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In this Jan. 16, 2008 photo, Bishop Michael Warfel, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, speaks before communion during his installation as the seventh bishop of the diocese at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Great Falls, Montana. Warfel announced Friday, March 31, 2017, the diocese was filing for bankruptcy as part of a settlement with 72 people who filed sex claims against priests, nuns and lay church workers. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette via AP.)

On behalf of the entire Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, I express my profound sorrow and sincere apologies to anyone who was abused by a priest, a sister or a lay church worker, Bishop Michael Warfel said in a statement. No child should experience harm from anyone who serves the church.

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The teen clothing store, Rue21 may be the latest retailer to file bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the company is preparing to do it as soon as this month.

There are over 1,000 Rue21 stores across the county, one in West Fargo off 13th Avenue. We reached out to Rue21 to see if they are planning to close any stores, we havent heard back yet.

Recently, a number of stores have been in the news for either filing bankruptcy or closing locations. Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, Gordman’s, Wet Seal, The Limited, and more.

Vanessa Stumpf of Bismarck says, I feel like those are really well established businesses, they are really well known names, and I think its sad they are all closing.

Its a sign of the times, according to the President of the North Dakota Retail Association. He says more store front are closing because more people are shopping online, and less people in the area are spending money in general. Adding that its reaching a crisis point, not only are retailers losing out on sales, but states are losing out on the taxes.

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“A business that closes still must pay its employees,” said Los Angeles attorney Joshua H. Haffner. “The misclassification class action will proceed.” (LAW OFFICE OF JOSHUA H. HAFFNER)

DALLAS — Graebel Van Lines, a 65-year-old carrier of household goods based in Dallas, has ceased operations, according to multiple reports.

The company, which had 875 drivers in 2015, is in liquidation, Graebel stated in a letter sent to its creditors March 22.

“Graebel Van Lines, LLC and its affiliates … are ceasing ongoing operations, effective immediately and will begin winding down their affairs,” the letter stated. “Stored items will be transferred to a new service provider or made available for pickup by the owner.

“The assets of Graebel Van Lines and all of its operating affiliates are subject to the liens of a secured creditor. Therefore, Graebel Van Lines and its affiliates are cooperating with the secured creditor to conduct an orderly liquidation of the Companies’ assets … Please note that this is not a notice of bankruptcy, and no bankruptcy proceeding is pending at this time.

We regret that the circumstances of recent months have led to this result, and we ask for your cooperation in our efforts to manage this liquidation with a minimum of administrative expense.”

The “circumstances” include a class-action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Joshua Haffner on behalf of Graebel driver Fidel Coronel and others, charging failure to provide state-mandated breaks, minimum wages, expenses, overtime and for related issues.

Graebel laid off 50 people in Wisconsin in November and has closed other satellite offices recently.

Graebel Companies, Inc. sold Graebel Van Lines effective January 1, 2015, to an independent set of investors, a Graebel Companies spokesperson said. Since the divestiture, Graebel Van Lines is no longer a business owned by Graebel Companies, Inc. or any entity related to the Graebel Companies. For more than two years, Graebel Companies and Graebel Van Lines have been completely separate companies with different management teams.

Haffner, reached on April 4, told The Trucker that the lawsuit will go on.

“I notice they aren’t saying they are filing bankruptcy since they mentioned they will be ceasing ongoing operations … and will begin winding down their affairs,” he said.

“A business that closes still must pay its employees. The misclassification class action will proceed.”

Commenting earlier, Haffner defended the basis for the class-action lawsuit.

“State laws supplement federal laws regarding labor, and the justification for them is federalism,” he said. “Each state has the right to regulate labor relations.”

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WOODLAND HILLS, CA–(Marketwired – Apr 28, 2016) – If youre struggling to make any real progress on paying off your mounting credit card debt, you arent getting any help from Uncle Sam these days.

Credit card interest rates have risen since the Federal Reserve hiked its target rate in December 2015, especially for people with worse credit, Vantage Acceptance announced, citing a recent CardHub study.

In the first quarter of 2016, credit card interest rates for people with fair credit, the lowest of three categories, averaged 20.97 percent, up 6.72 percent from a year earlier. By contrast, rates for people with excellent credit averaged 13.02 percent, up just 0.46 percent, while rates for good credit consumers averaged 17.92 percent, up 1.93 percent.

Fed officials in December had predicted they would raise rates four times over the course of 2016, based on their expectation that the US economy would grow by 2.4 percent. But on March 16, they announced there likely would be only two rate increases, citing falling oil prices, stock market uncertainty and recessionary fears that had prompted them to scale back their growth projection to 2.2 percent.

Still, those two rate hikes later this year will drive up credit card rates even further, which will make paying off your credit cards that much harder. Vantage Acceptance can help. Our highly trained credit specialists will work with your creditors to accept a debt settlement. In exchange for receiving a lump sum payment, they often will agree to accept considerably less than the full amount you owe.

Why would your creditors be willing to accept less? Because they know thats better than the alternative: You filing bankruptcy and giving them nothing.

Bankruptcy, of course, is a less preferable option for you as well. It causes more damage to your credit record, depending on the type that you file, restricts your cash flow and causes you to lose prized possessions, again, depending on whether you file Chapter 7 or 13.

Call Vantage Acceptance at 800-829-7700 today and let our advisors get you started on debt settlement.

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ARE you seriously in debt and thinking of filing bankruptcy as a last resort?

Individuals who have accumulated excessive debt are often left to ponder whether they should file bankruptcy in order to get out of debt. Sometimes, these people feel that somehow, they’ve lost, failed, or that they will never have a chance to rebuild their credit again.

Because we are living in a society where having a lot of credit cards has become the norm, they can’t imagine themselves without credit cards.

Of course, the truth is that credit cards only give us a sense of false security. Why? Because these plastic cards create the illusion of having money that you really don’t have in your bank account, that’s why. That is exactly how most people end up spending their money before they even earn it. And they wonder why they are broke every pay day no matter how hard they work.

If you find yourself over-extended and have tried living on a budget, doing financial counseling, etc. and still have not made great progress in repaying your debts, I applaud you at least for your efforts. However, your plan must be a realistic one or you will simply end up getting frustrated.

When you have incurred more debt that you can possibly repay, perhaps filing bankruptcy may be the only way to get debt relief. And in most cases, it’s not as complicated and as bad as what your creditors would like you to believe. As a matter of fact, most of the 1.5 million people who file for bankruptcy in the United States do just fine. They rebuild their credit after a few years and a lot of them are able buy homes just like everyone else.  Filing bankruptcy doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It is only a new beginning for those who really need it.

Suppose you have attempted to negotiate with your creditors to work out an affordable repayment plan but they simply would not work with you? Although you’ve told them repeatedly that you cannot afford to pay the entire amount, they refuse to cooperate and continue to threaten you with filing a lawsuit, obtaining a judgment and perhaps even garnishing your wages (which you know you cannot afford). What else can you do?  This may leave you no other option but to seek debt relief through our federal bankruptcy laws.

If you are drowning in debt, don’t wait until things get worse or you may regret not having acted sooner.  Waiting until the last minute also doesn’t give you enough time that you need to find a good attorney who can protect your interests. Remember that like doctors, not all lawyers are the same. You need a competent legal representative who understands the debt collection and bankruptcy laws and has had the experience of handling a lot of cases like yours. Hiring the wrong attorney can only make your situation worse.

For a free office consultation, please call Toll-Free 1-866-477-7772. We have offices in Glendale, Cerritos and Valencia.

* * *

None of the information herein is intended to give legal advice for any specific situation.  Atty. Ray Bulaon has successfully helped thousands of clients in getting out of debt. For a free attorney evaluation of your situation, please call  Ray Bulaon Law Offices at  TOLL FREE 1 (866) 477-7772.    

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(DUGGER) – The announcement that Peabody Energy Corp. was filing for bankruptcy has made residents of Dugger, where the company operates the Bear Run Mine, nervous.

While the coal company says normal operations are expected to continue, some residents say theyre worried Dugger will become a ghost town if the mine closes.

The company says the bankruptcy filing is intended to reduce its overall debt level, lower fixed charges and improve operating cash flow, but workers at the mine are nervous about job security.

More than 500 people work around-the-clock shifts there.

The company says Bear Run, which opened in 2010, contributes more than $165 million annually to the regional economy.

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Sunedison Inc (NYSE: SUNE)

Sunedisons issues seem to be getting resolved. While the resolution may not be what investors would consider best, at least something is being done. Today, the company released news with regard to the courts response to motions related to the ordinary course of business activities, DIP financing, and more. Today, well talk about what led up to this point, what were seeing from the courts, and what we can expect to see from SUNE moving forward. So, lets get right to it…

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What Led SUNE To This Point?

Just in case you havent been watching, the story behind SUNE is relatively simple. High dollar acquisitions caused Sunedison to take on massive amounts of debt. Of course, the incredibly easy financing brought on by the Federal Reserves easy monetary policy didnt slow the process one bit. Nonetheless, as time passed, the company started to show that it was having severe financial problems; That really started to hit the market late last year. From there, SUNE fell in value from over $30 per share to under $0.30 per share as the company worked to find a solution. Unfortunately, no solution could happen fast enough, and on Thursday, the company filed bankruptcy on more than $16 billion in debt.

Whats Going On With Sunedison Now?

After filing bankruptcy, SUNE tanked further. However, some positive news came out with regard to the story today. After filing Bankruptcy on Thursday, the company filed a relief request in the first key day of motions. The relief request filed by SUNE was related to the companys ability to continue with its ordinary course of business activities, including work on ongoing projects, certain vendor payments and, of course, a continuation of wages and benefits for its employees. According to the statement released by the company, some of the motions requested were granted, giving it the ability to continue working while going through the bankruptcy. The company also announced that the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York has scheduled a bankruptcy hearing on May 10th, 2016.

While the above news is relatively heavy hitting, its not the only news that SUNE released this morning. It was also announced that debtor-in-possession financing has been approved on an interim basis. This will give the company access to up to $300 million in DIP financing from a consortium and second lien lenders, allowing the company to further continue its business operations before the bankruptcy hearing.

How The Market Is Reacting To The News

As investors, we know that the news moves the market, and following all of the bad news surrounding SUNE, the positive news with regard to the motions granted and the DIP financing is helping to ease the minds of investors. Currently (10:53), the stock is trading at $0.23 per share after a gain of $0.01 per share or 3.61% thus far today.

What We Can Expect To See Moving Forward

Moving forward, I have a relatively mixed opinion of what we can expect to see from Sunedison. First and foremost, there is quite a bit of uncertainty revolving around the company and its bankruptcy at the moment, and there are few things that scare investors quite like uncertainty. So, in the short-term outlook, things arent looking too great. However, there have been plenty of companies that have made it through bankruptcy and come out to build back to profitability shortly after. Considering the massive amount of assets the company has, I see this as a strong possibility for SUNE. So, in the long run, things are looking much better than in the short term. Nonetheless, this is a very risky one to get into at the moment.

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What Do You Think?

Where do you think SUNE is headed moving forward and why? Let us know your opinion in the comments below!

[Image Courtesy of Wikipedia]

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Paragon Shipping Inc. today announced the following updates on its debt agreements, newbuilding contracts and other corporate actions:

Newbuilding Contracts

The Company has entered into an agreement with Jiangsu Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Co., or Yangzijiang, to extend the deliveries of its three Kamsarmax newbuilding drybulk carriers (Hull numbers YZJ1144, YZJ1145 and YZJ1142), to September 30, 2016, October 31, 2016 and November 30, 2016, respectively, subject to certain conditions.

Bank of Ireland Unsecured Paid-in-Kind Note (PIK Note)

In January 2016, the Company agreed with Bank of Ireland to apply the total net proceeds from the sale of M/V Kind Seas towards an immediate prepayment of the loan facility. An amount of $2.2 million was written-off and the remaining amount of $2.2 million, plus accrued interest, was converted into a PIK Note. The PIK Note was non-amortizing and had a maturity date of December 31, 2020, at which time it would be repaid at par. Interest on the PIK Note would accrue on a quarterly basis at an interest rate equal to the aggregate of 2.5% and the applicable LIBOR, and would be treated as payment-in-kind. On April 11, 2016, the Company received a notice of cancellation, pursuant to which it was discharged from all of its obligations under the PIK Note.

On April 26, 2016, the Company and Mr. Michael Bodouroglou, the Company’s Chairman, President, Chief Executive Officer and Interim Chief Financial Officer, filed a law suit against Tradewinds and their financial reporter, Mr. Joe Brady Stamford for defamation damages. In particular on February 18, 2016, Tradewinds reported that the Company had obtained its Board of Directors approval for filing bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The Company and its Board of Directors declared that the above statement was totally untrue. The Company believes that such false statements had a negative impact on the Company, its reputation and stock price. The lawsuit was submitted before the Prosecutor of the Criminal Court of Athens.

Senior Unsecured Notes due 2021

In relation to the issued and outstanding senior unsecured notes due 2021 that bear interest at a rate of 8.375% per year (Unsecured Notes), the Company will not proceed with the interest payment, which is due on May 15, 2016, due to lack of liquidity.
Source: Paragon Shipping Inc.

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Paragon Shipping Inc. (Nasdaq: PRGN) announced the following updates on its debt agreements, newbuilding contracts and other corporate actions:

Newbuilding Contracts

The Company has entered into an agreement with Jiangsu Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Co., or Yangzijiang, to extend the deliveries of its three Kamsarmax newbuilding drybulk carriers (Hull numbers YZJ1144, YZJ1145 and YZJ1142), to September 30, 2016, October 31, 2016 and November 30, 2016, respectively, subject to certain conditions.

Bank of Ireland – Unsecured Paid-in-Kind Note (PIK Note)

In January 2016, the Company agreed with Bank of Ireland to apply the total net proceeds from the sale of M/V Kind Seas towards an immediate prepayment of the loan facility. An amount of $2.2 million was written-off and the remaining amount of $2.2 million, plus accrued interest, was converted into a PIK Note. The PIK Note was non-amortizing and had a maturity date of December 31, 2020, at which time it would be repaid at par. Interest on the PIK Note would accrue on a quarterly basis at an interest rate equal to the aggregate of 2.5% and the applicable LIBOR, and would be treated as payment-in-kind. On April 11, 2016, the Company received a notice of cancellation, pursuant to which it was discharged from all of its obligations under the PIK Note.

Other Corporate Actions

On April 26, 2016, the Company and Mr. Michael Bodouroglou, the Companys Chairman, President, Chief Executive Officer and Interim Chief Financial Officer, filed a law suit against Tradewinds and their financial reporter, Mr. Joe Brady Stamford for defamation damages. In particular on February 18, 2016, Tradewinds reported that the Company had obtained its Board of Directors approval for filing bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The Company and its Board of Directors declared that the above statement was totally untrue. The Company believes that such false statements had a negative impact on the Company, its reputation and stock price. The lawsuit was submitted before the Prosecutor of the Criminal Court of Athens.

Senior Unsecured Notes due 2021

In relation to the issued and outstanding senior unsecured notes due 2021 that bear interest at a rate of 8.375% per year (Unsecured Notes), the Company will not proceed with the interest payment, which is due on May 15, 2016, due to lack of liquidity.

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When asbestos litigation became extremely costly to defend, to settle and to pay judgments, companies began filing for protection under the Bankruptcy laws. In the three decades since Johns Manville and UNR Industries filed the first asbestos bankruptcy cases, nearly 100 companies have filed for bankruptcy protection due, in part, to asbestos litigation.[1] The vast majority of these companies utilized section 524(g) to reorganize and establish a bankruptcy trust to pay current and future asbestos claimants and channel claims away from the reorganized company. Today, many of these companies have emerged from the 524(g) bankruptcy process, leaving in their place dozens of trusts funded with tens of billions in assets to pay claims. Since 2006 more than 30 trusts have been created through bankruptcy reorganization, funding the trust system with an additional $20 billion in assets. From 2006 through 2012 the entire trust system has paid out over $15 billion to asbestos claimants, with remaining assets as of year-end totaling over $18 billion.[2] In addition, there is approximately $11 to $12 billion in proposed funding from bankruptcies still pending confirmation.[3]

The asbestos trusts operate in parallel with the traditional tort system and offer only rudimentary reports on the claims they receive and pay. As a result, plaintiffs attorneys are sometimes able to hide the fact that a single individual is making multiple claims, citing different and contradictory exposure facts, against multiple trusts and solvent companies. This double dipping exposes innocent businesses to abusive lawsuits and draws down the trusts funds intended for other claimants.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas on January 26, 2015 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. A hearing on the FACT Act was held on February 4, 2015 by the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. On May 14, the bill was voted out of the Judiciary Committee, 19-9, and was sent to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. In December 2015, the FACT Act was added onto another US House bill, HR 1927 (the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act), and became Section 3 of HR 1927. The bill was renamed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2016. On January 8, 2016, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1927 by a vote of 211 to 188. The vote was largely along party lines, with no Democrats voting for it and sixteen Republicans voting against it. As of January 11, 2016, the Bill had been received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

According to a Statement of Administration Policy, issued by the Office of Management and Budget on January 6, 2016, The [Obama] Administration strongly opposes House passage of HR 1927 because it would impair the enforcement of important federal laws, constrain access to the courts, and needlessly threaten the privacy of asbestos victims. It continues, if the President were presented with HR1927, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.

Similar versions of the FACT Act legislation have been passed the House of Representatives in previous Republican-controlled sessions, including in 2013. In 2013, although the bill passed the House, it was never voted on by the Senate.

In addition, several states have proposed legislation or changes to court rules that would mandate greater transparency for trust claims. In 2012, Ohio became the first state in the nation to enact a law that requires plaintiffs to file and disclose trust claims before proceeding to trial. Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have enacted similar laws. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a Model Asbestos Claims Transparency Act which can be found here: https://www.alec.org/model-policy/asbestos-claims-transparency-act/.

In California, trial courts in some jurisdictions require plaintiffs to disclose bankruptcy trust claims during discovery and some do not. Plaintiff attorneys are able to game the system by filing trust claim shells with little or no substantive exposure information. Another way plaintiffs avoid double-dipping is by filing bankruptcy trust claims after the lawsuit resolves. This deprives the court of jurisdiction over defense discovery meant to uncover offsets due to trust payments.

California Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) introduced Assembly Bill No. 597, the Asbestos Tort Claim Trust Transparency Act, which if passed would have required asbestos plaintiffs to disclose all asbestos bankruptcy trust claim documents in asbestos tort actions. These mandated disclosures would include any communications between the plaintiff and an asbestos trust and all proof of claims forms and supplementary or supporting materials submitted to or required by an asbestos trust. Plaintiffs would be required to submit a sworn statement identifying the status of each claim, including all monies requested and received. Under the proposed legislation requiring such unilateral disclosures, it would have been no longer necessary for defendants to seek discovery of relevant materials regarding any claim made by plaintiffs to an asbestos trust. Any materials disclosed by plaintiffs would be potentially admissible evidence to prove alternate causation or to apportion fault for plaintiffs injuries. However, after a major lobbying effort by the plaintiffs asbestos bar, the legislation was withdrawn without a vote.

For more information on this and other asbestos-related topics, contact Sonja Blomquist at
sblomquist@lowball.com

[1] Where are They Now, Part Six: An Update on Developments in Asbestos-Related Bankruptcy Cases, Mealeys Asbestos Bankruptcy Report, Vol. 11, No. 7 (February 2012).

[2] Figures based on information gathered from Section 524(g) trust annual reports by Marc C. Scarcella and Peter R. Kelso.

[3] Estimated present value of proposed funding based on bankruptcy disclosures from WR Grace, Pittsburgh Corning, North American Refractories, Flintkote, Quigley, Plant Insulation, and AP Green. There are other pending 524(g) bankruptcy reorganizations currently active but no estimates of proposed trust funding has been disclosed in publically available bankruptcy documents that Marc C. Scarcella and Peter R. Kelso were able to find. The paragraph above is from Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: A 2013 Overview Of Trust Assets, Compensation amp; Governance LexisNexisreg; Legal Newsroom Litigation (2013) by Marc C. Scarcella and Peter R. Kelso.

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