Friday, October 26, 2018
Posted by: H. Jason Gold
On September 26th, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing to examine the issues surrounding NABT’s legislation, HR. 3553, the Bankruptcy Administration Improvement Act. As you know, HR. 3553 would increase the filing fee by $60 and index it to inflation. The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Cong. Tom Marino (R-PA) is the author of our bill and it is cosponsored by Cong. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who has done bankruptcy work in his professional career before being elected to Congress.
There were five witnesses at the hearing and NABT was represented by Neville Reid, NABT’s vice president and co-chair of our Legislative Committee. Neville’s testimony was outstanding. Other witnesses included Bankruptcy Judge Alan Stout; Cliff White, Director of the US Trustee Program; Ariane Holtschlag, appearing on behalf of the American Bankruptcy Institute, and John Rao, appearing on behalf of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) the consumer bankruptcy attorney trade organization. Every witness expressed support for our raise, however Director White and Ms. Holtschlag took no position as to the source of the increase. Mr. Rao urged the committee to reject the idea of raising the filing fee to pay for the raise.
Every Representative who attended the hearing explicitly supported the need to give Chapter 7 trustees a raise, but some were hesitant to place the burden of the raise solely on the debtor. This line of thinking was particularly pronounced with the Democratic minority on the subcommittee where Cong. David Cicilline (D-RH), the panel’s ranking Democrat, was opposed to the idea.
The Republicans who attended seemed to be much more amenable to our idea that the only long-term, sustainable solution to trustee pay is to have the filer pay the additional amount. We were also encouraged that Cong. Bob Goodlatte, the Chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, attended and spoke in support of our raise.
We are hopeful that the sub-committee will approve the bill and send it to the full Judiciary Committee during the “lame duck” session scheduled to take place after the mid-term elections. If it passes the full committee we are confident of passage by the House of Representatives. At that point we are further hoping that our bill will be included in a must-pass piece of legislation and will then go on to the Senate. If we get that far we can expect that there will be modifications (and perhaps a watering down) of the terms of the bill.
While the odds of success remain uncertain – the bill continues to be vigorously opposed by NACBA – we will continue to press ahead until the bill becomes law or the Congress finally adjourns.
If you would like to view the hearing, it is available to stream here.