ANALYSIS: MORE HOMEOWNERS EMERGE FROM "UNDERWATER" STATUS
Rising home values have lifted more borrowers out of the hole of owing more than their properties are worth, an encouraging sign for an economy still closely tied to the health of the housing market, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The number of "underwater" homeowners in the fourth quarter of 2012 declined by 1.7 million from a year earlier, meaning 1.7 million U.S. households have regained home equity, according to data released Tuesday by CoreLogic, a research company. Overall, the company said 21.5 percent of households with a mortgage were underwater at the end of 2012, down from 25.2 percent at the end of 2011. While the trends are encouraging, some newly above-water households are just barely at breakeven and therefore are a long way off from being able to change their finances in any significant way. And the overall ranks of those underwater remain large, at about 10.4 million, down from 12.1 million at the end of 2011, according to CoreLogic. Read more. (Subscription required.)
To see a state-by-state analysis of CoreLogic's 4Q 2012 data, be sure to check out ABI's Chart of the Day site.
FANNIE MAE SEES WAY TO REPAY BILLIONS TO U.S. TREASURY
The rebounding housing market has helped return Fannie Mae to profitability and now might allow the government-controlled mortgage-finance company to repay as much as $61.5 billion in rescue funds to the U.S. Treasury, the Wall Street Journal reported. The potential payment would be the upshot of an accounting move whereby the company would reclaim certain tax benefits that were written down shortly after the company was placed under federal control in 2008. The potential move was disclosed last week in a regulatory filing in which the company said that it would delay the release of its annual report, due yesterday, as it tries to reach a resolution with its accountants and regulator over the timing of the accounting move. The debate about when Fannie should be allowed to reclaim the deferred-tax assets comes as Fannie and its smaller sibling, Freddie Mac, are likely to show large profits in the coming quarters as the housing market gradually recovers from its prolonged bust. The potential payment also has political implications as lawmakers and regulators wrangle over the fate of the firms, which were placed into a federal conservatorship amid soaring losses. The Obama administration has publicly said that the two companies eventually would be wound down and has blocked them from retaining profits, but has done little to de-emphasize their role in the mortgage market. Read more. (Subscription required.)
CFPB ISSUES PROPOSAL TO SUPERVISE STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Friday issued a proposal to supervise nonbank servicers of private and federal student loans that qualify as "larger participants" in the student loan servicing market, according to an analysis yesterday by Ballard Spahr LLP. The proposal represents an attempt by the CFPB to significantly expand its supervisory authority over student loan servicers. Because it already has supervisory authority over larger banks and nonbank private student lenders, the CFPB believes it should oversee student loan servicing by those entities. The CFPB's current authority to supervise nonbank private student lenders, however, does not allow it to supervise the nonbank student loan servicers that do not offer or provide private student loans. The proposal would allow the CFPB to supervise servicing of private and federal student loans by such nonbank servicers. Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. Click here to read the proposal.
OBAMA CUTS STUDENT-DEBT COLLECTOR COMMISSIONS TO AID BORROWERS
President Barack Obama's administration slashed the commissions paid to private collection companies that chase overdue student loans, reducing an incentive to squeeze borrowers, Bloomberg News reported today. Previously, the U.S. Education Department paid a commission as high as 16 percent of the entire loan amount only if collectors convinced defaulted borrowers to make stiff monthly payments. Starting this month, the fee dropped to as low as 11 percent, regardless of payment size. With $77.4 billion worth of student loans in default, the federal government turns to an army of private collectors to pursue borrowers. These companies, which receive about $1 billion annually in commissions, have sparked growing complaints that they insist on high payments, even when borrowers qualify for leniency. Under the new schedule, collectors will no longer have an incentive to avoid offering affordable payments tied to borrowers' incomes. Read more.
PLASTIC-SHY YOUNG IN U.S. SPUR MOVE TO USE NEW CREDIT DATA
Thirty-nine percent of undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 24 owned a credit card in 2012, down from 49 percent in 2010, a Sallie Mae and Ipsos Public Affairs survey found, Bloomberg News reported today. And young adults who do have credit cards are carrying smaller balances: A median of $1,600 in 2010 compared with $2,500 in 2001 for under-35 households, according to Federal Reserve data. The trend, rooted in stricter lending rules and weaker job outlooks for young Americans since the 2008-09 recession, has implications for the strength of the economy. Fewer are building the traditional credit histories that would help them obtain financing for the purchases of homes and cars, which is critical to economic growth. Credit bureaus and the lending industry are stepping up their search for new ways to bolster credit files, and young people who do not pay credit card bills often do pay mobile phone bills. As reporting agencies gather data from telephone, rent and other payments, some scoring models incorporate this information to help assess candidates' creditworthiness. Read more.
ANALYSIS: WORKERS SAVING TOO LITTLE TO RETIRE
Workers and employers in the U.S. are bracing for a retirement crisis, even as the stock market sits near highs and the economy shows signs of improvement, the Wall Street Journal reported today. New data show that powerful financial and demographic forces are combining to squeeze individuals and companies that are trying to save for the future and make their money last. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers surveyed reported less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments excluding their homes, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Only 49 percent reported having so little money saved in 2008. The survey also found that 28 percent of Americans have no confidence they will have enough money to retire comfortably—the highest level in the study's 23-year history. Read more. (Subscription required.)
NUMBER OF CASES FILED BY SEC SLOWS
The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing significantly fewer civil fraud cases this year as its efforts to punish misconduct related to the financial crisis start to ebb, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The agency is likely to fall short this fiscal year of its record-breaking number of enforcement actions in the previous two years. The expected drop in the numbers could be a headache for Mary Jo White, the former prosecutor nominated by President Barack Obama to be SEC chairman. A Senate panel is set to approve White's appointment today, the last step before the full Senate votes on it. White last week told a Senate hearing that she would strengthen the SEC's enforcement function to ensure that "all wrongdoers … will be aggressively and successfully called to account." The slowdown in enforcement actions reflects changes in the economic cycle, according to SEC officials. "We're at a point of inflection in our enforcement program," George Canellos, acting SEC enforcement head, said last month. Market meltdowns on the scale of the 2008 crisis, when companies implode and trillions of dollars are wiped off asset values, tend to expose major frauds and produce big cases, Canellos said. "We're now in a different era," he added. Read more. (Subscription required.)
NEW ABI BOOK EXPLORES THE DEPTHS OF DEEPENING INSOLVNECY
Any company executive juggling the competing demands of the troubled firm and its obligations to investors, as well as litigators practicing on either side of the insolvency aisle, will be interested in ABI’s latest publication, The Depths of Deepening Insolvency: Damage Exposure for Officers, Directors and Others. Authors Kathy Bazoian Phelps (Diamond McCarthy LLP) and Prof. Jack F. Williams (Mesirow Financial) wrote the book from both the plaintiffs' and defendants' perspectives to offer a deep analysis of the legal principle known as "deepening insolvency." The book also provides potential defenses that may be asserted to deepening insolvency allegations, as well as a state-by-state list of significant case law on this issue. To find out more about the book or to pre-order your copy, please click here. (Make sure to log in using your ABI member credentials to obtain the ABI member discount.)
DON'T MISS ACB'S FREE EVENT, "THE AUTO BANKRUPTCIES: CHECKING THE REARVIEW MIRROR," ON MARCH 22!
ABI members are encouraged to register for the American College of Bankruptcy's "The Auto Bankruptcies: Checking the Rearview Mirror" on March 22 at Boston College Law School in Newton, Mass. The afternoon event will feature key players looking back at the events that led to GM and Chrysler being placed into bankruptcy and the lessons that have been learned from the cases. Panelists include:
• Corinne Ball of Jones Day (New York), who served as lead bankruptcy counsel to Chrysler.
• Matthew A. Feldman of Willkie Farr and Gallagher LLP (New York), who served as chief legal advisor to the Obama administration's Task Force on the Auto Industry.
• Hon. Arthur J. Gonzalez, a Senior Fellow at New York University School of Law and formerly the Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, who presided over the Chrysler chapter 11 proceedings.
• Harvey R. Miller of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (New York), who served as lead bankruptcy counsel to GM.
The moderator will be Mark N. Berman of Nixon Peabody LLP (New York).
Registration for the afternoon event is free, so be sure to sign up today before it reaches capacity!
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!
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 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 in the regular ABI 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 randomly be 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, and 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.
NEW BANKRUPTCY PROFESSIONALS: DON'T MISS THE NUTS AND BOLTS PROGRAM AT ABI'S ANNUAL SPRING MEETING! SPECIAL PRICING IF YOU ARE AN ASM REGISTRANT!
An outstanding faculty of judges and practitioners explains the fundamentals of bankruptcy in a one-day Nuts and Bolts program on April 18 being held in conjunction with ABI's Annual Spring Meeting. Ideal training for junior professionals or those new to this practice area!
The morning session covers concepts all bankruptcy practitioners need to know, and the afternoon session splits into concurrent tracks, focusing on consumer and business issues. The session will include written materials, practice tip sessions with bankruptcy judges, continental breakfast and a reception after the program. Click here to register!
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: GORDON V. PAPPALARDO (IN RE GORDON; 1ST CIR.)
Summarized by Jennifer L. Saffer of J.L. Saffer, P.C.
In this appeal by a debtor in her chapter 13 case, the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) for the First Circuit affirmed, after de novo review, the bankruptcy court’s order sustaining the chapter 13 trustee’s objection to the debtor's claimed exemption in a scheduled remainder interest in real estate. Affirming the decision of the bankruptcy court, the BAP determined that the property claimed as exempt was not "owned" by the debtor as required by and within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 188, § 3(a); the debtor had elected Massachusetts exemption rules rather than the federal, as was her option under 11 U.S.C. § 522(b).
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: CONGRESS, NOT FHFA, SHOULD BE REFORMING THE GSEs
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post found that while there is an emerging bipartisan consensus on the way forward for the secondary mortgage market, Congress has punted on what should be done with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the (Federal Housing Finance Agency) FHFA is taking significant steps without hearings or public discussion.
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.
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