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Less-than full disclosure can sabotage a bankruptcy filing

The stress debtors experience before and during bankruptcy usually makes a filing a one-time event. According to Debt.org, only eight percent have filed for bankruptcy at least once before.

Overall, repeat filings account for 16 percent of all bankruptcy cases.

Learning From Their Mistakes Or Exploiting Their Insight?

Frederick and Katherine Cooper, an educated couple with significant income, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The couple both enjoyed six figure salaries at Western Funding, Inc. (WFI), serving as CEO and executive vice president respectively. After selling the company established by Frederick, shareholder disputes led to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

It wasn’t the first time that the couple had appeared before bankruptcy court. Nor was it the second. Prior to the sale, WFI had just gone through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Katherine filed for Chapter 7 twice and received one discharge.

The Fourth Time Was Not The Charm

The unusually low valuations of the debtors’ residence and lack of personal property caught the attention of the trustee. Suspecting fraud, a surprise audit uncovered hidden assets that eventually sold at auction for $60,000.

According to the debtors, they believed that only personal property they intended to claim as exempt needed to be listed in the bankruptcy petition. They also claimed an oversight in not disclosing a $3,500 vehicle sold prior to the filing and several guns on consignment at a local gun shop, two eventually selling for $26,000.

The trustee saw things differently. He argued that the debtors should be denied a discharge for defrauding their creditors.

Experienced And Sophisticated In Bankruptcy Filings

Judge Marian F. Harrison of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee agreed with the trustee. In denying the discharge, she ruled that the Coopers had no regard for providing complete and accurate information in their Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs.

Judge Harrison also found that the couple’s explanations were implausible considering their experience in the bankruptcy system, sophisticated business background, education and overall demeanor.

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