RISING MORTGAGE RATES ELICIT FEARS THEY COULD HURT HOUSING RECOVERY
Mortgage rates have spiked over the past few weeks, rising at the fastest pace since 2010, sparking fears that the housing market could weaken and undermine the country’s economic recovery, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Rates are now hovering near 4 percent, still historically low, but nearly two-thirds of a percentage point higher than last month. They have been driven up by the Federal Reserve’s anticipated move to begin scaling back its generous bond-buying program. “The biggest threat to the recovery is that rates rise too fast,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Already there are signs that higher rates are becoming a drag on the housing market. Refinancing applications fell 11 percent over the past two weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. They are down 36 percent from the beginning of May. Read more.
REPORT: STUDENT DEBT RELIEF INDUSTRY PROFITING FROM DESPERATION
A report released yesterday by the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center showed that the growing student-loan debt-relief industry is profiting from consumers’ confusion and desperation, with some companies charging as much as $1,600 to sign borrowers up for repayment plans, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. Such companies are proliferating because borrowers are buckling under the weight of student loans, which now total $1 trillion, exceeding all other consumer debt aside from mortgages. Former students are also struggling to navigate the government’s often complicated assistance programs. Student loan debt-relief companies say that they are comparable to organizations that help taxpayers file their returns – something customers could also do for free. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has heard from borrowers who say that companies are marketing special plans that can save thousands of dollars in loan payments, said Rohit Chopra, the agency’s student loan ombudsman. “It is not a special deal,” Chopra said. “It’s often a program they are entitled to by law.” Read more.
COMMENTARY: BILL TAKES THE WRONG APPROACH ON ASBESTOS INJURIES
Republicans pushed a bill through the House Judiciary Committee last month that would make it harder for plaintiffs injured by asbestos to get fair compensation, according to an editorial in yesterday's New York Times. The bill is supposedly designed to root out fraud and abuse, but there is no persuasive evidence of any significant fraud or abuse, according to the editorial. Before plunging ahead with this attempt to protect asbestos companies from lawsuits, the editorial urges Congress to commission an objective study of whether there is even a problem that needs fixing. Millions of workers have been injured by asbestos over the years, and thousands of suits have been filed against asbestos companies, which often were aware of the dangers but concealed the risks from workers and the public. Dozens of companies declared bankruptcy and established trusts, financed with company money, to pay present and future claims against them. The trusts typically pay only a small percentage of the value of a claim. Plaintiffs are also free to sue companies that have not gone bankrupt. The bill, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013, would allow asbestos companies to demand information from the trusts for virtually any reason, according to the editorial, forcing the trusts to devote limited resources to responding to fishing expeditions that will slow the process of paying claims. Read the full editorial.
LATEST ABI PODCAST EXAMINES SUPREME COURT'S DECISION ON THE MEANING OF “DEFALCATION”
ABI's latest podcast features ABI Resident Scholar Scott Pryor speaking with Prof. Keith Sharfman of St. John's University School of Law and attorney Tom Byrne of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (Atlanta) on the issues surrounding the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Bullock v. BankChampaign, N.A. In its decision on May 13, the Court held that a defalcation by a trustee requires a finding of gross negligence or some knowledge that what he or she is doing is improper. Byrne was the counsel of record for Randy Bullock, and Scharfman joined fellow professors on an amici curiae brief in support of BankChampaign. Click here to listen to the podcast.
NEW ABI LIVE WEBINAR ON JULY 15 WILL FOCUS ON THE § 1111(b) ELECTION, PLAN FEASIBILITY AND CRAMDOWN ISSUES
Utilizing a case study, ABI's panel of experts will explore issues surrounding a lender’s decision on whether or not to make an election under § 1111(b), plan feasibility and voting. The abiLIVE panel will also walk attendees through the necessary mathematical analyses used to analyze these issues. The webinar will take place on July 15 from 1-2:15 p.m. ET. Special ABI member rate available! Click here to register.
ABI GOLF TOUR UNDERWAY; NEXT STOP IS THE NORTHEAST BANKRUPTCY CONFERENCE ON JULY 12
The next stop for the ABI Golf Tour is the famed Newport National course in Newport, R.I., in conjunction with the Northeast Bankruptcy Conference on July 12. Final scoring to win the Great American Cupsponsored by Great American Groupis based on your top three scores at seven scheduled ABI events, so play as many as you can before the tour wraps up at the Winter Leadership Conference in December. See the Tour page for details and course descriptions. The ABI Golf Tour combines networking with fun competition, as golfers "play their own ball." Including your handicap means everyone has an equal chance to compete for the glory of being crowned ABI's top golfer of 2013! There's no charge to register or participate in the Tour.
NEW ABI "BANKRUPTCY IN DEPTH" ON-DEMAND CLE PROGRAM LOOKS AT PRINCIPLES OF PROPERTY OF THE ESTATE: DEMYSTIFYING EQUITABLE INTERESTS
In this 90-minute seminar, Profs. Andrew Kull of Boston University School of Law and Scott Pryor of Regent University School of Law provide an in-depth analysis of a legal principle that has become, in their words, "a long-lost area of the law": § 541 of the Bankruptcy Code. Seeking to demystify what is meant by "property of the estate" and, in particular, the distinction between legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property, Kull and Pryor describe the legal entanglements that ensue when legal title belongs to one person but the equitable title belongs to someone else. The cost of the seminar, which includes written materials and qualifies for 1.5 hours of CLE, is $95. To order or to learn more, click here.
ASSOCIATES: ABI'S NUTS & BOLTS ONLINE PROGRAMS HELP YOU HONE YOUR SKILLS WHILE SAVING ON CLE!
Associates looking to sharpen their bankruptcy knowledge should take advantage of ABI's special offer of combining general, business or consumer Nuts & Bolts online programs. Each program features an outstanding faculty of judges and practitioners explaining the fundamentals of bankruptcy, offering procedures and strategies tailored for both consumer and business attorneys. Click here to get the CLE you need at a great low price!
NEW CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: IN RE DESOUZA (1ST CIR.)
Summarized by David Baker of Law Office of David G. Baker
The First Circuit BAP reversed and remanded the lower court's ruling, holding that post-petiiton divorce court orders for alimony did not violate the automatic stay in a chapter 13 case, but when the debtor was found in contempt and incarcerated for failure to pay alimony, the contempt and incarceration were stay violations because they impacted "property of the estate" under §§541 and 1306.
There are more than 900 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: DID CORKER-WARNER JUMP THE GUN ON THE "SKIN IN THE GAME" TARGET?
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. The Corker-Warner bill would require private investors to take 10 percent of losses before federal mortgage guarantees kick in, but a new blog post says that more research is needed to determine whether that is enough protection for taxpayers.
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.
ABI Quick Poll
Law firms should provide support for law student-staffed bankruptcy clinics for consumer debtors.
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