All items from Credit Slips

I was pleased to see today’s New York Times editorial entitled “A Rate Cap for All Consumer Loans.”  It created a very public description of an industry indiscretion involving loaning money to the military at over 36%. Those loans are illegal because a federal law makes it so, a law that passed with broad and deep bipartisan support because trapping military personnel in high-cost loans interferes with military readiness and thus threatens national security. This editorial, not in some fringe publication, but rather the New York Times, argues that we all deserve the same protections from high cost loans.  I agree (in this recent article), and think the time is right to start listening to people and not industry on this topic.

Posted 2 days 12 hours ago

When I first heard about the NY Fed's Doomsday book, my initial thought was, "Wow, they've got a comprehensive survey of land titles, so MERS really isn't an issue!" Then I realized it was a Doomsday book, not a Domesday book. Apparently the Doomsday book is some sort of "in case of emergency" do-it-yourself bailouts manual that outlines the steps the NY Fed believes it can legally take to stave off economic Armageddon. 
I'm rather puzzled by the NY Fed's claim that it should be kept under seal.  I guess we'll find out more of the Fed's reasoning soon enough, but it hardly seems to be particularly sensitive of secret information.  This isn't the Coca-Cola recipe or some sort of trade secret. It's hard to believe that we didn't see the full panoply of the Fed's bailout powers on display in 2008, and perhaps then some. (A colleague has suggested that they might be developing some sort of secret, stress-tested, boilerplate clad bailout machine in the basement of the NY Fed. Of course such a bailoutbot would exercise its own free-living-will. Its only vulnerability would be following a haircut.)
The fact that the Doomsday book apparently contains legal advice is not a seal issue--that's a privilege issue. Once that privilege is waived (I'm guessing it has been), I can't see why the fact that the document includes legal advice presents cause for remaining under seal. 

Posted 1 week 7 hours ago

Filings by Judicial District.Sept 2014Bankruptcy filings have dipped to their lowest rate since 1990, as previously blogged (ignoring anomalous statistical gyrations around the 2005 changes to the bankruptcy law). Over the past twelve months the bankruptcy filing rate per 1,000 persons has been 2.95, which is the first time it has been below 3.0 in almost 25 years. But, the filing rate is not that low everywhere.

Posted 1 week 4 days ago

"What is the optimal consumer bankruptcy law?" Now that's an abstract first line that grabs my attention! I've thought about this question for most of my academic career, and I've struggled to find solid bases for an answer. Now, Indiana Univeristy economist Gray Gordon offers an intriguing if difficult to understand possibility. In his paper, Optimal Bankruptcy Code: A Fresh Start for Some, Gordon actually quantifies the sweet spot: (1) an optimal system offers a discharge of debt (a constant refrain in policy papers, e.g., here and here), (2) it does so for households whose debt is 2.6 times their endowment, and (3) this optimal system results in a welfare gain of 12.2%. The conclusion is nowhere near as confusing for a non-economist (like me) as the proof, expressed in inscrutable Greek-symbol-filled equations which occupy the bulk of the paper.

Posted 1 week 5 days ago

Not much new to say from the last time, except that this contempt order was signed by the judge. Argentina must "reverse entirely" the steps it has taken to remove BNY-Mellon and install a new trustee and otherwise start "complying completely" with the injunction. Or else....? The order doesn't say.
So, Argentina has been ordered to stop violating orders. If it doesn't, it will be in violation of another order. Which means basically nothing. Perhaps there was some doubt as to whether the judge meant the injunction as sort of a suggestion? Or perhaps this signals that the judge plans to skip the whole unenforceable-monetary-fine thing and get right to more innovative contempt sanctions if (when) Argentina fails to comply. Or maybe the order is an attempt to defer the confrontation as long as possible. Yawn. Wake me when something interesting happens.

Posted 2 weeks 21 hours ago

The IMF released its long-awaited paper on sovereign debt contract reform, advocating single-tier aggregated collective action (majority amendment) clauses and a clarification of the pari passu clause to preclude its future use to block payments on restrutured bonds, a la NML v. Argentina. An accessible summary of key points per IMF GC Sean Hagan is here. The recommendations were coordinated with ICMA (whose reform proposal is discussed here and here), as well as wealthy and emerging market governments.

Posted 2 weeks 1 day ago

Professor Bill Whitford of the University of Wisconsin will be an intellectual hero to many of the Credit Slips readers and contributors. Bill has done pathbreaking work in consumer bankruptcy law, consumer law, and corporate reorganizations. On October 24, the Temple Law Review will hold a symposium honoring Bill's career, "The (Un)Quiet Realist: Building and Reflecting on the Contributions of Bill Whitford." Speakers include current or past Credit Slips contributors Jean Braucher, Melissa Jacoby, Angie Littwin, Katie Porter, and me. The full agenda and more information can be found at the Temple Law Review web site. Attendees can earn up to five CLE credits (four substantive and one ethics).
When I first came into the legal academy, Bill was one of a small group of bankruptcy scholars getting out of their university offices and engaging with the world as it is. He is  a role model for me as an empirical scholar, and it is an honor to be asked to be part of this event.

Posted 2 weeks 2 days ago

Over the last couple years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has put together a useful series of reports regarding payday lending in the United States. The fourth installment was released on October 2. Its title is quite descriptive: "Fraud and Abuse Online: Harmful Practices in Internet Payday Lending". The report documents aggressive and illegal actions taken by online payday lenders, most prominently those lenders that are not regulated by all states: harassment, threats, unauthorized dissemination of personal information and accessing of checking accounts, and automated payments that do not reduce principal loan amounts, thereby initiating an automatic renewal of the loan(!). Storefront lenders engage in some of the same tactics, but online lenders' transgressions seem to be more egregious and more frequent.

Posted 2 weeks 3 days ago

How long will we be seeing signs like this in our communities?  Cash store smallerI refer specifically to the little sign in the store “Military Welcome,” which arises from sneaky loopholes that have been used for years to get around Military Lending Act (the “Act” or the MLA”), a bipartisan law passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President George W. Bush as a part of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act.  The law recognized that payday and other high cost loans interfere with military readiness and as a result, passed a rather uncontroversial 36 percent military APR, including all costs and fees. 36% period. End of story.

Posted 2 weeks 4 days ago