September 22, 2019

Will Bankruptcy Issues Affect Georgia Governor’s Race?

Nathan Deal under scrutiny for financial woesIf you have been reading your local newspapers, you may be aware that Nathan Deal, the Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia, is facing scrutiny about his personal finances and about the bankruptcy filings of his daughter and son-in-law.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mr. Deal personally guaranteed bank loans totaling over $2 million that was used to build and finance a sporting goods store owned by his daughter and son-in-law called Wilder Outdoors, located on Highway 365 near Gainesville.   Unfortunately for the Wilders, the sporting goods business failed, leaving about $2.5 million due.  Mr. and Mrs. Wilder filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009, discharging their obligations on the outstanding bank loans, leaving Mr. Deal exposed as the guarantor.

Mr. Deal and the Wilders were able to refinance the business loan several years ago prior to the closing of the business but now, a $2.5 million debt will come due in February, which would be about a month after he takes office if he wins.

Mr. Deal asserts that his financial quandary is no different from that faced by many parents who offered financial support to the entrepreneurial dreams of their children.   He has put his primary residence and other property on the market and no doubt hopes to generate enough cash to satisfy the bank’s demands.  You can read more about the Wilder bankruptcy issues on my Bankruptcy Law Network post about this situation.

Democrats are pointing to Mr. Deal’s financial troubles as proof of his questionable judgment, especially since it turns out that Mr. Deal’s son-in-law, Clint Wilder, appears to have been ineligible to file Chapter 7 in July, 2009.  Mr. Wilder had filed an individual Chapter 7 case in Atlanta back in December, 2001.  Section 727(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that a debtor must wait at least eight (8) years from the time a Chapter 7 case is filed before filing a second Chapter 7 – here the time period between the two filings was about 7 1/2 years.

Although the Wilders’ case was closed in December, 2009, the United States trustee has the right to reopen this case and petition the judge to revoke the discharge.  From what I am hearing, this is what is happening now.

Candidate Deal correctly points out that issues relating to his son-in-law’s bankruptcy are not his doings and should not be attributed to him.  On the other hand, the Deal campaign has to be concerned about the prospect of a candidate who could very well be insolvent the month after he takes office and who could face the prospect of filing a voluntary petition or having an involuntary bankruptcy file against him shortly after he takes office.  You may recall that former State school superintendent Kathy Cox chose not to run for re-election after she and her husband filed Chapter 7 following her husband’s failed business deals.

I think that the main lesson to glean from this situation has to do with the inherent problems associated with co-signing a loan for anybody, especially when the money put at risk is more than you can afford to lose.

What do you think?  Will Mr. Deal’s looming financial problems cost him your vote?  Or do his financial problems give him insight into the economic plight of struggling Georgians?

About Jonathan

Jonathan Ginsberg represents honest, hardworking men and women in the Atlanta area who need personal bankruptcy protection. In practice for over 25 years, Jonathan teaches bankruptcy law and practice at legal continuing education seminars and he is a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network. Jonathan lives with his wife and children in Atlanta.

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