25 May 2010

Misrepresentation In Bankruptcy Cases Common

A 2009 fiscal year audit of 2,355 bankruptcy cases, 1,260 selected at random and 1,095 selected on the basis of numbers outside expected ranges in bankruptcy filings found a material misrepresentation in 16% of random audits and 28% of exception audits. Random audits are of a fixed percentage of all bankruptcy cases and so they should largely reflect the breakdown of individual Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases nationally.

Past reports are available here. In Fiscal Year 2008, material misrepresentations were found in 18% of random audits and 28% of exception audits. In Fiscal Year 2007, material misrepresentations were found in 27% of random audits and 38% of exception audits.

Audits of individual Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases were mandated by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. In audited cases, the petitioner's underlying documentation was compared to the petitioner's bankruptcy filings and there was also a check against public and commercial asset databases.

The linked report does not identify the amount of the discrepencies discovered, describe any patterns in those misrepresentations, distinguish between misrepresentation rates for represented and unrepresented parties, or distinguish between misrepresentation rates in Chapter 7 and in Chapter 13 cases. The materiality criteria are not disclosed.

So, for example, it is impossible to determine how much monetary impact misrepresentation in individual bankruptcy cases have on creditors, or whether the requirement that bankruptcy counsel confirm that there is a basis for information in the petition has any meaningful effect.

The data are broken down by judicial district, but in most cases the samples are too small to be statistically significant.

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