U.S. Bankruptcy Filings Fall to Second-Highest Level Since 2005 Changes

U.S. bankruptcy filings by individuals and businesses fell in April to the second-highest level since changes to the law in 2005 made it harder for individuals to seek protection from creditors.

Filings totaled almost 146,000 in April, according to data compiled by Automated Access to Court Electronic Records, a service of Oklahoma City-based Jupiter ESources LLC. March filings were about 158,000. Based on the number of business days on the court calendar in each month, filings fell by 4 percent on a daily basis.

“It’s interesting that rates fell a bit, but I’m still waiting for commercial mortgages to reset and cause a little more disruption in the market,” Nancy Rapoport, a law professor at the University of Nevada, said in a telephone message. “I’m going to guess that commercial bankruptcies are the ones that are falling slightly and consumer bankruptcies are still on the rise, which makes sense because people are still in personal financial distress.”

The record for bankruptcy filings was 2.1 million in 2005. About 630,000 sought protection from creditors in U.S. courts in the two weeks before changes to federal bankruptcy laws took effect in October of that year. Filings by individuals and businesses in 2009 jumped 32 percent over the previous year to 1.44 million.

Chapter 11 filings by companies seeking to reorganize or liquidate totaled 1,214 in April. Through the end of last month, Chapter 11 cases this year totaled 4,933. If that rate holds for the rest of the year, there will be about 3 percent fewer such cases filed in 2010 than in 2009. Including Chapter 7 liquidations, business bankruptcy filings totaled about 29,250 this year through April.

The states with the largest increases in average monthly filings over last year were Hawaii, California, Virginia and Vermont, according to Automated Access. Nevada, Tennessee, Georgia and Michigan had the most filings per capita.

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

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