Three noteworthy trends associated with bankruptcies surfaced during the past two quarters.
The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) reported that total U.S. filings fell slightly during the first quarter but ticked higher in March compared to the same month a year ago.
And the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicated the amount of consumers who had a bankruptcy added to their credit reports during the fourth quarter softened to a new low going back 18 years.
According to data provided by Epiq Systems, ABI indicated bankruptcy filings totaled 195,199 in the first quarter of this year, down just 0.23 percent from the 195,647 filings registered in the same quarter a year ago. The 185,868 total noncommercial filings recorded in Q1 represented a 0.27 percent decrease from the year-ago total of 186,376.
ABI noted total commercial filings for the first three months of 2017 were 9,331, representing a 1 percent increase from the 9,271 filings during the same period in 2016. Total commercial Chapter 11 filings represented the largest change, as the 1,270 cases during the first three months of 2017 represented an 11 percent drop from the 1,428 filings reported last year.
“Filing decreases are beginning to level off as more struggling businesses and households turn to the financial relief of bankruptcy,” ABI Executive Director Samuel Gerdano said. “Distress in the retail sector is pushing up the total number of business filings, and we are also seeing an uptick in consumer filings from previous months.”
Meanwhile, the New York Fed reviewed Equifax data and found about 204,000 consumers had a bankruptcy notation added to their credit reports in the fourth quarter; an amount 4 percent below the same quarter in 2015 and a new series low that goes back to 1999.
In March, ABI formed the Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy to examine the consumer bankruptcy system and issue a report with recommended improvements that can be implemented within the existing legal structure.
The 15-member expert panel aims to modernize the consumer bankruptcy system with practical and cost-effective recommendations, building on the framework established by the Bankruptcy Code of 1978 and Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
ABI also touched on data it obtained looking solely at March bankruptcy developments, which showed numerous year-over-year climbs.
For the month of March, the 81,590 total recorded filings represented an increase of 4 percent from the 78,372 filings registered in March of last year. The 77,932 total noncommercial filings in March 2017 also represented a 4 percent increase over the March total of 74,988.
Total commercial filings in March increased 8 percent to 3,658 over the 3,384 filings recorded in the same month a year ago. Commercial Chapter 11 filings increased 4 percent to 3,547 in March over the 3,407 filings the previous year.
The average nationwide per capita bankruptcy filing rate for the first three months of 2017 increased to 2.51 (total filings per 1,000 per population) from the 2.19 filing rate of the first two months of the year.
States with the highest per capita filing rate (total filings per 1,000 population) for the first quarter of 2017 were:
1. Alabama (5.92)
2. Tennessee (5.74)
3. Georgia (4.83)
4. Mississippi (4.24)
5. Illinois (4.18)
ABI has partnered with Epiq Systems, a leading provider of managed technology for the global legal profession, in order to provide the most current bankruptcy filing data for analysts, researchers and members of the news media.