Paper: New York Times, The (NY)
Title: Newly Bankrupt Raking In Piles Of Credit Offers
Date: December 11, 2005
As one of more than two million Americans who rushed to a courthouse this year to file for bankruptcy
before a tough new law took effect, Laura Fogle is glad for her chance at a fresh start. A nurse and single
mother of two, she blames her use of credit cards after cancer surgery for falling into deep debt.
Ms. Fogle is broke, and may not seem to be the kind of person to whom banks would want to offer credit
cards. But she said she had no sooner filed for bankruptcy, and sworn off plastic, than she was hit with a
flurry of solicitations from major banks.
"Every day, I get at least two or three new credit card offers -- Citibank, MasterCard, you name it -- they
want to give me a credit card, at pretty high interest rates," said Ms. Fogle, who is 41 and lives here. "I've got
a stack of these things on my table. It's tempting, but I've sworn them off."
If it seems odd to Ms. Fogle that banks would want to lend money to the newly bankrupt, it is no mystery to
the financial community, which charges some of the highest interest rates to these newly available
Under the new law, which the banking industry spent more than $100 million lobbying for, they may be even
more attractive because it makes it harder for them to escape new credit card debt and extends to eight
years from six the time before which they could liquidate their debts through bankruptcy again.
"The theory is that people who have just declared bankruptcy are a good credit risk because their old debts
are clean and now they won't be able to get a new discharge for eight years," said John D. Penn, president
of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonprofit clearinghouse for information on the subject.
Credit card companies have long solicited bankrupt people, on a calculated risk that income from the higher
interest rates and late fees paid by those who are trying to get their credit back will outweigh the losses from
those who fail to make payments altogether. The companies also directed many of those customers toward
so-called secured cards, which require a cash deposit.
But the new law makes for an even better gamble for lenders, consumer groups say. It not only makes
bankrupt debtors wait eight years to clear their debts again, but it also requires many of those who do go
back into bankruptcy to pay previous credit card bills that may have been excused under the old law.
Bankers defend the practice of soliciting the newly bankrupt, saying it gives them a chance to build a new