by Sheila Pursglove
The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler were watershed events for Chapter 11, especially in Michigan, according to attorney Jason Bank who represented several creditors in those proceedings.
“After GM and Chrysler, most of the general public now views Chapter 11 as a legitimate business tool to not only restructure balance sheets, but to preserve companies and jobs,” he says.
Bank – who enjoys helping small- to midsize business owners preserve their own versions of the American Dream – is a Member of Kerr, Russell and Weber in Detroit where he leads the commercial bankruptcy and restructuring practice. He has represented numerous distressed companies in a wide variety of industries, including automotive, manufacturing, retail, medical and real estate, through the Chapter 11 and out-of-court restructuring process from beginning to end.
Bank shares his expertise as an adjunct professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, teaching about Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
“In 2005, at the time of the recent amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, MSU Law was looking for an attorney who could teach bankruptcy, and I was fortunate to know someone on the MSU Law Alumni Board,” he says. “I enjoy teaching and interacting with some very bright minds. Teaching also helps me to keep my bankruptcy skills and knowledge honed and polished.”
According to Bank, some of the challenging concepts of Chapter 11 can only be fully grasped at the end of the semester, after a student has learned all of the basics concerning the Chapter 11 process.
“Like many other law school courses, it’s sometimes difficult to see the forest through the trees, let alone understand why the forest is there,” he says.
For law students who enjoy the topic, the future looks bright.
“While the practice has recently slowed a bit, bankruptcy, restructuring and loan workouts has been a significant growth area in the practice of law over the past 10 years, based upon the spike in bankruptcy filings and highly publicized bankruptcy cases,” Bank says.
Bank, who publishes frequently on the subjects of bankruptcy and restructuring, including Chapter 9 bankruptcy and debt and contract restructuring for municipalities, specializes in commercial bankruptcy law, out-of-court workouts, corporate restructurings and creditor’s rights, and also represents several small to middle market businesses and business owners and advises them on a variety of legal issues.
He represents debtors, creditors’ committees, trustees, receivers and a wide variety of creditors in bankruptcy and other judicial proceedings, out-of-court restructurings and loan workouts. He also acts as general business counsel to a number of companies in Michigan and throughout the Midwest; and lectures and publishes frequently for various professional and trade associations on the subjects of bankruptcy and reorganization.
Recognized as a “Michigan Super Lawyer” and named a Top Lawyer for 2013 by DBusiness Magazine in the area of Bankruptcy and Creditor/Debtor Rights, Bank also has considerable experience in representing parties buying and selling assets of businesses out of bankruptcy as well as prosecuting and defending preferential transfer and fraudulent conveyance actions.
“I enjoy practicing in front of a knowledgeable bench at the bankruptcy court and working with many great bankruptcy lawyers,” he says.
A member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, Federal Bar Association, and the Business Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, he was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Turnaround Management Association, Detroit/Grand Rapids Chapter. An international nonprofit association, TMA was established in 1988, and has more than 9,000 members in 48 chapters, including 31 in North America.
“It’s a premier organization for corporate renewal and turnaround,” Bank explains. “TMA membership consists of attorneys, bankers, financial advisors and equity investors – a great mix of professionals.”
Bankruptcy law was a far cry from his original career goal, which was to be a writer or reporter. With this in mind, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Michigan, heading to Ann Arbor just as the Cold War was coming to a close. But graduating in 1992 during a recession, he found writing and journalism jobs were few and far between.
After working as a part-time writer for some trade magazines in Ann Arbor, he headed to Wayne State University Law School to earn his law degree.
“Law school seemed to be a logical step for someone who enjoyed writing and political science,” he says. “The professors were outstanding. Attending law school in Detroit permitted me to work at a law firm and have interactions with the courts, law firms and governmental agencies as a law firm runner and then a clerk.”
A native of Saginaw, Bank currently lives in Canton with his wife and two sons, where he enjoys enjoys playing the piano, coaching Little League and Flag football, and serving as a Cub Scout leader.