Brad Perri

Profiles in bankruptcy: Johnny Unitas

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy attorney and occasional guest poster for Caveat Emptor.

We all have gifts in life. Some of us are good at football. Some of us are good at money. Others of us are good at neither.

Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was arguably the greatest player who ever played in the NFL. But although Johnny had a golden arm, he did not have a golden touch with business.

Multiple business failures after retiring from football left Johnny in the position where he filed for bankruptcy. But who cares about the bankruptcy of Johnny Unitas? What Unitas is remembered for are his accomplishments and, judging from his biography, Johnny U: The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas, he is most remembered for being a loving and honorable father and friend.

So keep things in perspective. Bankruptcy is just business and is soon forgotten. Your family and friends are what you will be remembered for.

(photo: Baltimore Sun)

Bankruptcy in the Bible

Brad Perri, a Minnesota bankruptcy attorney, is an occasional guest contributor to Caveat Emptor.

Christ was not shy about discussing the morality of debtors and creditors. The only instance of Christ resorting to violence is recorded in the Bible in the story of Christ driving the money lenders from the temple.

Another story that has more than a little resonance in today’s economic turbulence is the story of the the unmerciful creditor from the Book of Matthew. Here is what happens when a bailout does not trickle down to the regular folks:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

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Parting thoughts

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

Well, my friends, this is it. My last day at Caveat Emptor. I would like to thank Sam for the opportunity to share this space and communicate with all of you. I hope you come away from reading my posts with a newfound appreciation for the fact that, in the face of the current economic crisis and the increasingly aggressive creditor industry, you actually do have rights. You can protect your assets, and you do not have to let “them” bully you.

I hope you also come away with a different perspective on the role an attorney can play in your life. An attorney should be someone who you are comfortable talking with. One of the best areas in which to appreciate that fact is, of course, personal finances.

The rule I was taught as a kid is that polite conversation does not include the following topics: religion, money, and sex (perhaps in that order?). I don’t know how true that is, necessarily, but I think it indicates the company that money keeps in most people’s consciousness: it is an intensely personal and sensitive issue. And if you are in financial trouble, you need to be able to talk to someone you can trust who deserves that trust.

Traditionally, the lawyer has been one of the people who can fill that role, along with doctors and religious leaders. As of late, lawyers (not without justification but also at times unfairly) have been perceived as not living up to that obligation.

People do not trust their attorneys anymore. But rest assured, there are attorneys out there who still aspire to the traditional role of the attorney: counselor and advisor. Ask around at family gatherings, at your social clubs, at your churches, at your schools, and you are bound to find somebody who knows of one and they will be glad to point you in that attorney’s direction.

That is the attorney who can protect you and your loved ones against unscrupulous lenders and collectors, the Ursulas and Pleasure Islands of our world.

Best wishes,


The Bankruptcy Discharge

Imagine a bucket—we will call it “the bankruptcy estate.”  Into this “bankruptcy estate,”  we will pour everything you own or could own or have a right to receive (like an inheritance, a lottery payment, a settlement payment from a court case, etc.). Your bankruptcy estate is administered by a person called a “trustee.”

The trustee is trying to find ways to pay your creditors out of the value of whatever it is you have in your bankruptcy estate. Some things do not go into the bankruptcy estate (“exempt” items), but that is a very detailed and complex area that your attorney will explain to you.

Your attorney will then prepare you for what we call a “341” meeting. Other than this 341 meeting, in usual cases, you will not need to ever show up again in front of anybody for your bankruptcy.

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The bankruptcy process

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

This week, I have been talking about the bankruptcy process. I have discussed the very earliest parts of the process: actually researching bankruptcy and determining for yourself if it is something you are really interested in, and how to find a lawyer who you can work with, meaning, a lawyer to whom you can disclose everything about your financial situation (even if you have a gambling problem).

After your lawyer has collected the necessary information from you, generally speaking, you must take an on-line credit counseling course. The credit industry lobbied for, and received, some changes to the bankruptcy code in 2005. This credit-counseling course is one of them.

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Full disclosure

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

So you’ve done some research: you have read about bankruptcy at your local library and you have talked to a few bankruptcy attorneys. Hopefully, you have found one you think you would like to work with.

Now what?

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How to find a bankruptcy attorney

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

Last week, I focused on talking about the attitudes taken towards bankruptcy. I emphasized that the American form of bankruptcy is fundamentally different from what bankruptcy was prior to the writing of the Constitution.

Since the Constitution, America has adopted the position that bankruptcy is a business decision, not a moral one. Even if there is morality attached to bankruptcy, it is not just to say that someone who declares bankruptcy is bad; morality also focuses on the moral character of the lender. In other words, it takes two to tango, and if you are in a bad business relationship, it is time for a divorce (i.e., bankruptcy).

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Profiles in bankruptcy: Abraham Lincoln

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

Welcome to another installment in Profiles in Bankruptcy!

Today’s vignette finds us in a grocery store on the prairie where a young man has invested himself in becoming a grocer.

Unfortunately, this young man doesn’t quite have the necessary acumen to be a grocer and he plummets into bankruptcy.

But as we all should know by now and as T.S. Eliot teaches us (I paraphrase):  “In the end is my beginning,” or something to that effect, or at least those words in a different order.  The end of this young man’s life in groceries gave birth to his start in his new career:  lawyering.  As a lawyer, he himself began to represent bankrupts.  Eventually, his representation of the little guy served him well in a political career that saw him rise to the Presidency of the United States where he preserved the Union and freed the slaves.

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Pinocchio should have declared bankruptcy

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

I appear to be on a Walt Disney kick.

As with Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio presents us with a situation in which a deal is made and then the merchant in the deal decides that part of the deal includes being able to do whatever they want to the buyer.

In the case of Pinocchio, recall that Pinocchio and his new-found buddies pay a visit to Pleasure Island. Pinocchio and his buddies basically go on a binge: billiards, drinking (root beer, I’m sure), and gambling.

But what happens when the good times stop rolling (ala, a recession/depression)? Well, Pinocchio and his buddies turn into donkeys and get made into slaves! Seems like a reasonable exchange, right?

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Profiles in bankruptcy: Walt Disney

Brad Perri is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer who will be guest blogging at Caveat Emptor from September 29th through October 10th.

Today’s profile begins on the south side of Chicago where a young boy is born. This young boy, our hero, soon moves to the hard streets of Kansas City where he and his brother become involved in a newfangled sensation: animation! Together, they take the industry, if not by storm, then at least by profoundly strong winds, and create that unforgettable, culture-shaping icon of hilarity, that rabbit we all now know as . . . Oswald the Rabbit.

Bankruptcy followed immediately. Our hero’s brother told him to buzz off and moved to California where (unhindered by our hero’s fantastically useless imagination) he established himself as a successful commercial artist.

Fortunately for the brother, our hero was too stupid (and broke) to quit. He kept drawing and eventually suckered, er, talked (yes, talked) his brother into buying some movie and sound equipment.

It turns out that with a few tweaks, Oswald the Rabbit wasn’t such a bad idea after all; with a couple of nips here and a few tucks there, he worked much better as Mickey Mouse. Subsequently, our hero, Walt Disney, made a few truckloads of cash off of Mickey Mouse.

Like Thomas “Let’s Declare Bankruptcy Again!” Jefferson, Walt Disney used bankruptcy exactly as intended:  to get a fresh start so he could make another attempt to contribute to American society.