December 15, 2019

Full Disclosure on Bankruptcy Petitions a Must

My colleague attorney Scott Riddle recently posted on his Georgia Bankruptcy Blog an important reminder to both debtors and their counsel about the importance of full and complete disclosure of assets and debts in bankruptcy petitions.

The last paragraph of Scott’s post merits repeating:

The lesson to debtors is, obviously, disclose all of your assets and answer all questions truthfully (truth + fully).  You cannot over-disclose to your lawyer or on the schedules.  For debtors’ counsel, explain the criminal and civil (bankruptcy) penalties for false schedules, and get a signed statement that it has been explained.  It can’t be good marketing when a client is denied a discharge and gets indicted, especially if the client defends by claiming he/she didn’t understand what is supposed to be disclosed.

All of us who represent stressed out and anxious debtors have heard a request that “let’s just keep this between the two of us” and a confession about some hidden asset or loan repayment (in cash) to a relative.  My response, as would be the response of most of my colleagues in the consumer bankruptcy bar, is to the effect that (1) I am an officer of the Court and I will not participate in a scheme to mislead the bankruptcy court and (2) I am not going to put my livelihood in jeopardy for any client, ever.

In the case discussed in Scott’s blog entry, the omitted assets would not have created a problem for the debtor, but the judge or trustee in that case sent the file to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution for Bankruptcy Fraud.  Because the debtor intended harm, he committed a crime – and ended up serving time in federal prison.

So, if you are considering bankruptcy, keep in mind this requirement of total and complete disclosure of all information, good, bad or indifferent.

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