According to a new study by Robert Lawless and Jennifer Robbennolt (summarized in the Wall Street Journal), Judges are more likely to approve a Chapter 13 plan that includes an apology. From the Wall Street Journal article:
In the 29-page study, Lawless and colleague Jennifer Robbennolt said they told participating judges about the Millers, a fictional family of four with a $180,000 home, $25,500 in credit card debt and a $26,000 Ford Explorer SUV. Their credit card debt ranged from $9,000 for the husband’s medical expenses to $270 per month spent on their two daughters, ages 10 and 13, for gymnastics.
At the end of their Chapter 13 payment plan, which paid unsecured creditors 18% of their debt over three years, the Millers wrote, “We have no way of keeping up with our bills and repaying everything. It is all we can do to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table. We know that we are responsible for the mess we are in. We are truly sorry.”
(emphasis added). The results of the study reflected that 40.6% of judges who had the plan with the apology approved the plan while only 34.4% of judges who received the version without the apology approved the plan.Judges who heard the apology apparently believed the family would me more likely to manage their finances going forward.
With Chapter 13 having so many stringent, if not draconian, requirements for plans, maybe adding an apology at the end will make a difference. Something tells me it won’t help as much in Chapter 11 plans, but maybe it is worth an extra section in the Disclosure Statement in an individual Chapter 11 case.