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Gavel to Gavel: The uphill battle faced by creditors in bankruptcy

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 7, 2019.


Gretchen Latham Web

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Gretchen M. Latham

Bankruptcy is a debtor’s remedy, meaning many of the rules and regulations are more favorable to debtors than to creditors. To even the playing field a bit, Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005.

Several of its provisions were put in place to provide assurances to creditors that the system is fair and impartial. Of note, those that file must now undergo credit counseling both prior to filing and prior to receiving a bankruptcy discharge.

Also of significance are the changes to the Bankruptcy Code regarding what chapter of case a debtor is eligible to file. Prior to enactment of BAPCPA, many creditors were missing out on substantial payments because most debtors elected to file a Chapter 7 case, which acts as a total liquidation of debts, other than debts that are reaffirmed. The result was that most unsecured creditors were losing out on repayment of their entire outstanding balance.

With BAPCPA, debtors are no longer free to decide what type of case to file. Rather, a complex mathematical computation is performed prior to filing, and if the results show a debtor has funds available to repay a portion of their unsecured debt, that debtor may be required to file a Chapter 13 case.

Chapter 13 is similar to debt consolidation, in that the debtor proposes a plan of repayment to all creditors, to include paying back a percentage of unsecured debt. The result is that unsecured creditors, such as credit card companies and medical providers, receive some payment.

A creditor is also permitted to file an objection to the proposed repayment plan. The most common objections are to the interest rate and value of secured claims. There are other bases for objecting, including that plan is not feasible or that the case was filed as a delay tactic.

Aside from having a statutory basis for objecting, a creditor must also adhere to the Bankruptcy Court’s local rules when objecting to avoid the risk of an improperly filed objection.

While bankruptcy is still a very viable option for those with overwhelming debt, the arena is now viewed as being much more equal. Creditors have many tools at their disposal when a consumer files bankruptcy and should take full advantage of those tools to maximize repayment where possible.

Attorney joins Vatterott College Program Advisory Board

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Gretchen M. Latham will join the Vatterott College (OKC Campus) Program Advisory Board for Business and Paralegal Studies on Feb. 23.

Latham’s duties will require her input on requirements for the Paralegal Studies Program so future graduates are assured success upon entering the legal field.

Bankruptcy issues from the creditor perspective

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on July 16, 2015.


Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

By Phillips Murrah attorney, Gretchen Latham

During a bankruptcy case, we often hear about the debtor perspective. Whether due to unfavorable market conditions or poor planning, the result is financial hardship that inhibits a borrower from completing a loan agreement.

On the other side is the creditor, a lender that supplied funding and would like to recover as much of the investment as possible. Legal issues from the creditor perspective differ from that of the debtor. Some typical creditor-related issues include:

Standing to lift a stay

When a bankruptcy is filed, the debtor gets the benefit of an automatic stay preventing collections activities by the creditor. To enforce a security interest, the creditor can request to lift the stay.

More frequently, given recent rulings by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in foreclosure matters, debtors challenge the creditor’s right to even enforce the security interest. Thus, the result is the debtor seeks the stay to remain in place. Creative debtor attorneys are now making an attempt to use the state Supreme Court’s reasoning in bankruptcy court as well.

Timely execution of the statement of intention

There is some case law holding when debtors fail to timely perform their stated intent, the stay is lifted. When this happens, it is appropriate for a lender to file for relief from the stay and cite these cases as legal authority for the request.

Appropriate value for vehicles in a Chapter 13

A Chapter 13 “reorganizes” debt and allows the debtor to make one monthly payment to a trustee, who then disburses payment to the creditors. When a vehicle loan is involved, lenders are seeing frequent attempts to cram down the vehicle’s value in order to pay less. A savvy creditor will know how and when to object to this type of plan treatment.

Adequate protection payments in a Chapter 13

Often, it takes months for a Chapter 13 plan to confirm. For the creditor, this presents the problem of not receiving payment on their loan for a significant amount of time. The remedy is to seek an order of adequate protection, which will direct the trustee to make a pro rata payment to the creditor pending confirmation of the plan.

NewsOK Q&A: Healthcare providers can use Oklahoma’s unclaimed property fund to collect on unpaid bills

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: June 3, 2015
Click to see full story – Healthcare providers can use Oklahoma’s unclaimed property fund to collect on unpaid bills

Click to see Gretchen M. Latham’s attorney profile

Gretchen Latham, a litigator at Phillips Murrah law firm, talks about how physicians can recoup payment by making a claim to the state treasurer for unclaimed property.

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

Q: I understand it’s becoming increasingly difficult for healthcare providers to collect fees from patients and third-party payers for services rendered. What can they do?

A: Collection of these monies through the judicial system involves the filing of a lawsuit, and often times strict compliance with collection and privacy laws. And the time frame within which any significant collection activity takes place can be months or even years. Luckily, physicians, and nearly everyone, can make a claim with the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to recoup funds in certain circumstances.

Q: What is unclaimed property?

A: Unclaimed property consists of obligations and liabilities for businesses which have been inactive, or have not been paid for a period of time. The funds may be in the form of a security deposit, an overpayment on an account, collateral pledged as security on a loan, payroll and wage obligations, or stocks and bonds.

Q: How does property attain unclaimed status?

A: When the rightful owner of the property fails to contact the holder of the property for a specified period of time, the property is considered unclaimed. A typical example is when an employee leaves his or her job prior to receiving the last paycheck, and there’s no forwarding address for the employer’s use in mailing final payment. Upon showing proof of ownership and making a valid claim, the state will relinquish the property to its rightful owner.

Q: How does the state come into possession of unclaimed property?

A: Holders of unclaimed property are required by law to make an annual report of the property being held. After the holder makes a diligent effort to contact the rightful owner both within and outside the state’s borders without success, the holder is then required to deliver the unclaimed property to the state treasurer.

Q: Can physicians and other providers rely on this claim process for more than clinic visit charges?

A: In the medical field, making a claim for unclaimed property can help physicians recover funds due them for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the practice has been sold and not all the funds due as part of the transaction have been paid. Although there’s no time limit on claiming the provider’s property, the sooner the claim is made, the sooner he or she will get paid.