Chocolate Education: A Bankruptcy School-Bell

Yesteryear’s chocolate was a simple proposition: sickly-sweet candy bars in the checkout aisle beside your bubble gum and Tic Tacs. Milk chocolate, caramel, nougat, and peanuts were the building blocks of childhood fancies: your Snickers, your Baby Ruth, your Kit Kat. Yet, today, those items are strictly for the birds.

In the new chocolate milieu, I was all at sixes and sevens, not knowing which chocolate to choose.

San Diego bankruptcy attorney, Asaph Abrams tastes from chocolate and debtor education in bankruptcy.

Contemporary consumers have seen the advent of boutique chocolatiers, purveyors of artisan bonbons stuffed with ginger ganache, panko bread crumbs, and (natch) chipotle chile. Citing cacao percentiles, confectioners charge premiums for purism. But is one compelled to subscribe to chocolate chic? Or may one find comfort in kids’ standbys? In the new chocolate milieu, I was all at sixes and sevens, not knowing which chocolate to choose. If there was a middle ground, it eluded me.  Naturally, I turned to bankruptcy for the answer to this riddle.

About 12 years ago, Congress published a bankruptcy reform act. Its title: The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Skeptical eyes (otherwise prone to veto one-sided bills) summarily glaze upon glimpsing this mouthful: the Act had been shrewdly coined. In everyday usage, it’s abbreviated by the courts to BAPCPA and by debtors attorneys to BARF. While some etymologists trace the latter acronym to the innocuous Latin phrase, Bankruptus Ad Res Fides, many insist the vomitus reference is implicitly censorious. I guess we’ll never know for sure.

Under the new law, it became incumbent upon Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filers to complete Online or telephonic Debtor Education. The first of two parts to “Debt Ed” is a pre-filing “Course” in Credit Counseling, which must be done within the 180-day period prior to the bankruptcy filing. Now, the word, “course” is generally defined as a series of lessons, whereas the Credit Counseling Course is a single, 1-2 hour session. The titular misnomer, which suggests a daunting task (rather than a brief commitment) fits the simple rationale of Debt Ed: to discourage would-be bankruptcy filers… from becoming bankruptcy filers.

The Credit Counseling Course (or CCC)  requires that you list your income, expenses, and debts, with the purported purpose of drafting a debt repayment plan. In 99.99% of cases, repayment’s unfeasible and one’s CCC counselor does not draft a plan. In 0.01% of cases, repayment’s unfeasible and one’s CCC counselor does draft a plan (for purely academic purposes).

Courts will concede the CCC is a hollow exercise. Debt repayment is not a viable option for persons who have necessarily turned to bankruptcy.

The second of two parts to Debt Ed is a post-filing course (well, class) in Personal Financial Management. The Financial Management Course (or FMC) is completed during the pendency of one’s bankruptcy, prior to discharge. The self-descriptively-titled course class represents the Bankruptcy Code’s design to discourage repeat business.

Fees vary significantly among the many Debt Ed companies. We took care to find an economical, yet high quality provider (we strive to partner with those of a like mind) to whom we’d refer our clients. I like our Debt Ed provider; they’re responsive to our clients’ needs. I even had the privilege of meeting their reps at a bankruptcy convention.

Bankruptcy conventions or conferences are like any other colloquium: you get a name tag, bag swag at the vendor booths and tax-deduct your Starbucks tab. It’s basically like Comic-Con– the City of San Diego’s pop culture convention and raison d’être. (Some say Shamu was some claim to fame, but the municipality’s cut off its killer whale program on account of killer whales killing people, go figure.)

At Comic Con, your otherwise conservative coworkers and neighbors abandon normal attire for all manner of alien makeup, superhero suits and other manifestations of certifiable insanity. At the bankruptcy conference, your otherwise respectably-attired bankruptcy attorney trades in his regular garb (pressed suit and tie) for bootcut Levi’s and a threadbare faux-vintage Target tee-shirt (promoting an ’82 Stones concert he didn’t attend). In both cases, it’s a radical departure from the everyday.

At bankruptcy conferences’ vendor or sponsor halls, many Debt Ed companies gather to distribute pens. I think they also compete for lawyers’ referrals, but mainly they bring a lot of pens. After passing myriad providers’ tables, and rejecting their services, I end up with a lot of pens.

Promotional writing implements are like those “brand name” watches you buy on the street. They look pretty, but they don’t last. But that’s okay, because you get a lot of them. They feature comfort-grips, bold colors, and sometimes they have bulbs that flash when you tap a table; others have those window-ads that rotate when you click to retract the point, and that’s pretty addictive.

But in the end, pens are but pens. Our Debt Ed provider has also annually shipped holiday confections (’cause you cannot eat a pen– a pencil, certainly, but not a pen). With total recall, I recollect (’cause how could I not?) that in the winter of 2010 we received the most magnanimous delivery yet: a 4 lb. box of See’s.

The chocolate token was a serendipitous discovery. See, See’s was the happy middle ground we’d been seeking, halfway between elitist Godiva and grass-roots Reese’s. The sweet spot betwixt truffles and Twix. Thus, it was Debtor Education that cured my chocolate quandary.

Debt Ed did not effect its legislative purpose; the CCC has not particularly availed my clients. Yet, it had unequivocally benefited me. It satisfied my the sweet tooth and gave birth to a batty topic to write on and (insofar as it was drafted in longhand), it gave me something to write with.


Postscript

San Diego bankruptcy attorney, Asaph Abrams touches upon debtor education in bankruptcy. And Mayan civilization.
Talk to the hand! A Mayan chief prohibits a peasant from pawing a can of cacao: hey, in terms of Mayan penalties, callous withholding of chocolate doesn’t match having one’s heart plucked out still-beating… but still. {{PD-1923}}

Alas, the legacy of chocolate decadence passed. The lay of the credit-counseling-land changed. See, we found–and now refer to–a more economical provider. They’re so economical in fact, that we don’t see See’s anymore.

It saddens me so that I wax nostalgic.

Post-Postscript

In the fallout of the American chocolate renaissance, Halloween-pail stalwarts (your tired, your poor, your Hershey’s and your Mars) assumed dark-chocolate airs with bittersweet twists on kiddy classics. In fact, intergalactic efforts were made to convert the skeptics. When a Star Wars flick was released in 2005, Darth Vader implored children to Join the Dark Side… of M&Ms. Well, you can comply with the Sith for kicks. All I can say is his wares are still not too good for Halloween (it has something to do with lipstick on a pig).


San Diego Bankruptcy Attorney, Asaph Abrams.  Offering free, no-obligation Chapter 7  and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy consultations in San Diego. Visit us online or call 858-240-6751. E-mail admin@abramslawsd.com to set an appointment. Also representing Imperial County and Riverside County residents.  Se habla español.
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Note: for the primary sources on Debt Ed, please be sure to visit the United States Code at Title 11, sections 109(h), 111, 521(b), 727(a)(11),1328(g) and Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1007(b)(3),(7)… because Heaven forbid they put it all in one place.