Bankruptcy proceedings are initiated by creditors, or by a debtor, when the latter is unable to discharge his debt. The debtor can be an individual or a company. A bankruptcy petition is filed in a bankruptcy court, and upon the court's approval, assets of the debtor may be liquidated or a partial repayment of the debt may be proposed. In the case of an organization, restructuring is also a distinct possibility. Court proceedings are documented in the form of bankruptcy records. These records are public property, and can be accessed by people either free of cost or for a nominal charge.
Information Contained in Bankruptcy Records
The following information can be obtained from bankruptcy records:
- The bankruptcy petition which lists the names of the creditors, the debtor, the trustee, the attorneys, and the judges
- The amount of money involved in the bankruptcy suit, the nature of the suit, and the reason for the proceedings
- A chronology of events and the kind of documents submitted
- The final verdict or the status of the case
- The claims registry
In addition to these details, bankruptcy records contain other relevant information that can be useful to a person.
How do Public Bankruptcy Records Help?
Assessing the Financial Strength of a Company
Bankruptcy records of a company should be examined to decide if it is worth investing in the company. When large companies go bankrupt, they make the headlines, however, most people are unaware of the financial position of small companies. This is when bankruptcy records come in handy. Investing in a company that has filed for bankruptcy protection is not a sensible idea. Even if the company has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, it is possible that the restructuring plan may not work. In case the company has filed under Chapter 7, liquidation of assets takes place and the company pays its creditors before paying the investor. Either way, company fundamentals should be examined before investing.
Assessing the Financial Position of a Consumer
Bankruptcy records are useful from the perspective of establishing personal relations. Since these records are public, people can access information that will help them assess the financial position of a person. Bankruptcy can remain on a person's record for a long time. In case bankruptcy is filed under Chapter 7, it remains on the credit report for 10 years. Filing under Chapter 13 remains on record for a period of 7 years from the date of repayment of debt. Bankruptcy has a negative impact on a person's ability to borrow money. In fact, his credit scores can fall by as much as 250 points. In case of doubt, it might be advisable to look up the bankruptcy record of a person before embarking on a personal or a business relation with him.
How to Obtain Bankruptcy Public Records
The process of obtaining bankruptcy records does not have to be a painful one. There are numerous cost-effective ways of retrieving the necessary information. In fact, most of the bankruptcy court records are available online.
Voice Case Information System (VCIS)
This is a useful telephonic service provided free of cost to people who need access to limited information. In case detailed information is desired, one should access the PACER database.
Using the PACER Database
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) can be used in case a person is interested in online bankruptcy records. The user has to pay a fee of USD 0.08 per page and he can access information on a case as soon as it is filed.
US Party/Case Index (USPCI)
In case PACER does not provide the relevant information, USPCI can be accessed. Bankruptcy details are available online and can be obtained by conducting a search based on the name of a person.
US Bankruptcy Court Federal Record Retrieval Service
This is a paid service which can cost USD 20, USD 35 or USD 50 depending upon the kind of information required. The details are usually mailed within 24 hours.
Bankruptcy records are no doubt useful to people looking to enter into business deals. It is always useful to have information about the financial position of a party to a business deal. Just as we have information on bankrupt entities, there are a number of websites that mail regular newsletters about companies showing signs of financial distress. It might be advisable to subscribe to these newsletters before embarking on an investment.