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Apr 5, 2006 3:58 pm

NEW YORK - Consumer bankruptcy filings plunged in the first quarter to their lowest level in 20 years, as a tough new law enacted in October made it harder to erase debts, fresh data show. < =text/> if (window.yzq_a == null) document.write("<scr" + "ipt type=text/javascript src=*\**");

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However, since shortly after the law went into effect, filing rates have been steadily increasing.

The quarter's filings fell 73 percent to 102,949 compared with 381,743 in the year-ago period, according to data released Tuesday by Lundquist Consulting Inc., a financial research outfit based in Burlingame, Calif.

That means, on an annualized basis, one in every 261 households filed bankruptcy in the quarter, as opposed to one in every 73 households a year ago.

The new law, bringing the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in a generation, took effect on Oct. 17. Personal bankruptcy filings jumped 50 percent in September in anticipation.

Chapter 7 filings, where debts can wiped out entirely, except under certain circumstances, were 80 percent lower in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Chapter 13 filings, which require consumers to repay a part of their debts, are 53.6 percent lower than the year-ago period.

All regions of the U.S. showed a significant decline in first-quarter filings. Among individual states, Georgia showed the most filings by volume at 7,755, followed by Michigan's 6,189 and Ohio's 5,565.

Filing rates have increased fourfold since November, about two weeks after the law took effect. In November, filings totaled 500 a day. In March, they totaled more than 2,000 a day. That compares with 7,000 filings a day in March 2005.

Lundquist Consulting founder Chris Lundquist cautioned that it is too early to measure the new law's long-term effects.

The data also show the filing trend is moving back toward historic rates, as the number of Chapter 13 filings decreased from nearly 60 percent in November to less than 40 percent in March and are still on the decline.

Apr 5, 2006 4:18 pm

I heard that a lot of people rushed to file in October to beat the deadline.  Maybe that caused a dip in November/December filings.

Apr 5, 2006 6:09 pm

Yeah I suspect, but about time people are accountable. I mean if you file now there is about 2 years of work to do… Also they will make you restructure unlike before where it was good bye debt!