by Denyse O`Leary
AS CONTINUING economic malaise sinks even largecorporations, Walter Stewart`s latest book examines the growing issue ofconvenient bankruptcies. In Belly Up:The Spoils of Bankruptcy (McClelland& Stewart, 256 pages, $29.99 cloth), Stewart argues that kinder, gentlerpublic attitudes to insolvency in Canada and the United States, intended tohelp the unfortunate, may help the unscrupulous to other people`s money.
Bankruptcy courts have been lenient with troubledcompanies in recent years, generally hoping to save jobs by promotingreorganization. But one result is that debtor companies can legally dump creditorsincluding unpaid employees and victims of unsafe products - whileremaining profitable.
Sometimes more than money is at stake. The mostdisturbing chapters relate how Johns-Manville dodged workers` asbestosisclaims and A. H. Robins circumvented Dalkon Shield suits by clever bankruptcystrategies. While Stewart`s worst cases are American, he warns that Canadianlaw is moving south, ideologically.
Belly Up is wellresearched and quite accessible to accountancy-challenged readers. Inparticular, it tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the"Savings and Loan" debacle in the United States and our Canadian"bust trusts," but were afraid to ask a corporate lawyer.
Stewart also makes useful recommendations to thepolicy makers who will examine our bankruptcy laws in 1995. But his suggestionswill never beat Baba`s Law of Credit: "You owe them one hundred dollarsit`s your problem. You owe them one million dollars, it`s their problem. Whylend unless you`re a bank? Why borrow unless you`re an heir? And if you have toowe, owe big."