DESPITE LOW UNEMPLOYMENT AND A booming economy, the finances of a record number of Americans- and Texans-are in the tank. In North Texas, one in 75 households files for bankruptcy, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.
So what does the bankruptcy crisis say about a city known for its big-spending ways? We checked with local bankruptcy attorneys, and found that, for starters, many of us will go to outrageous lengths to have our fun without actually paying for it. The following are the best stories of the down-and-out.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
SIX MONTHS AFTER HE SOUGHT BANKRUPTcy advice, a Dallas man tiled for court protection from his creditors. In that short time he racked up a $20,000 American Express bill. The credit card company refused to discharge the debt, which upset the man-not because he’d been captured with his financial pants down, but because his brother had pulled the same stunt and never got caught.
When the son of a wealthy Dallas businessman failed to acquire his father’s financial acumen, he also made plans to file for bankruptcy. Not, however, before he threw a huge party. No problem. He just charged the $26,000 bash on his Visa. Visa was as unforgiving as American Express, though, and the debt was not discharged- a judge ruled he would have to pay.
THAT SIX-FIGURE COMMISSION JUST SUPPED HIS MIND
THE REAL ESTATE BROKER WAS BROKE. Good thing he conveniently timed the closing of his Chapter 7 bankruptcy just weeks before that $600,000 commission check arrived for orchestrating a major business relocation to the Dallas area. While technically the broker didn’t have the money when he filed for bankruptcy, creditors still had the right to his cash. But his convenient forgetfulness worked, and he never had to give up that money.
BEING BANKRUPT DOESN’T MEAN YOU STILL CANT BE A SNOB
SPORTING A TEXAS-SIZE DIAMOND WEDding ring, a Dallas homemaker pondered life after divorce and bankruptcy. Because under Texas law certain assets under Chapter 7 are exempt, her attorney suggested that selling her Dallas home would provide about $200,000 to tide her over.
“And live in a tract home?” she replied, bursting into tears. This was the same person who inquired whether or not she must disclose to the court that she had stashed cash in a coffee can in her backyard.
And we’ve long known never to get in the way of a gal and her Caddie. When Robert Yaquinto ran the financial numbers on a client considering bankruptcy, they didn’t add up. Bankruptcy would not help this Dallas debtor. After she paid her monthly bills, there still wasn’t enough money for her car payment. She needed to dump the car, he informed her.
“Not my Cadillac!” she gasped. Sacrificing sense for style, she decided to take on the debt herself-and keep the Caddie.
YOU MUST HAVE A NOTE FROM HOME
CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION DID not work so well for a well-known, self-styled business turnaround specialist. The court-appointed trustee in charge of liquidating the specialist’s estate objected to the bankruptcy. The next day, the man’s attorney announced his client had gone to the hospital complaining of chest pains. Although a call to Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas confirmed his presence, the judge entered what became known as the “chest pain order,” requiring the man to return to court with written proof of his ailment. The patient miraculously recovered-though no doctor’s note ever surfaced-but the judge still declined to wipe out his debts.
IF ONLY HE HAD ALWAYS BEEN THIS FINANCIALLY ASTUTE
AFTER INFORMING THE U.S. BANKRUPTCY court in Dallas that he only had $4,825 to his name, Dallas oilman Bobby Hamilton Burns made daily deposits into local banks just under the $ 10.000 cap that federal law requires banks to report. By the time regulators grew suspicious. Burns had deposited more than $ 100,000.
Federal agents later found more than $800,000 in cash stuffed in a duffel bag in Bums’ home. You’d think hoarding that kind of cash would be enough to satisfy someone like Bums, who had withdrawn $ 1.7 million from bank accounts before he filed for bankruptcy. But. according to Dallas bankruptcy attorney Gerrit Pron-ske, Burns, who later served prison time, “wanted his money to earn interest.”