The past year brought (a) the successful launch of a new business school student competition, the ABI/Houlihan Lokey Corporate Restructuring Competition, (b) the initiation and funding of the nation's most comprehensive study of professional fees in bankruptcy cases, (c) the first-ever Caribbean Insolvency Conference in Puerto Rico and (d) our first stand-alone Consumer Bankruptcy Program in Chicago. We also laid the groundwork for two more brand new programs that will be held later this year: the Mid-Atlantic Bankruptcy Workshop (on Maryland's eastern shore in early August) and the first London Insolvency Conference (at the Savoy Hotel in September).
To recognize special contributions, we also announced two new awards: an ABI Service Award and ABI Lifetime Achievement Award. And we saw (and heard) the debut performance of the Indubitable Equivalents, an all ABI-member rock-and-roll band (http://www.abiband.com).
Our bylaws limit the ABI presidency to a one-year term. That's very good for maximizing leadership opportunities. It also means that if you want to be effective as president, it is important to carry on projects started before your term, and persuade others to maintain them when your term ends. As I complete my year as president, I am pleased to report that this process of continuity has never been easier, thanks to our highly collegial leadership. I have been honored to work with an executive committee of some of the finest judges, advisors and lawyers in the nation, all of whom have given enormous time and energy for the good of the members. Indeed, I cannot recall a single issue that was divisive; everything that came before us was handled, discussed, debated and resolved consensually.
All ABI leaders have full-time jobs in the bankruptcy business, and nothing could be accomplished—not one whit of all the foregoing new projects, the ongoing regional and national programs, publications and media relations, among other things—without our executive director Sam Gerdano and the greatest headquarters staff that any nonprofit organization could ever hope to have. They turn our ideas into reality and success. What a pleasure it is to delegate a responsibility to them and see how well it is executed. I need only wish—and they make it happen.
While this is my final report to you as president, I will continue for two more years on the executive committee as immediate past-president and chairman, providing me with an opportunity to stay closely involved in important projects that require many years to complete. Here is a more detailed summary of what I regard as the most significant projects, either continued or begun this past year:
ABI/Houlihan Corporate Restructuring Competition. This competition was launched successfully last fall at the Kellogg School of Management/ Northwestern University, after several years in the planning and creation, due in large part to immediate past-president (and shortly to be chairman of the board) Bettina Whyte, with significant help from Hon. Wesley Steen (VP - Research) and Becky Roof, one of Bettina's colleagues at AlixPartners.
National Study of Professional Fees in Bankruptcy. This project was first suggested to me by Deirdre Martini, U.S. Trustee for Region 2, and the case for undertaking it was so compelling that I made it a special project this year. After many months of planning, negotiation and advocacy, ABI signed an agreement with a highly qualified academic, Prof. Steven Lubben, and agreed to provide major funding for this study. Last month, the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education also agreed to provide financial support. As I have written before, there is probably no issue of greater importance to the bankruptcy community than bringing rationality and consistency to the treatment of professional fees in bankruptcy. The study should help us identify particular problems and develop solutions to them. Chip Bowles is chairing the steering committee and overseeing our practitioner's panel. I believe this is one of the most important projects that ABI has ever undertaken, and it is one that I intend to stay closely involved with for the several years it takes to complete.
ABI History. At last year's Annual Spring Meeting, I called on ABI to do more to recognize our past leaders and asked our past presidents to memorialize what has, up until now, been largely an oral history of ABI. In response, masthead recognition of past presidents now appears in every ABI Journal, and the past presidents have agreed to write periodic columns on ABI history that might eventually be collected in a monograph, and take other steps to preserve ABI history. This project is underway, and I am hopeful that the first columns will appear shortly.
ABI Service and Achievement Awards. The past presidents, sitting as their own committee, also proposed and the executive committee approved the creation of new annual service and achievement awards to recognize the contributions of ABI members. The first such awards will be presented at this year's Annual Spring Meeting.
ABI International. I have tried to move ABI more aggressively toward increased international programming. This initiative has several aspects to it. First, I believe it important to continue to support the international programming we have so far done successfully (Canadian/American Symposium) and to lend support to new programming initiatives (Caribbean Insolvency Symposium). This year's Canadian/American Symposium was our best effort yet (thanks especially to the efforts of departing VP-International Steve Golick), and the first-ever Caribbean Insolvency Program in Puerto Rico (planned by Josefina Fernandez McEvoy), was enthusiastically well-received. In order to broaden our audience and better serve our south Florida membership, we are (beginning next year, in February 2006) going to alternate the site of the Caribbean program between Miami (with the generous assistance as co-chairs of Trish Redmond and Paul Singerman, and judicial chair Bob Mark) and Puerto Rico. Later this year, on Sept. 23, we will host our first-ever London Insolvency Conference in order to collaborate with our colleagues in European countries who are moving their insolvency laws closer to the chapter 11 model. I am very grateful to Ian Williams, who has picked up the challenge as chair and developed an impressive roster of speakers, sponsors, advisory board members and topics. This program is destined to be a huge success.
We are committed to enhancing our role within INSOL International, inasmuch as we are INSOL's largest member association. To this end, I am pleased that Steve Golick has accepted appointment to the position of ABI liaison and designated director to INSOL, to succeed past president Keith Shapiro, with the express mandate to do his utmost to accomplish these ends.
The Mid-Atlantic Workshop. Simply an idea (advocated by Judge Judi Fitzgerald) whose time had come, this new regional program will serve that part of the country whose epicenter is Delaware. Major thanks in achieving this are due as well to Judge Mary Walrath, who agreed to co-chair with Judge Fitzgerald, as well to advisory board co-chairs Laura Davis Jones and Skip DiMassa.
New Leaders/Nominating Committee. A new slate of ABI leaders will be announced at the Annual Spring Meeting. I consider my work as chair of the nominating committee to be perhaps the most important, if not rewarding, of the responsibilities I had this year, and I am especially grateful to the committee, consisting of President-elect John Penn, Chairman of the Board Andy Caine, and directors Judge Fitzgerald, John Tittle, Robert Warshauer and Robert Keach, for working with me in a particularly collegial manner, over many hours of calls and meetings, to choose among a wide number of very deserving candidates. I look forward to announcing the slate, and am confident that all ABI members will enthusiastically approve the promotions.
The Indubitable Equivalents. When I became president at last year's Annual Spring Meeting, I joked that one of the things I hoped to accomplish was to bring rock and roll to ABI. While I was aware of an underground network of ABI members who were musicians and hoped to bring some of them together to play some music without embarrassing ourselves, I was not prepared for the enthusiasm with which our audience at the Winter Leadership Conference greeted us. Certainly, I never dreamed that one year later we would have our own web site or that we would be the closing act for the final night dinner at the Annual Spring Meeting. Nor could I have imagined that we would be asked to perform at other programs (we are now booked to play at the Central States Conference, the Northeast Bankruptcy Conference and at the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges). My deepest gratitude goes to my fellow musicians, who have carved hours from their professional and personal lives to help me live the rock-and-roll dream: George Kelakos (guitar), Jacob Esher (bass), Mitch Ryan (lead vocals), Tom Salerno (drums), ABI Meeting Planner John Good (trombone/percussion), Jordan Kroop (keyboards) and guest performers Steve Golick (keyboards), ABC Executive Director Michelle Anderson (vocals), Judge Steven Rhodes (guitar), Andy Caine (tenor sax) and Dillon Jackson (autoharp).