The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival is a busy, but fun time for me. I am the House Manager of the Lyric Theatre, one of the busiest venues of the Festival. This year we hosted a show that was a dream come true for me, as a personal finance writer and lecturer, who always talks about how “Cash is King” and the importance of learning about the value of being frugal. It was the “Calotta Cash & Dollar Bill Show.”
The comedy show covered important things that you might not want to buy at a dollar store, like medicine, and the many things that you DO want to buy. As I have written in the past — disposable razors are a great deal. Their often-used line in the show is “Don’t call me cheap, call me frugal.” Check them out on youtube.
Calotta was dressed in an outrageous dollar bill costume. Bill gave out dollars (not real), to the audience, and I wore my dollars vest, money sign ($) socks and cufflinks, and my “Big Money” glasses, which, of course, I purchased at a dollar store, to make the house announcements. I showed the audience my columns in this newspaper on cheap vs. frugal, and the cash is king picture that I use in my presentations. It was all a hoot!
Adjoining this column is a picture of Calotta, Bill and me. If they come back next year, I will call myself “Forever Frugal,” and maybe I can do a cameo appearance in the show.
This past week was an even busier one for me with the ROman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filling a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy petition, and the news media wanting my thoughts and insights, as a
retired Bankruptcy Judge. Here were some the thoughts I expressed on the day of the filing.
First, although I have never read it in depth, because, over the last ten years or so, there have been a number of dioceses around the country that have filed Chapter 11 due to abuse claims, and there is a body of law that the Rochester Bankruptcy Court can look to. This decisional law and best practices should make the case move more quickly and efficiently.
Second, from my understanding, a number of these other Chapter 11 cases emerged from bankruptcy after settlements were achieved with the abuse claimants and the debtor’s insurers. In that regard, a Chapter 11 affords all of the parties the opportunity to determine what the real assets of the Diocese are, and what their realistic values are, including if they were liquidated. It also affords a forum for all of the abuse creditors to determine the value of their claims, including the ability of abuse claimants to object to the value of the claims of others.
Third, there is no reason to believe that the Diocese was trying to avoid any liability. It has excellent counsel, which no doubt fully informed it of its options in the face of these abuse claims, and the determination was made that this could be the least costly, the most equitable to all, and the quickest way to resolve the financial and other issues presented. In addition, the Diocese will have itself opened up — everything, financial and otherwise, will be out on the table. Who wants that, unless they think that is the best possible option?
Fourth, Bankruptcy Courts are uniquely qualified and experienced in handling this complex kinds of issues in an orderly and efficient manner, including the unique issues that can be presented by non-moneyed religious entities like a Catholic diocese, especially now that there is a body ofndecisional law and best practices.
Fifth, the filing was not really a surprise to me, nor would it be a surprise if many more dioceses in New York filed Chapter 11 in the face of numerous new abuse claims.
Sixth, the Diocese and its attorneys were good, as expected, at getting out important information to the public on the first day, including the continuation of the “ordinary course of business,” including that parishes were separate organizations, and the status of various agencies and possible donations.
Last, let this play out. In my opinion, it should be seen as a positive, and, ultimately, in the best interests of all concerned.
If anyone is really interested in the history of these cases in Bankruptcy Court, there is a good law review article by Marie T. Reilly at 49 Seton Hall L. Rev. 871 (2019). You can Google it.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.