After we file bankruptcy petitions for our clients, the next step is the 341 Meeting or Meeting of Creditors. Named after the section of the Bankruptcy Code that makes it a requirement, the Meeting is a chance for creditors to ask questions of the filing debtors. The debtors have to testify under oath to their financial affairs, although in most cases creditors don’t appear and the bankruptcy trustee asks all the questions. The meetings are recorded and, before COVID-19, were done in person.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread, these meetings for our Kansas and Missouri clients have all been by phone. Rather than travel to a federal courthouse, our clients have been able to testify at their meetings at their offices, their homes, or our office. Because these phone meetings have saved us travel time, our office has appreciated the switch to telephone meetings. We can be more productive and spend less time driving to and from the courthouse. Our clients also have appreciated not having to find parking, go through security, leave phones in their cars, and testify at a courthouse.
Meetings by Zoom
The United States Trustee program, the Justice Department entity that runs the Section 341 Meeting program, has announced changes they intend to roll out to conduct these meetings by Zoom. The program heads hope that video testimony will become the standard in nearly all cases. They cite the ability to reduce rented space and administer the proceedings smoothly.
These changes are being described by the US Trustee’s program as the most significant changes to the process in a generation, so we will be prepared to address what happens next. Some of our clients have preferred to handle these meetings in our office during the pandemic, and we anticipate being available for clients who would prefer to be nearby their counsel. We know that not everyone has internet access at home or at their job, and clients who would have had to take time off to drive to court might still have to take time off to find a proper connection for Zoom access.
Our duties to our clients include representation from start to finish. That includes the Section 341 Meeting of Creditors, no matter whether it is held in person, by phone, or by video. We will prepare our clients for their 341 meeting testimony so they can obtain a discharge or plan confirmation just as we have for thousands of clients over the past decades.