list, and because I use these sites on a regular basis, I may have missed one that you have found helpful. If you know of a site that is valuable to you, please contact the author.


Footnotes

1 Steven Kerkstra is a certified public accountant and a highly experienced corporate financial officer. Mr. Kerkstra has also served as a faculty member at Loyola University of Chicago and Northern Illinois University and is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago. Mr. Kerkstra is currently a principal with Heartland Financial Corp., Investment Bankers and Management Consultants and resides in Southern California. Return to article

2 For a listing of bankruptcy court URLs, go to www.abiworld.org/chambers/courtdirs.html. Return to article

Journal Date: 
Sunday, July 1, 2001

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