The American Bankers Association reported today that delinquencies on bank-issued credit cards sank to 2.47 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 – the lowest level since 1994, CNNMoney.com reported today. The percentage of credit card accounts that were 30 days or more overdue during the quarter was roughly half the record high of 5.01 percent set in 2009 and well below the 15-year average of 3.87 percent. It was also down significantly from the previous quarter when 2.75 percent of credit card customers were delinquent on payments. Delinquencies in all three home-related categories – home equity loans, home equity lines of credit and property improvement loans – also fell during the fourth quarter. Read more.
COMMENTARY: PENSIONS NEED TO SHARE FINANCIAL PAIN WHEN CITIES GO BROKE
Stockton, Calif., wants bondholders to pay for its financial woes while leaving retirement benefits intact, but that approach undermines the law's power to rein in runaway pension costs, according to a Reuters commentary on Friday. The housing boom filled Stockton's coffers with tax revenue that officials squandered through poor management, pay raises and downtown renovations, according to the commentary. With the economic bust came $90 million in cuts over three years and, last summer, its chapter 9 filing. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein yesterday approved Stockton's chapter 9 filing petition to move forward. The city's plan to right itself includes a bond-principal haircut that could be the first for a major municipality since the 1930s, according to the commentary. Some bonds could be cut as much as 83 percent, but officials would continue to pay out about $30 million a year to the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), which manages the city's pensions. Wells Fargo and other bondholders owed more than $300 million have understandably cried foul. Legally, the securities they own merit the same treatment in bankruptcy as payments to CalPERS, according to the commentary. Central Falls, R.I., which exited bankruptcy last September, showed that a municipality can slash retirement benefits without a political or legal firestorm. Read more.
FORECLOSURE INVENTORY BALLOONED IN FIRST QUARTER OF 2013
RealtyTrac reported yesterday that nearly 1.5 million U.S. properties were actively in the foreclosure process or bank-owned in the first quarter of 2013, up 9 percent from the first quarter of 2012, but still down 32 percent from the peak of 2.2 million in December 2010, UPI.com reported yesterday. Though overall inventories are up, completed foreclosure inventories are still declining. CoreLogic reported yesterday that there were 54,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in February 2013, down from 67,000 in February 2012, a year-over-year decrease of 19 percent. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures fell from 58,000 in January 2013 to the February level of 54,000, a decrease of 7 percent. Read more.
COMMENTARIES SHARE CONCERN OF RISK-TAKING BY BIG BANKS
Financial firms can borrow money more cheaply and with less market scrutiny when they have access to government guarantees of deposit insurance, loans from the Federal Reserve and, ultimately, taxpayer support such as what was seen with the Troubled Assets Relief Program in 2008, according to a commentary by Thomas M. Hoenig, the vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in Friday's Washington Post. Hoenig said that this safety net was intended to stabilize the financial system by protecting the payments system that transfers money around the country and the world, as well as the essential lending that commercial banks provide. But these protections also assure those who lend to banks that they will be repaid regardless of the condition of the bank. Under such circumstances, creditors give the firms a discount on the cost of the funds they borrow. Things are made more difficult, according to Hoenig, by the fact that the largest financial companies now combine traditional commercial banking with higher-risk activities such as trading so that both their banking and betting activities get access to these government protections and the multibillion-dollar subsidy that comes with them. Using subsidized money to finance the conglomerates’ bets encourages ever-higher levels of debt, risk and interconnectedness not attainable or sustainable in a truly free market, according to Hoenig. Click here to read the full commentary.
A related commentary in today's Wall Street Journal written by former FDIC chair Sheila Bair found that while bank use of risk models is common and not illegal, their use in bolstering a bank's capital ratios can give the public a false sense of security about the stability of the nation's largest financial institutions. Capital ratios (also called capital adequacy ratios) reflect the percentage of a bank's assets that are funded with equity and are a key barometer of the institution's financial strength: They measure the bank's ability to absorb losses and still remain solvent, according to Bair. While this should be a simple measure, it is not, according to Bair, because regulators allow banks to use a process called "risk weighting," which allows them to raise their capital ratios by characterizing the assets they hold as "low risk." For instance, as part of the Federal Reserve's recent stress test, the Bank of America reported to the Federal Reserve that its capital ratio is 11.4 percent. But that was a measure of the bank's common equity as a percentage of the assets it holds as weighted by their risk—which is much less than the value of these assets according to accounting rules. Take out the risk-weighting adjustment, and its capital ratio falls to 7.8 percent. On average, the three big universal banking companies (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) risk-weigh their assets at only 55 percent of their total assets. For every trillion dollars in accounting assets, these megabanks calculate their capital ratios as if the assets represented only $550 billion of risk. Read more. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: PACE OF MERGERS SLOWED IN THE FIRST QUARTER 2013 TO THE FEWEST SINCE 2003
Only 8,115 merger deals were announced worldwide in the first quarter of this year, the lowest number since 2003, according to data from Thomson Reuters, the New York Times DealBook blog reported today. While the combined value of $542.8 billion outpaced last year's first quarter by about 10 percent, it is still 26 percent below the level for the period in 2011. Bankers and lawyers have been publicly boasting about a nascent revival in mergers. In March, 97 percent of deal makers surveyed by the Brunswick Group public relations firm said that they expected more deals to be announced in North America this year than in the last year. Many advisers caution against judging 2013 by one quarter; some deals that would otherwise have been announced in the first quarter were moved to fourth quarter 2012 to avoid incurring potentially higher taxes, they said. Read more.
FRIDAY! DON’T MISS THE ABI LIVE WEBINAR – "LEGACY LIABILITIES: DEALING WITH ENVIRONMENTAL, PENSION, UNION AND SIMILAR TYPES OF CLAIMS"
A panel of experts has been assembled for a webinar on April 5 from 1-2:15 p.m. ET to discuss environmental and pension liabilities, the statutory schemes under which these liabilities arise and the key players involved. Are non-monetary environmental claims dischargeable? Do post-petition expenditures for environmental cleanup constitute administrative expenses? When can an employer terminate a pension plan in bankruptcy, what is the process and what are the consequences? Learn the answer to these questions and more from the comfort of your own office. Special ABI member rate is available! Register here.
HOTEL BLOCK FOR ABI'S ANNUAL SPRING MEETING ALMOST SOLD OUT! REGISTER TODAY!
The hotel block at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., is almost sold out for ABI’s 2013 Annual Spring Meeting! Held April 18-21, 2013, ASM features a roster of the best national speakers, while the depth and scope of topics offer something for everyone. Specifically, four concurrent workshops will cover various “tracks,” including programs for attorneys in commercial cases, a track for restructuring professionals, a track of professional development programming and a track dealing solely with consumer issues. More than 16 hours of CLE/CPE is offered in some states, along with ethics credit totaling 3 hours, making the cost only about $50 per credit. In addition, committee sessions will drill down on other topics to provide you with the most practical and varied CLE/CPE experience ever. Sessions include:
• 17th Annual Great Debates
• Mediation: An Irrational Approach to a Rational Result
• Creditors’ Committees and the Role of Indenture Trustees and Related Issues
• Current Issues for Financial Advisors in Bankruptcy Cases
• The Individual Conundrum: Chapter 7, 11 or 13?
• The Power to Veto Bankruptcy Sales
• Real Estate Issues in Health Care Restructurings
• How to Be a Successful Expert
• The Ethical Compass: Multiple Ethical Schemes Applicable to Financial Advisors
• Chapter 9s, Nonprofits and Other Nontraditional Restructuring Processes
• And much more!
The Spring Meeting will also feature a field hearing of the ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11, a report from the ABI Ethics Task Force, a luncheon panel discussion moderated by Bill Rochelle of Bloomberg News, and a Final Night Gala Dinner featuring a concert by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts!
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: SCHOPPE V. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE (10TH CIR.)
Summarized by Eric Madden of Diamond McCarthy LLP
The Tenth Circuit ruled that the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1) does not apply to a proceeding commenced by the debtor taxpayer's petition filed in tax court, including any appeal from rulings in the underlying proceeding. Adopting the reasoning of the First, Third, Fifth and Eleventh Circuits and rejecting the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit, the Tenth Circuit concluded that a petition filed in tax court is an independent judicial proceeding initiated by the debtor, not the continuation of an administrative proceeding against the debtor.
There are more than 800 appellate opinions summarized on Volo, and summaries typically appear within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.
NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: I'M A CREDITOR OF DETROIT...NOW WHAT? (PART 2)
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. Previously examining some of the overarching issues that can make a chapter 9 restructuring more challenging for creditors than a chapter 11, a recent blog post takes a closer look at the financial challenges of Detroit.
Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.
TEE OFF ON THE NEW ABI GOLF TOUR!
Starting with the Annual Spring Meeting, ABI will offer conference registrants the option to participate in the ABI Golf Tour. The Tour will take place concurrently with all conference golf tournaments. The Tour is designed to enhance the golfing experience for serious golfers, while still offering a fun networking opportunity for players of any ability. As opposed to the format used at ABI’s regular conference events, Tour participants will "play their own ball." They will be grouped on the golf course separately from other conference golf participants and will typically play ahead of the other participants, expediting Tour play. Tour participants will be randomly grouped in foursomes, unless otherwise requested of the Commissioner in advance of each tournament. Prizes will be awarded for each individual Tour event, which are sponsored by Great American Group. The grand prize is the "Great American Cup," also sponsored by Great American Group, which will be awarded to the top player at the end of the Tour season. Registration is free. Click here for more information and a list of 2013 ABI Golf Tour event venues.
ABI Quick Poll
The scope of protection of "financial contracts" in bankruptcy should be rolled back to what it was before BAPCPA expanded it in 2005.
Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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