In her May 25 letter, Lisa Ryu, a staff economist at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, grossly misrepresented our study of means-testing for consumer bankruptcy. We found that only 3.6 percent, not 7 percent, of our sample of Chapter 7 debtors would be shifted into Chapter 13 under the proposed bankruptcy bill. If that rate held for the nation as a whole, we estimated unsecured creditors would collect less than $1 billion from affected debtors.
These numbers are far below the estimates in studies sponsored by Visa, which purport to show that 10 percent to 155 percent of Chapter 7 debtors could repay $3 billion to $4 billion in unsecured debts. Visa, of course, is a principal sponsor and financial beneficiary of pending bankruptcy bills, as are the credit unions Ms. Ryu represents.
Our study, in contrast, was funded by the widely respected, nonpartisan American Bankruptcy Institute and Creighton University. To dispel Ms. Ryu's misrepresentations, we present the facts:
First, we have released all our data to the General Accounting Office so that its experts could test and verify our results. In his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 17, the GAO's Richard Stana stated that Visa refused to allow a GAO audit of its data.
Second, contrary to Ms. Ryu's claims, we did not "double count" transportation expenses. Although the GAO has not yet released its final report, it made no such statement on March 17, when it made its only official assessment to date concerning our study.
Third, we have not revised our findings to 7 percent as the proportion of Chapter 7 debtors who would be shifted by the bill into Chapter 13. Our results remain at 3.6 percent.
Fourth, the Executive Office for United States Trustees in January published that office's independent study of the repayment capacity of Chapter 7 debtors. Its study, like our own, concludes that affected debtors could repay less than $1 billion in unsecured debt. Thus, the only other study not funded by the credit card industry corroborates our findings on the bottom line.
MARIANNE B. CULHANE
MICHAELA M. WHITE
The writers are professors at the Creighton University School of Law.