If I File Bankruptcy, Will My Name Be In The Newspaper?

Many clients ask me, “who will find out about my bankruptcy filing? Will my name be published in the local newspaper?” They are concerned that their friends, family, neighbors, or employer may learn of the bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy cases are a matter of public record. If someone really wants to find out if you have filed, they’ll be able to dig up the records. It’s not as simple as a Wisconsin CCAP search but the information is available. If your neighbor is anything like Mrs. Kravitz, she’ll find it.

The Bankruptcy Court will also mail notices of your case to certain people. All of your creditors & co-signers will receive notice because their rights will be affected by your filing.

Now for the good news: Bankruptcy cases are a matter of federal law, not state law. This means that the local county court does not participate in the proceedings. Any court hearings are held in the federal courthouse for your district (nearly all of my cases are handled at the federal courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin). The local newspapers that print the “Court News” every week, with notices of foreclosure sales, OWI violations, etc., typically don’t print notices relating to federal cases. They could do so, but it’s quite rare in Wisconsin.

In summary:

• Unless you owe them money or co-signed with them, your family members, friends, neighbors, and employers will not be sent notice of your bankruptcy filing. They may find the information if they’re really interested and determined, but they most likely have their own problems to worry about.

• While local newspapers could print the names of consumer bankruptcy filers, they rarely do so in Wisconsin.

• If your neighbors do learn that you filed bankruptcy, relax. You may be the topic of their gossip for a couple of days, but someone else will take your spot as their target soon enough. The neighborhood gossips will forget about you and talk about that other neighbor’s divorce, job loss, wild party, marital problems, arrest, rehab stint, terrible cooking or housecleaning habits, noisy kids, drunken escapades . . . .

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7 Comments

  1. I need to file bankruptcy. But the local newspaper in Appleton puts this in their paper. I can’t bare the idea of my ex-husband and his very perfect family finding out. What can I do to get help ????????

    • I’m sorry to hear that. That’s the first newspaper I’ve heard of that still prints the details of bankruptcy filings in Wisconsin.

      If the newspaper prints the names of bankruptcy filers, there’s not much you can do about it. It sounds like you need to choose between your privacy and getting the bankruptcy relief you desire. If you haven’t spoken with a bankruptcy attorney yet, you should consider doing so. Depending on your individual situation, there may be other debt-relief options available to you.

  2. I am a registered representative with a financial advisor and am thinking about filing bankruptcy. My concern is that my employer will be notified by the S E C (the federal organization that oversees registered reps). When I first became registered I was asked on the form if I ever filed bankruptcy. Or will I have to disclose this to my employer?

    • As a general matter, employment is not typically affected by a bankruptcy filing. See 11 U.S.C. §525.

      Unless you owe the S.E.C. or your employer money, they will not be notified of your filing by the Bankruptcy Court. However, it’s not a secret proceeding, and there’s no way to know who will learn of your filing. Whether you have to inform your employer is likely covered under your employment contract, but nothing in the Bankruptcy Code requires such a disclosure.

  3. @Donna I am former supervisory principal. I wanted to pass this along to you:

    FINRA has strict disclosure rules for when a registered representative files bankruptcy.
    As registered representatives, brokers are subject to the rules and regulations set forth by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. FINRA’s stated goal is to protect the public from unscrupulous brokers; as such they require that broker-dealers monitor certain aspects of their representatives’ financial well-being, such as if they file bankruptcy. This is also something that is looked at for individuals who are looking to join the industry.

    Disclosure Required

    The primary requirement set forth in regard to a registered representative filing bankruptcy is that they disclose the filing to the broker-dealer they work with. This is done by the filing of an amended Form U-4 and must be done within 30 days of the bankruptcy filing. The broker-dealer is held responsible for making sure this information is amended and properly filed with FINRA. The amended U-4 is filed electronically with FINRA.

    Not a Disqualification

    Filing bankruptcy does not disqualify an individual from being a registered representative. Although they are required to disclose the bankruptcy filing on their Form U-4, it is basically done for administrative purposes and does not alter their ability to work in the industry. They may still become registered or continue to be registered if they file bankruptcy after being a representative.

    Broker-Dealer’s Policy

    Each broker-dealer has their own policies and procedures regarding how they will deal with a representative who files bankruptcy. They may choose to more closely monitor that individual’s work and interaction with clients to ensure it does not affect their performance. However, broker-dealers do not necessarily treat registered representatives that file bankruptcy any differently than other representatives. FINRA does not regulate what a broker-dealer must do after a representative files bankruptcy. It is at the discretion of the broker-dealer.

    Broker-Dealer’s Responsibility

    Although there are no regulations set forth by FINRA in regards to a representative filing bankruptcy (other than the disclosure requirement) broker-dealers are ultimately responsible for the actions of those contracted with them. Therefore, broker-dealers are expected to keep an eye on their representatives to make sure their personal financial situation does not interfere with their professional responsibility to their clients. They also have to make sure the broker is acting in good faith and doing what is in the best interests of her clients.

    • Thanks for the helpful information!

    • Gina,
      I really appreciate the valuable information you provided. That is the information I recall when I first became a RR. However I have a twist to this scenario. Our organization is in the processing of withdrawing our Broker Dealer status and becoming an Invesment Advisor only.
      I assume that as soon as this is official, the rules noted above no longer apply as they are stricly for Broker Dealers. Are there any specific requirements required if the firm is only an Investment Advisor?
      Thank you.

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  1. Will My Bankruptcy Be in the Newspaper? « Charleston Bankruptcy Lawyer Blog | South Carolina Bankruptcy Law - [...] once a month I get asked about this.  Clients believe that the local newspaper reports bankruptcy filings for individuals. …
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