• Famous Bankruptcies: Mike Tyson

    A former heavyweight champion who amassed roughly $400 million over two decades and could once command $30 million for a night’s work, Mike Tyson ultimately had to file bankruptcy in 2003. The New York Times reported in August of that year that Tyson had $23 million in debts specified in Chapter 11 petitions he filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. In 2004 though, the Associated Press reported that Tyson owed $38.4 million to various creditors including the Internal Revenue Service and his ex-wife, Monica.

    As the Times put it, Tyson’s “record earnings in the boxing ring became a license to spend — on jewelry, mansions, cars, limousines, cellphones, parties, clothing, motorcycles and Siberian tigers.” For example, the Times reported in that article that Tyson had “picked up a $173,706 gold chain lined with 80 carats in diamonds” from a Las Vegas jewelry store, but never paid for the item.

    While it is highly unlikely that your own lifetime earnings or spending on extravagances are anywhere near as astronomical as Tyson’s, perhaps you can still relate in the sense that an increase in salary led you to spend more than you should have. Many people spent beyond their means when times were good and then found themselves unable to pay the bills when they became unemployed or took a new job that pays significantly less than what they had been earning.

    However, just like Tyson, filing bankruptcy can allow you to manage your debt if you are struggling to pay your bills or seeking foreclosure help . A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could allow you to reorganize or eliminate you debt, as well as deliver a knockout punch to creditor harassment.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • After Foreclosure Exited Stage Left, Writing Took Center Stage

    Stephanie and Bob Walker paid $799,000 for a three-bedroom house with a view of the Hollywood sign in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Three years later, the couple was in the Barrington home of Stephanie’s mother after spending a year trying to hang on to their California home.

    The monthly magazine Chicago reported on December 14, 2011, that the foreclosure process Stephanie called “an extremely depressing and really scary ordeal” has actually helped her career. Stephanie first began writing about that ordeal at her blog, Love in the Time of Foreclosure, and later published an e-book of the same name. This year a play she wrote about the foreclosure, entitled “American Home,” won a Blue Ink Award from American Blues Theater. Thus far, Chicago said the two-act play has had a staged reading that is part of the development process, but Stephanie told the magazine that American Blues may go on to produce a full-fledged production, and if not, she wants to pursue getting the play produced by another company.

    “We learned we’re resilient,” Stephanie told Chicago in 2009. “We learned not to be so attached to material things. We learned that we have each other.”

    For homeowners in need of foreclosure help , it can be hard to imagine life ever getting back to what it was like before there were mortgage problems. That type of personal shame makes it difficult for people to ask for help, let alone even consider options that could help them stay in their house, such as filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . However, the Walkers’ journey represents one way in which the foreclosed can use the experience for inspiration. Do you think your own story would make for a good play or movie? What would the title be?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • A Scottie Pippen Did File For Bankruptcy-Just Not The One Who Played For The Bulls

    Scottie Pippen is regarded as one the of the greatest defenders in the history of the National Basketball Association, but now the six-time NBA Champion is seeking to defend himself from reports that he filed bankruptcy. Pippen filed a lawsuit in Illinois against multiple media outlets seeking $1 million in damages from each of the 10 defendants named. The former Chicago Bull claims he has not been worth less than $40 million in the past 10 years.

    “It is a most foul libel indeed to be falsely accused of being bankrupt,” the lawsuit states. “Scottie never filed bankruptcy and indeed has a substantial net worth.”

    The Hall of Famer’s nickname of “No Tippin’ Pippen” for his reputation of being stingy with those in the service industry would lead one to believe that he was far more conservative with his money. While some bad investments certainly hurt him financially, the Miami New Times reported on December 14, 2011, that the “only Scottie Pippen in the United States who’s filed for bankruptcy is one Scottie Lee Pippen of Overland Park, Kansas, who filed for bankruptcy in 2005.” The Times said that a CNBC slideshow entitled “15 Athletes Gone Bankrupt” led the way for multiple outlets to run similar lists that included the former Bulls player.

    In other words, this blog post is not part of the recent series of “Famous Bankruptcies” on this blog. We will have to see if the more famous Pippen is able to clear his good name, but could you be confused with a famous person? Have you or somebody you know filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and has the same name of a celebrity?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Will Cook County’s Copycat Ordinance Earn It Copycat Lawsuit?

    Despite the city of Chicago now facing federal lawsuit over the vacant building ordinance passed by the City Council in November, the Cook County Board decided to pass its own measure that “largely mirrors” the one adopted by the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune reported on December 14, 2011. The county ordinance would require a property’s mortgagee to pay $250 to list buildings as vacant on a countywide registry, whereas the Chicago ordinance involves a $500 property registration fee.

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 12 against the city of Chicago, “charging that the city’s rules encroach on its role as the sole regulator and supervisor of Fannie and Freddie,” according to the Tribune. Despite that lawsuit, the Cook County measure passed without opposition.

    According to the Tribune, 10th District Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer told fellow commissioners, “When 75 percent of the mortgages in Cook County are owned by FHFA, allowing them to ignore their responsibilities to their own assets or our communities is impossible and a long-term disaster.”

    The Tribune also noted that Fannie and Freddie own about 258,000 mortgages within the city of Chicago. While these ordinances represent an honorable attempt to help the neighborhoods affected by vacancies, they will probably do little to help those needing foreclosure help and facing eviction.

    A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could help many of these troubled homeowners stay in their houses, but what do you think of Cook County passing an ordinance similar to Chicago’s even after it ended up being challenged in court? Do you expect the FHFA to sue the county as well?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Closet? R. Kelly’s Whole Estate Trapped in Negative Equity

    When recording artist R. Kelly was hit with a $2.9 million foreclosure lawsuit on his mansion 30 miles outside of Chicago in July, WMAQ-TV reported it was a strategic foreclosure. The value of the estate had plunged from an estimated $5.2 million to $3.8 million in the span of one year, and Kelly had stopped making payments in an effort to get the loan modified. Now that the custom home is worth less than he owes, Forbes reported on December 14, 2011, that the Grammy-winner is listing the property as a $1.595 million short sale.

    The 22,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1997 and sits on a private, wooded lot surrounded by 12-foot high concrete and wrought iron wall, according to Forbes. The original loan Kelly was issued for the home in 1999 was for $3.5 million. In August, Kelly sold his former 8,000-square-foot Lakeview property for $2.74 million.

    As Forbes noted, the R&B singer is no stranger to legal trouble. In June 2008, he was acquitted of child pornography charges in a high-profile trial, and three years later Kelly’s former manager sued the singer for breach of oral contract and fraud. A month after that, he was hit with a tax lien for $837,000.

    While Kelly might not represent the average homeowner in need of foreclosure help , his story still demonstrates the effect the housing market is having on everyone-even the rich and famous. If you too have been unsuccessful in getting your own mortgage modified but know that neither a short sale or a strategic foreclosure really suits your needs, a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could allow you to stay in your house while helping you manage your bills.

    Is your house now worth less than you owe? How are you addressing your own negative equity situation?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Feds Suing Chicago Over Controversial Ordinance

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is suing the city of Chicago over its ordinance making mortgage creditors liable for the upkeep of vacant properties, the Wall Street Journal reported on December 13, 2011. The city had revised the ordinance in November by dropping a provision that had defined creditors as property owners after lenders threatened to sue, but the changes were not enough to satisfy the FHFA.

    According to the journal, the agency said “the ordinance was unfair because it imposed all of the costs of ownership without any of the benefits, such as the right to sell or lease the property.” The lawsuit also says the ordinance oversteps federal law by subjecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to regulation that is the jurisdiction of the FHFA. The FHFA said that the $500 fee the ordinance requires mortgage owners to pay to register vacant properties and conduct monthly inspections of properties to determine if they are vacant “represents a tax” on Fannie and Freddie, according to the Journal.

    Nearly 1,900 vacant properties in Chicago are stuck in the foreclosure process at a cost of $36 million in upkeep costs borne by the city, according to an estimate from researchers at the nonprofit Woodstock Institute. Tom Feltner, vice president of the Woodstock Institute, told the Journal, “By in many cases ignoring these properties you’re doing a disservice to the community and a disservice to the investor.”

    What do you think of the Chicago ordinance? Do you think it will help either the people needing foreclosure help or the neighborhoods where the foreclosures are happening?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Proving Nothing is Sacred, Even Nuns Finding Themselves in Bankruptcy Court

    Chicago-area nuns have found themselves in bankruptcy court three times in the past two months, according to a story published by Senior Housing News (SHN) on December 7, 2011. The most recent case involved the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure the debt of Clare Oaks, the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in suburban Bartlett.

    “Senior living facilities have experienced substantial declines in occupancy as a result of market changes,” said Paul Rundell, managing director at the consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, in court papers according to SHN. “Because of these challenging market conditions, [Clare Oaks] has experienced lower than anticipated revenue and a slower than anticipated fill up of the Clare Oaks Campus, which has caused the Debtor to default under its bond obligations.”

    SHN also noted that the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation (FSCSC) filed for bankruptcy protection on a luxury senior living facility located in Chicago in November after defaulting on bond debt. An Ohio CCRC belonging to an operating division of the FSCSC also filed for bankruptcy protection that same month after suffering “substantial declines in sales and occupancy” due to the struggling economy.

    If you are currently struggling to find some form of foreclosure help , you should know that you are not alone. You should also know that filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could help you keep your home if you are facing foreclosure. After all, if even sisterhoods of nuns are having to turn to bankruptcy, it would seem evident that filing is a better option than holding out for divine intervention.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Famous Bankruptcies: Donald Trump

    “I don’t like the ‘b’ word,” Donald Trump said from the witness stand in a New Jersey bankruptcy courtroom in 2010. Oddly enough, it was during the third time that Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. was going through Chapter 11.

    “I never went bankrupt, and a lot of people did go bankrupt,” Trump told the congressional newspaper The Hill for a story published on December 6, 2011. Technically, “the Donald” has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but he has filed for corporate bankruptcy-four times, actually, between 1991 and 2009.

    This segment on celebrities who have filed bankruptcy was an idea that came from the way that financial problems were being used to try and discredit women accusing former presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual impropriety. Now that Trump himself is once again hinting at the possibility of running as an independent candidate, it only seems fair to ask why Trump does not receive the same type of scrutiny.

    Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal did just that when Trump was first grandstanding discussing running for the Republican nomination back in April. You can see his visible anger in regards to the bankruptcy issue when Kelly Evans asks why “someone who filed for bankruptcy multiple times” should be “running national finances at a time when we have a big debt problem” at the 3:30 mark in this video interview:

    Got that? Donald has used the laws of this country to negotiate corporate debt deals, but has never filed bankruptcy. During a December 7 interview with Neil Cavuto on the same Fox News network that Trump expressed admiration for in the above Journal interview, when the bankruptcy question was asked again, Trump again vehemently denied the charge and said it has been “so incorrectly reported, it’s amazing.” “I’ve opened up a wound here,” Cavuto said.

    Again, whether you simply need foreclosure help or have suddenly found your debt has gotten out of your control, you need to know that people on both ends of the financial spectrum have used bankruptcy court to get a fresh start. If you fear that filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will prevent you from ever getting “the ultimate job interview” on “The Apprentice,” keep in mind that the host of the program’s companies bearing his name have certainly been no stranger to that “b” word he supposedly dislikes so much.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Nobody Should Be Left In The Cold This Winter

    When residents are unable to pay their gas or electricity bills, they are one step closer to becoming homeless, according to Sandi Murray, director of the Homelessness Prevention Call Center in Chicago. “When you are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage, you are going to put paying your utility bills last,” Murray told the Chicago Tribune for a story published on December 6, 2011. “Until you are disconnected, that’s all you can do. Your landlord may be knocking at your door. When people can’t pay their utility bills, it’s because they are busy paying everyone else. It’s not because they don’t want to pay.”

    The Tribune said that this year there is a number of larger agencies that offer financial assistance reporting an increase in the number of people asking for help. The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County has taken more than 117,000 applications for assistance with utility bills from September to December of this year. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago reported that 8,168 residents called 311 to get help specifically paying their heating bill and another 13,138 residents requested help with their electric bills between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011.

    Despite officials at social service agencies saying that the number of residents needing help has increased, the Tribune said both Peoples Gas and Nicor Gas reported that fewer households were at risk of having their gas service shut off this year than last year. Bonnie Johnson, manager of public relations for Peoples Gas, told the Tribune that approximately 12,000 residents were disconnected from their gas service between September 1 and October 31, in comparison to about 17,800 heating disconnections for the same two-month period last year. Margi Schiemann, a spokeswoman for Nicor Gas, told the Tribune that 4 percent fewer customers have been disconnected for nonpayment in 2011 than were disconnected by this time in 2010.

    While the Tribune noted that energy companies do not disconnect gas from December 1 to March 31, Murray said families who enter the winter without working gas heat are more likely to use space heaters and turn to unsafe means to keep warm. Furthermore, when a family is unable to pay for heat, the Tribune noted that they likely are just steps away from being unable to pay rent.

    “If they are cut off from utilities, it’s an indicator of a bigger issue,” Murray told the Tribune. “They are usually already behind on their rent or they are late. There is some sort of crisis or something happens that they can’t weather.”

    If you are at risk of having your utilities cut off or need foreclosure help before winter kicks in, a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could help you get rid of some bills and get others in order.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Protesters Move from Occupying Wall Street to Occupying Foreclosed Homes

    The movement known as Occupy Wall Street led to an offshoot called Occupy Our Homes on December 6, 2011. The Atlantic reported that there were 25 actions planned nationwide for that day involving plans to protest what activists said are unfair lending practices by banks. Five of those, including Chicago, involved protesters actually moving into homes.

    According to the Atlantic, in the second house takeover of the day, organizers said two formerly homeless women and a 1-year-old baby would move into a house whose owner had decided to move out months ago rather than get foreclosure help . In the ensuing months, Occupy Our Homes said on its website that the home was “vandalized, sprayed with graffiti, and stripped of its pipes, sinks, and heating units.”

    “Crackheads came in and turned it into a crackhouse,” J.R. Fleming of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign J.R. Fleming told the Atlantic. “They stripped all the copper out of the unit, they stripped out all the aluminum.”

    The Atlantic noted that it was the only abandoned house on the block, and after proving to police that homeowner Brenda Walker had “given her blessing,” the group arranged for Ebonee Stevenson, Shirley Henderson and Stevenson’s 1-year-old cousin to move in. Fleming told the Atlantic that “about 30 to 40 approving neighbors and community organizers” looked on as the tenants moved in after a prep crew had replaced the fixtures, piping and wiring. The group received no resistance from police, Fleming told the Atlantic.

    If you do not want to wait for a group of activists to help you deal with a foreclosure, you should know that filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can allow you to legally stay in your home as well as reduce, restructure or eliminate your debt. What are your feelings about the Occupy Our Homes movement? Do you think this sort of activity will continue?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer