All items from Credit Slips

"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 3 weeks 1 day 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 3 weeks 3 days 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 3 weeks 3 days 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 3 weeks 5 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 3 weeks 6 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 4 weeks 3 hours ago

At a hearing on September 29, Judge Griesa indicated that he would hold Argentina in contempt of court but deferred his ruling on what the sanction would be. He has now issued the sanctions order. Somewhat surprisingly, the order does not impose even a monetary fine. (Perhaps the judge is not eager to deal with Argentina's inevitable noncompliance?) Instead, the order simply declares that Argentina will remain in contempt until it (i) "reaffirms and confirms" BNY-Mellon as trustee and (2) terminates any local trustee appointed as part of the already-not-too-attractive plan to let investors swap into local bonds. The order concludes by noting that the court "will consider the imposition of sanctions upon further application by Plaintiffs."

Posted 4 weeks 12 hours ago

The revelation that 76 million JPMorgan Chase consumer accounts were compromised by hacking should be scaring the heck out of us. The Chase hacking is a red flag that hacking poses a real systemic risk to our banking system, and a national security risk as well. Frankly, I find this stuff a lot scarier than either ISIS or our still largely unregulated shadow banking space.  
Consider this nightmare scenario:  what if the hackers had just zeroed out all of those 76 million Chase accounts and wipes out months of transaction history making it impossible to determine exactly how much money was in the accounts at the time they were zeroed out? The money wouldn't even have to be stolen.  Just the account records changed.  What would happen then? "Not to worry," you say, "Chase's equity will make things good.  Jamie's got a fortress balance sheet."  Perhaps.  But 76 million accounts could be an awful lot of money, rendering Chase undercapitalized.  And what if Chase's equity isn't enough?
"Relax," you say, "the accounts are FDIC insured." But the FDIC can only pay insurance on account balances it can verify. If the FDIC can't determine account balances it's going to be hard to pay consumers without serious disruption.

Posted 4 weeks 20 hours ago

Former Credit Slips blogger Elizabeth Warren who also happens to be the senior senator from Massachusetts was a category on Jeopardy! last night. H/T to the WSJ's Bankruptcy Beat, which has a more complete story on the topic including the questions that were asked. None of the questions related to Credit Slips probably because they would have been too easy. Please let me hold on to that illusion.
None of the contestants could correctly give the full name of the agency of which Senator Warren was interim director, "the CFPB for short." Although she was commonly referred to as the "interim director," the title I remember her holding is "assistant to the president and special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury" (e.g., here and here). It's a trivial point -- which I suppose is the point of Jeopard! -- but was she ever formally the "interim director" of the CFPB?

Posted 4 weeks 1 day ago

Some thoughts on how much faith we should have in the debt markets, and whether they are actually markets at all, over at Dealb%k.

Posted 4 weeks 1 day ago