A bankruptcy blog of ice and fire.

As you may recall, the HBO series “Game of Thrones” derives its title from the above admonition of Queen Cersei to doomed Eddard Stark, King of the North: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Now, bankruptcy law is admittedly less compelling than the machinations of Westeros. I give you that. But bankruptcy is no less deserving of claiming some metaphors for its own, even if they’re embarrassingly strained. We have to entertain ourselves somehow.

It’s not HBO. It’s TV. 

Premium HBO isn’t ad supported; but in the game of basic cable, the barrage of commercials imprints upon the viewer the imperative that you buy or you die.  I mean, Matthew McConaughey is driving that Lincoln, you must have one too! You can’t afford it? Well, then… you borrow or you die!

And now you’re playing a game of loans. 

People often think of classic triggers that precipitate bankruptcy, like a medical catastrophe. But from my experience of many hundreds of cases, high interest loans on luxury brands people saw on TV are a more common cause of debilitating debt: Matthew McConaughey is more likely to put you in bankruptcy than the hospital is. 

If you can’t pay your car loan and your Lincoln’s repossessed, you’ll be quite literally driven to bankruptcy. Due to new vehicles’ instant depreciation, the deficiency (the balance still owing after the seized collateral is auctioned) can be insurmountable. Service of summons, judgment and subsequent enforcement by levy and garnishment will make you curse the name McConaughey.

Fortunately, bankruptcy is part of the game of loans. It enables and facilitates lending. Institutional creditors will have more customers (and thus optimize profit) when borrowers have a safeguard in the form of federal debt relief.  But as a consumer, you do have to win this integral stage of the game.

Castle Ward, County Down, Northern Ireland (setting for Winterfell in Game of Thrones)

when you play the Game of Loans, You Win or You Pay

Bankruptcy practice is highly specialized. Even attorneys who file bankruptcy will hire a bankruptcy attorney.  Not only because a self-represented lawyer has a fool for a client. But because it’s not their practice area: a generic law degree does little good. In order to obtain a discharge, a forgiveness of debt, you must correctly and timely comply with the requirements of disclosing, scheduling and reporting your financial affairs to the bankruptcy court. Sometimes even people with good intentions may act or act by omission in a manner that constitutes fraud in the context of a bankruptcy petition. In worst outcome scenarios they may be subject to criminal penalties. In other cases, they may lose property they could have otherwise preserved or remain liable on debts they could have canceled. Even if errors can be rectified, you’ll lose time and pay more to repair prior damage. Therefore, I urge you to play to win: hire an attorney who knows the game.


Photo by K. Mitch Hodge 

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