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Personal bankruptcies spike in March
NEW YORK (4/5/10)--Federal courts reported more than 158,000 personal bankruptcies during March--more than any other month since the Bankruptcy Reform Act was tightened in October 2005. Key factors in the spike include a stagnant economy, high unemployment and the housing crisis, according to a report released Friday from Automated Access to Court Electronic Records, a data collection company (The New York Times April 1). The filings for March are 19% more than the filings in March 2009. March generally has more filings because people in financial distress use their tax refunds to pay for attorneys fees to file a bankruptcy, said analysts. The company said that a bankruptcy surge typically follows an economic contraction by six to 18 months. Chapter 7 filings, which are simpler and less expensive, are increasing faster than Chapter 13 filings, which involve reorganization of assets and repaying part of the debt in order to keep one's home. This suggests fewer people are trying to save their homes, said analysts. The U.S. Trustees Program statistics indicate that Chapter 7 filings as a percentage of all bankruptcies increased to about 73% last year, compared with 62% in 2006-2007. The U. S. Trustees Program is a Justice Department program that oversees bankruptcy cases. Seventy-five percent of the March filings were Chapter 7s. The high unemployment rate is contributing to the boost of Chapter 7s over Chapter 13 filings because unemployed people don't have income to pay into a Chapter 13 plan, said analysts. In other developments, commercial bankruptcies for 2009 totaled 117,659 up from 77,638 in 2008, reported Equifax Inc. "The numbers reflect a very strong and consistent increase from the all-time low of 32,293 filings in 2006," said Equifax in a press release. However, viewing the data on a quarterly or month-over-month basis indicates that while the total numbers remain very high, the rate of the increase is slowing. For example, fourth quarter 2009 filings totaling 28,352 were not that much ahead of fourth quarter 2008 filings totaling 25,140. And the 9,001 filings in December were up slightly from 8,732 filings in December 2008.
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