President's Column (35-02)
Friday, January 24, 2020
Raymond J. Obuchowski
By the time this President’s Page is published, over 75% of my term as President will have expired. I quickly reflected upon my term and the goals which I hoped, and still hope, to accomplish as President and recognized that we had hardly scratched the surface.
I was elated that NABT’s Legislative and Lobbying team was able to obtain the sub-committee hearing on our compensation bill, HR 3553. However, I limited my expectations as to not be too disappointed when HR 3553 effectively died with the end of the 115th Congress. And while I would like to deliver to our membership the long overdue increase in the no-asset fee, I have hoped in the past, as I do now, that the raise occurs during the term of a President that chaired or dedicated so much of their time and effort as a Board Member toward that goal. NABT continues its efforts to have a new bill introduced by early summer, and while it appears by general consensus that everyone acknowledges that Chapter 7 trustees are under-compensated, the impediment is to gain agreement on funding any additional compensation. As I stated in my first President’s Page, and strongly restate, NABT provides so much more to the membership besides the legislative effort
A telling example of the “added” value which NABT membership provides was reflected recently in both inquiry and responses on the listserv to a question posed by a “new” trustee. In my opinion, Chapter 7 trustees are incredibly special. As a Trustee, the multiple issues which we are both requested and required to address, and in what manner to respond are not necessarily found in a handbook and most certainly not in some YouTube video. The answers of what should I do as a new trustee are only truly found in the many recommendations and answers which our members freely provide based upon their many years of experience. I want to specifically note the many Trustee Tips shared in past years by former Board member, William Schwab, but also the listserv responses on April 12, 2019 by Trustees from coast to coast, north and south. Kudos to Jim Angell, Robert Anderson, Paul Berens, Jeff Moyer, Erica Johnson, Steven Kartzman and Richard Marshack for assisting and providing your Trustee insights. I want to thank each of you in that you are the foundation which makes this organization strong and a community.
NABT has evolved significantly over the past 2 years through the efforts of NABT Committees and the excellent work of our Executive Director and management team. Through their efforts, NABT has launched its new website. I strongly urge every member of NABT to explore the new website. I believe you will be happy with what you will find.
I also want to acknowledge the wonderful efforts of our Regional Planning Committee which has worked diligently to include NABT and its business partners as part of the regional trustee training by the Office of US Trustee. While this is the first year in a long time that NABT didn’t have a Spring Seminar, new efforts are being explored to provide value on a more localized platform. These are only some of the exciting paths which NABT is exploring to provide a greater return to its members. If any of this interests you and you are not presently a member of an NABT committee, I would request that you contact Jennifer Brinkley, NABT’s Executive Director, and she will gladly direct you to the Board member who can respond.
Although the US economy has remained strong for the past ten years, a downturn is inevitable. Bankruptcy issues are becoming more prevalent, whether through student/educational loans, the farm crisis, veteran’s disability income, as well as, small business concerns. Which of these issues will grab the attention of Congress from its current focus. The ABI Consumer Commission released its report today, which addresses recommendations regarding trustee compensation, and a litany of many other consumer bankruptcy issues. This raises the obvious question, will we be seeing revision efforts like those in 1994, or the more significant changes created by BAPCPA? Time will tell, and we need to be prepared.
On April 11, 2019, at the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, the Final Report of the ABI Commission Report on Consumer Bankruptcy was released. NABT Past Presidents, Ron Peterson, served as one of the Commissioners, and Neil Gordon served on a Commission Committee, as well as, NABT Trustee member, Brian Shapiro. The ABI’s report only begins to show the many topics in the bankruptcy field which could make the next few years very interesting. The pressing question is whether a significant overhaul is soon to be considered?
As I finish writing this Page, I am sitting at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC following our Spring Board Meeting. In addition to legislative and membership matters addressed above, our Board meeting also discussed the significant preparation which has occurred for our Annual Meeting to be held August 22-25th in Denver, Colorado. I encourage each of you to attend the Annual Meeting as the program and the venue are spectacular. Above all, I look forward to seeing each of you there and further extending our friendship.