The cheerful song heard at Disney theme parks, “It’s A Small, Small World” proved sadly true last week. Chrysler cancelled its contracts with its longtime supplier of plastic parts, Plastech, forcing that company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Because my life’s work is so tied up with debt and bankruptcy, I’m interested in news stories that can have implications for my Indiana bankruptcy clients. When I came upon this particular item, I couldn’t help reflecting that there was a domino effect here. I think that effect actually began far away in the Mideast, where the price of oil has been rising sharply. Since oil is the key ingredient in the plastic parts Plastech was making for Chryslers, Dodges, and Jeeps, Plastech wasn’t able to buy enough oil to keep up its parts manufacture. Then, in danger of having its car production slow or even stop altogether, Chrysler needed to find another supplier. To save time and costs, Chrysler wanted to take back from Plastech all the thousands of molds and dies used to make the parts. When Plastech filed bankruptcy, the courts prohibited Chrysler from taking anything from Plastech, and then the dominoes really started to fall.
Chrysler shut down assembly plants in four states, idling 10,500 workers. And, since Plastech made parts not only for Chrysler, but also for Ford and GM, thousands of workers in those other companies have been affected as well, including, of course, those in Indiana. The bankruptcy court is encouraging a settlement between Chrysler and Plastech, but meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of families are in financial trouble. As usual, individual people, their spouses, and their children – they are the last dominoes in the chain reaction.
As a bankruptcy lawyer in Indiana, I know this game of dominoes all too well. Despite persistent myths about folks overspending and neglecting to pay the bills, truth is, most often bankruptcy is the last stage in a sad, sometimes inexorable chain of events. That chain is often begun months or even years earlier and perhaps states or even oceans away. When people are sitting in my bankruptcy law office in Indianapolis or Anderson, or Columbus, or Bloomington, it’s rarely one thing that brought them there. No, it’s a chain of events beyond their control, and several forces in combination that lead them to seek protection under Indiana bankruptcy law.
And right there, where the last dominoes are falling, that’s the spot where you’ll find me, helping my clients pick up those dominoes and, with them, build a fresh start using the bankruptcy laws.