Modern Law and Debt Restructuring
The principal focus of modern insolvency legislation and business debt restructuring practices no longer rests on the elimination of insolvent entities but on the remodelling of the financial and organisational structure of debtors experiencing financial distress so as to permit the rehabilitation and continuation of their business.
For private households, it is argued to be insufficient to merely dismiss debts after a certain period. It is important to assess the underlying problems and to minimise the risk of financial distress to re-occur. It has been stressed that debt advice, a supervised rehabilitation period, financial education and social help to find sources of income and to manage household expenditures better need to be equally provided during this period of rehabilitation (Reifner et al., 2003; Gerhardt, 2009; Frade, 2010). In most EU Member States, debt discharge is conditioned by a partial payment obligation and by a number of requirements concerning the debtor's behaviour. In the United States (US), discharge is conditioned to a lesser extent. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the spectrum is broad in the EU, with the UK coming closest to the US system (Reifner et al., 2003; Gerhardt, 2009; Frade, 2010). Other Member States do not provide the option of a debt discharge. Spain, for example, passed a bankruptcy law (ley concursal) in 2003 which provides for debt settlement plans that can result in a reduction of the debt (maximally half of the amount) or an extension of the payment period of maximally five years (Gerhardt, 2009); nevertheless, it does not foresee debt discharge.
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