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Mar 06

Reclaim This! Getting Credit Seller Rights in Bankruptcy Right

Lawrence Ponoroff

The oxymoronically titled Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA” or “2005 amendments”) has received considerable attention since its passage, and considerably less than all of it is positive. By even a neutral account, the bill is clumsily drafted, unnecessarily prolix, internally inconsistent, and annealed in a cauldron of special interest pressures. The legislative history is scant and what does exist is less than altogether clear or helpful. Together, these factors have frequently rendered the traditional judicial function in application of the law; namely, ascertaining (or at least beginning by ascertaining) congressional intent, an exercise in futility. To say the least, it is difficult to discern that which, in all likelihood, does not and has never existed in a uniform or coherent fashion.

Nonetheless, since enactment of BAPCPA, courts have labored gamely to make sense of its provisions, which, in any number of instances, are inscrutably obscure, and seem to lack any inherently clear reason. Thoughtful commentators have undertaken to offer useful insight and analysis to help guide that effort. Overall, however, these efforts have fallen, and will continue to fall, short in relation to any number of provisions of BAPCPA. This is because they entail a stoic and estimable, but ultimately vain, attempt to interpret statutory text that is, in some instances, impenetrably vague or simply incomplete, or, in other instances, confounds essential bankruptcy policy. A coherent and intelligible expression of legislative intent that might have shed some light in the process is nowhere to be found.  Although the competition is unquestionably stiff, in perhaps no substantive area of the field have these observations been truer than in the efforts to deconstruct and rationally apply the changes BAPCPA wrought on an area of commercial law and practice that was already embroiled in confusion and controversy; namely, sellers’ right of reclamation.

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