Joseph Peiffer on the Big Show Talking Venue Reform (Part 2)
Joseph Peiffer joined Doug Cooper on the Big Show again last week to talk about the new Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2018 that was recently introduced in Congress. Here’s part 2 of their conversation from January 18, 2018.
Doug Cooper: Yesterday I visited with Joe Peiffer, a bankruptcy lawyer with Ag & Business Legal Strategies. He has been working on a bill, the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2017, that would reduce the number of miles you would have to travel to argue your case if a corporation or business declares bankruptcy.
Joe Peiffer: In many instances, they’ll make a deal and pay something for certainty to make sure they’ve gotten rid of the claim of the creditor, despite the fact that they may have good defenses. The cost of hiring Delaware counsel is high, and you always have the uncertainty. Conversely, if you were in the Midwest, and that’s where the case is filed, the cost of defending yourself is far less.
DC: Joe, let’s do a little Civics 101 right now. What are some of the hurdles the bill has to go through before it becomes law?
JP: Okay. At the current time, the bill has been introduced and was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate cannot act on it until it comes out of the Judiciary Committee. So at the current time we’re seeking to get lots of senators of both parties to say this is a good bill. If that occurs, then the Judiciary Committee could agree to suspend regular order and report the bill out of committee. Once a bill’s out of committee, it could be added to any other bill and potentially get wings and go through the Senate. Once it’s through the Senate, then it will go to the House. Assuming it ends up being part of a bill that’s identical in both the House and Senate versions, and it’s passed, then it will go on to the President. Something else that could happen in here is that the House could introduce companion legislation through its Judiciary Committee. I believe it’ll be a lot easier to get this bill passed through the House because you don’t have to worry about getting 60 votes, and if that were to happen, then the Senate could take it up, because it had been passed by the House. So we’ve got several ways of getting to go in this. Right now, it’s in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
DC: Seems to me that the chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, would have interest in this.
JP: I won’t get to talk to him this week. I am talking – I have spoken with his Judiciary staff person, Brad Watts, and he is assigned to handle bankruptcy matters for Senator Grassley. And he is watching this carefully. I’ll be meeting with Senator Grassley’s staffer, Mr. Watts, I believe on Friday. I happen to be going to D.C. for another matter, so I’ll be working the Hill while I’m there. If we can get both of our senators and all of our representatives to be on board, to press this legislation, which is, I believe, good for not only Iowa farmers, but all of Iowa’s citizens by virtue of making certain that if any bankruptcies are filed that involve us with Iowa-based companies or Midwest based companies, that the bankruptcies are filed close to home.
DC: What’s your gut feeling at this point?
JP: My gut feeling is that if the grassroots gets to work on this thing and supports it, it could become reality. If the grassroots doesn’t get out there and keep pushing their senators and representatives, it could die in the Senate Judiciary Committee. For example, we talked about Chapter 12 bankruptcy changes last fall. It took five and a half years after the Supreme Court handed down a case decision that went against the family farmer for the bill to finally get passed and enacted as legislation. It has taken – I’ve been on the Commercial Law League of America Bankruptcy Venue Reform Committee for over five years. This is the first time that we’ve gotten legislation introduced. That’s a big step, but we need a big push and a lot of help from a lot of people calling their senators and representatives, telling them to support this if we’re going to get it across the finish line.
DC: Any final thoughts, Joe?
JP: Well, the other thought would be if you support this legislation, be active. If your senator or representative doesn’t call you back or give you a response, call them again. E-mail them again. If you become the squeaky wheel, they recognize who has the power at the ballot box, and that’s the citizens. It’s important for the citizens of the states to be heard because the other side is very well funded, but the other side that has a lot of lobbyists going, they don’t get to vote here. The voters can speak loud. If the voters speak, it’ll outweigh the money that may be offered to them by the other side.
DC: Joe Peiffer is a bankruptcy attorney with Ag & Business Legal Strategies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I’m Doug Cooper on the Big Show.