Consumer Bankruptcies Jump in February
U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings increased more than 15 percent nationwide in February over the previous month, according to data made available earlier this week from the National Bankruptcy Research Center. The jump may reflect worsening credit problems from an extended downturn in the housing market, and comes as Congress is considering a measure to allow changes to Federal bankruptcy code for mortgages. Overall consumer filings totaled 76,120 in February, up from the 66,050 consumer filings recorded in January. February's total represented an increase of 37.3 percent in filing activity from one year earlier. Chapter 13 filings, the center of an ongoing debate involving the mortgage industry, constituted 36.4 percent of all consumer cases in February, down slightly from last month. “February's bankruptcy spike -- the highest single month since the 2005 law changes -- forecasts the start of more to come for the balance of 2008,” said Samuel J. Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute. Many of the bankruptcies are coming in California, according to coverage in the New York Times, which reported that the Golden State had recorded a 33 percent jump in filing activity during the first two months of the year, the highest percentage jump in the nation. Senate Democrats have been pushing a bill positioned as a foreclosure relief package that would amend the Federal bankruptcy code to allow judges to write-off principal amounts on mortgages for primary residences in Chapter 13 debt restructuring. The proposal has met with stiff resistance from industry participants and current adminstration officials alike, with Republicans recently blocking an attempt by Democrats to push the bill through Congress without debate.