Bankruptcy Resources Online
By Robert J. Ambrogi
THE INTERNET is far from bankrupt when it comes to resources relating to the laws regulating insolvency and corporate reorganizations. Federal laws and regulations, bankruptcy court decisions, current news, educational materials, and even current case documents and notices are available online. Here is a guide to finding bankruptcy laws and information on the Internet.
Start with the law. Find the full text of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in hypertext at Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. While you are there, stop by its Bankruptcy: An Overview, a general introduction to bankruptcy law and related Internet resources. Its brief summary of the law is accompanied by links to federal bankruptcy statutes, pertinent sections of the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving bankruptcy, selected state laws, and other Web resources.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts offers a complete library of Official Bankruptcy Forms. The forms, which are in Adobe Acrobat format, can be downloaded or viewed online. It also provides Bankruptcy Basics (pdf format), a 72-page pamphlet published in June 2000 by the Bankruptcy Judges Division. It covers liquidations, individual bankruptcies, reorganizations under chapter 11, farm and municipal bankruptcies, and the Securities Investor Protection Act, and it includes a glossary of bankruptcy terminology.
For general bankruptcy-law research on the Web, a good starting point is The Bankruptcy Lawfinder, possibly the most comprehensive collection on the Internet of links to bankruptcy related resources. Maintained by Warren E. Agin, a partner with the Boston firm Swiggart & Agin, it provides links to bankruptcy statutes, regulations, courts and cases; other bankruptcy law Web sites; government resources related to bankruptcy; and vendor pages offering products and services for bankruptcy lawyers.
The Internet is far from bankrupt when it comes to resources.
-Robert J. Ambrogi
Besides links, the site includes Agin's answers to frequently asked questions about bankruptcy. Through a partnership with the online bookseller Amazon.com, it offers a bookstore with a selection of do-it-yourself bankruptcy books and kits.
Another top site is that of the American Bankruptcy Institute. This organization of more than 7,500 insolvency professionals including bankruptcy judges, attorneys, trustees, accountants and others -- has long claimed that its Web site is "the premier site for bankruptcy information on the Web."
Over the years, its claim has continued to hold true. The site features a wealth of bankruptcy information, including breaking news in the field, updated daily, bankruptcy statistics, legislative news, and articles from its weekly newsletter, Cracking the Code, and its periodical, ABI Journal. It also includes full-text bankruptcy decisions, fully searchable and sorted by state or federal jurisdiction.
A library section contains analyses of significant cases written by ABI members. Some sections of the site are restricted to ABI members, but the bulk of the resources are free to anyone.
For timely and thorough legislative updates in the bankruptcy field, go to the Commercial Law League of America. Dispatches are current to the day and link to full-text documents, when available elsewhere on the Web. Representing professionals -- mostly attorneys -- who specialize in collections, creditors' rights and bankruptcy, the CLLA encourages the development and adoption of ethical and fair practice standards in the field. Its site includes the texts of these ethical codes and standards of practice, and allows visitors to search for a CLLA member, each of whom must subscribe to these standards.
If you are willing to pay for bankruptcy information on the Web, a comprehensive source of information is Matthew Bender & Company, part of Lexis Publishing. It publishes the authoritative treatise, Collier on Bankruptcy, and a suite of related bankruptcy publications, including the Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide, the Collier Bankruptcy Manual, and the weekly Collier Bankruptcy Case Update. Through its Authority On-Demand service, it offers paid access to these and other publications via the Web. A year subscription to Collier on Bankruptcy is nearly $2,000. A one-year subscription to the weekly case update's Internet version is $300. Subscribers can receive the case update both in print and by e-mail for $450 a year. The curious can browse the full tables of contents of any of these publications before deciding to buy a subscription.
Not nearly as comprehensive but entirely free is Bankruptcy Bulletin, a monthly newsletter from lawyers at the international law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Bankruptcy Bulletin is a timely and well-written review of new developments in bankruptcy law and practice. Each month's issue includes up to four articles analyzing recent court decisions and statutory developments. The January issue each year presents a more substantive review of major developments during the preceding 12 months. Issues beginning with December 1997 are available.
Of particular interest to bankruptcy lawyers is the site of the U.S. Trustee Program, the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for overseeing the administration of bankruptcy cases and private trustees. The program consists of 21 regional trustee offices nationwide and an Executive Office for U.S. Trustees in Washington, D.C. This site contains information about the program and the federal bankruptcy system. It includes a guide to each of the regional offices and links to their Web sites. It also includes directories of private trustees throughout the U.S. Of particular interest to lawyers are its substantive handbooks and reference materials for cases under chapters 7, 12 and 13 of the bankruptcy law. The reference materials include forms, suggested questions and answers for trustees, and rules. The site also houses the full text of administrative decisions issued by the program regarding private trustees.
Tools and Information
Beyond sites that focus on the law of bankruptcy, a number of others provide tools and information essential to bankruptcy practice. A top example of such a site is BankruptcyData.com. It provides data on all publicly traded companies with total assets of at least $10 million that have filed for bankruptcy, have defaulted on public debt, or have proposed a distressed-exchange offer since 1986. You can search the database using any combination of company name, business type, assets and bankruptcy start date. Once you locate a company, you can purchase reports that range from simple synopses for $5 to detailed profiles for roughly $40. A full report typically includes complete information on the company, the bankruptcy filing, financials, news stories and creditors. Also available for purchase for each company are update services and reports summarizing details of the company's bankruptcy or reorganization plan. The site also delivers daily bankruptcy news briefs.
Another useful site is the Internet Bankruptcy Library. It offers a variety of original materials and links to other online materials. Among the resources offered here: news from the bankruptcy world; information on discussion groups and mailing lists focusing on particular troubled companies; archives of T&W Newswire, a bankruptcy related news and announcement mailing list; data on distressed securities; bankruptcy and insolvency resource materials; an international directory of bankruptcy and insolvency professionals; directories of bankruptcy conferences, organizations and publications; and other information.
Increasingly, bankruptcy trustees and debtors in possession are using the Web to post listings of estate assets being offered for sale. One of these, BankruptcySales.com, stands out from the others because of its backers -- it is a joint venture of the American Bankruptcy Institute and the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees. Members of either organization can post auction listings here for free; others must pay $100 to post. The fee is per visit, not per posting, and allows multiple postings on a single visit.
The site is updated daily with new postings. Assets are listed by category and the descriptions can be viewed by anyone.
Another auction site is Bankruptcy Assets Online. Those involved in a bankruptcy can use this site to advertise assets that are for sale. Listings are free. Registration is required to view complete listings, but this also is free. Assets are listed by category, such as "real estate," "motor vehicle," and "livestock."
The final stop on the bankruptcy tour is another paid service, Federal Filings Bankruptcy Online. Federal Filings provides current news regarding Chapter 11 bankruptcies throughout the U.S. It does this through two principle products, a real-time news wire and a daily newsletter.
The daily newsletter is available on the Web or by e-mail for a monthly subscription of $100. This Web site offers information on the two products, with prices and samples.
Robert J. Ambrogi is director of the American Lawyer Media News Service.