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Personal bankruptcies at record pace

Personal bankruptcies continued at a record pace over the past year as Americans struggled with consumer debt, new data showed Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Personal bankruptcies continued at a record pace in the 12 months ended June 30 as Americans struggled with the debt they took on in the 1990s.

The American Bankruptcy Institute said Monday that personal bankruptcy filings totaled 1,613,097 — an all-time high for any 12-month period. The figure was up 10 percent from the 1,466,105 cases filed in the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2002.

The institute, which is based in Alexandria, Va., is an association of bankruptcy judges, lawyers and experts. It analyzes bankruptcy data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Samuel J. Gerdano, executive director of the institute, said that the main reason for the surge was consumers’ growing debt.

“The latest bankruptcy record reflects the continuing hangover from the binge consumer spending and consumption of the late 1990s,” Gerdano said in a statement accompanying the figures. “Consumers, aided by historic low interest rates, helped make the last recession a shallow one, but at the cost of adding to already high household debt burdens.

“This can lead borrowers to consider bankruptcy as a solution to their debt problems.”

The institute said that business bankruptcy filings fell in the 12 months ended June 30. Business filings totaled 37,182, down more than 5 percent from 39,201 in 2002, it said. Business bankruptcies also had declined in the 12 months ended March 30.

A total of 440,257 bankruptcy petitions were filed in the April-June period, surpassing the previous record of 412,968 cases in the first quarter of 2003.