Episode 202 – Business Law – An Attorney’s Look Back At 2016 And Forward To 2017

Episode 202 – Business Law – An Attorney’s Look Back At 2016 And Forward To 2017

Leading Los Angeles attorney, Robbin L. Itkin, shares invaluable insight on the challenges businesses faced in the past few years and a few thoughts on what may be in store under Trump in 2017.

Listen to the complete interview below and make sure to subscribe, share and review the podcast.


Tracy: Good morning. This is Tracy Merda with Speakeasy Authority Marketingg podcast and this morning, I have a very special guest I want to welcome. Attorney Robbin Itkin, a real professional in her practice area. She is leading the business solutions and financial restructuring group at Liner LLP, a business focused entrepreneurial law firm based in Los Angeles. Good morning Robbin. Thank you for joining me.

Robbin L. Itkin: Good morning Tracy. Thank you for having me.

Tracy: Tell me a little bit about the areas of law that you work in at Liner LLP. I know it’s a lot of different areas, if you could just break off a piece of each and just sort of tell me a little bit about what you do.

Robbin L. Itkin: Sure. I think maybe it could be burrowed down to the I am a preventer and a fixer of financial problems. I advise businesses through their entire life cycle at first for startups on how to plan for and vent financial issues that may arise and how to best deal with them. I help prevent those from occurring like financial problems and then when businesses which happens with everyone at some point deals with financial issues. I help them resolve those problems and I also deal with individuals in doing the same thing from someone who has a 40 hour week job to high profile individuals to talented sports figures and my goal is to keep people out of bankruptcy when bankruptcy is the right tool. We’ve also filed bankruptcy for parties but my primary goal is to try to work these things out of court in the best interests of the client.

Tracy: You obviously work with a variety of different types of clients including startup companies, debtors, creditors, corporate restructurings and also bankruptcies when and where appropriate. What have you seen over the past several years as some of the biggest challenges that your clients have faced?

Robbin L. Itkin: Sure. I really do represent people from all angles, from the debtor who has the debt and owes it to other parties to the creditors in different cases to whom the debt is owed, to purchasers out of bankruptcies, to buy assets where you can get them free and clear of all the junk that why people file to get around that and I think that there are a few things that have occurred over the last year. One is that bankruptcies have just gotten so huge and expensive that a lot of banks and lenders are really trying to avoid bankruptcies because they are very expensive. People think it’s ironic that you need money to file a bankruptcy but you do especially when you are dealing with a business, these cases can get very expensive. So one of the things that has happened is the attempt to have more out of court workouts which is a good thing because that’s less expensive and less stressful for everybody involved. The goal is to try to work things out without the need to go to court, without the expense of having to file motions and go to hearings and have all those parties involved. Also to try to resolve things outside the public eye when you are dealing with high profile people and businesses who are concerned about being affected by the public knowing they have financial issues. One of the things that I kind of call a 2 sided monster is you have a couple of things. You have the company that is dealing with the financial issues and you have their creditors. The company obviously is having a difficult time and is trying to do what it can to pay creditors and get out of its financial problems. A lot of times for these companies to become debtors to the other companies having financial issues. We’ve seen that a lot especially starting with 2008 with the subprime mortgage issues and the too big to fail bankruptcies that occur with the Lehmann’s and the Chryslers, then you have a lot of people who are affected by those companies who have their own financial issues but then when they became a creditor for the other company that was having a bankruptcy issues, they then had to file or had deep financial problems, so it becomes like a domino effect and that’s a big challenge to deal with. Two other things that really have occurred is because of the expense of going through financial restructuring, we no longer have the common restructuring, the reorganization we had in which bankruptcy, we were seeking a fresh start and restructure a company and move forward. But what has happened in a lot of instances now is that it goes really straight to a liquidation in a bankruptcy case. It will be a controlled liquidation of assets so that the company does not stay around. We see that for instance now in American Apparel who filed a year ago. They did what was called a restructure to stay in business and now has filed again and it looks like they are going to be picked apart by buyers and there won’t be one big company staying in business. It’s a real risk of loss of jobs to many people which then starts the cycle and domino effect of them having financial problems. One other thing that I’ve seen in the last few years is because of these bankruptcies, usually there is a secured creditor and in the bankruptcy, they get paid first before any other unsecured or trade get paid. You find that there’s not really much to give to the creditors, the mom or pop, the trade, the vendors. There is usually very little by the time you pay off your debt to secured creditors that come first, to taxes that have priority and so what’s happening now is creditors are looking to other sources of recovery for what they are owed. So DNO policies and DNO litigation directors and officers, liability and litigation has become a part of the norm as to what to go after the directors and officers for because of these filings and the inability to pay people, so it’s created more of an issue in terms of individual liability for directors and officers which can obviously be a problem as well. Those are the things that I’ve seen happen in the last few years.

Tracy: Obviously, with the huge election that just happened, of course, a lot is up in the air and we don’t know fully what to expect but there are a lot of rumors out there. What changes do you see forthcoming under the new administration that could potentially affect the number of your clients and those in your business as well?

Robbin L. Itkin: Sure. This is real and like you said, we don’t know. The rumors and we’ve already seen that there have been changes in platform and what’s been said during the nomination process and then the election process but one thing is if interest rates don’t rise, which is the typical thing more for a republican administration than a democratic administration. If interest rates stay low, that will help spur more buying and more capital infusion into companies and more growth. That is one thing that has helped. In the last few years interest rates have been low and so everyone is waiting for this burst to occur when interest rates are finally going to rise but it hasn’t happened yet and if they stay low, that will certainly help people to deal with their financial issues that are more loans, more ability to pay loans off and the ability to grow or extend your businesses. It depends on what happens with trade deals obviously. If we are going to have foreign trade that is going to be impacted and we have this threat now from China that’s come out during the last few days. If these things happen and trade is reduced, that is clearly going to affect the businesses that rely on incoming and outgoing for their business. That could cause another rippling effect of a whole another slew of bankruptcies with retail and other businesses that just can’t afford to continue to do business if they can’t trade and sell what they have or deal with workers abroad, that is going to be a big issue. So that’s really important. So I think it just depends on what happens. Also there are a lot of different programs that have been taking place to help businesses with tax benefits, to help businesses and people avoid bankruptcy and if those somehow are affected and there is no way of knowing whether they will be or not at this pointy, that will be a problem. Also, at school, we’ve heard some things of people being looked at for the executive cabinet that believe in more private schools and not public schools. People can’t all afford private schools and people need scholarships and loans to go to school and so depending on what happens with student loans and with the cost of going to school and colleges and vocational schools, that could be a huge effect because we know there has been a big issue in this economy over many years for student loans and how those get paid off and they are very expensive and when people graduate and can’t get the jobs that they need to pay off those loans, that creates a huge problem and you have people in their sixties still trying to pay off loans and having that burden. Also, with Medicare and health, if we are not going to give people the benefits to help them with their health problems, it’s going to be a huge issue that is going to affect people. When it affects people it affects businesses and we have a lot of the older generation now still dealing with the inability to pay for their needs or their health and a lot of people have filed bankruptcy because of their medical bills. These are all things that are issues that exist now and could either be more hindered or become a bigger problem in the next administration or it could be helped. It just depends on what happens.

Tracy: You are so right. I mean there is so much unknown

Robbin L. Itkin: That’s the problem. We just really don’t know. The market reacts because it thinks it’s going a certain way but you just don’t know and we won’t know for a while.

Tracy: This is probably the broadest question I’ve ever asked anyone. Do you foresee things getting better for businesses or possibly even new issues arising that we maybe haven’t dealt with yet?

Robbin L. Itkin: I think it’s both. I really do. I wish I had a crystal ball because I could get help probably doing what I do but I think it’s going to be both. I think in some areas, we are going to see things better and they are going to help and help maybe spur some spending but I think in other areas, the ones that I just spoke about perhaps, in helping people with medical bills and what’s going to happen with Obamacare, we just don’t know. I don’t know how that’s going to be affected. On one hand, we are told that if there is a change, it’s still not going to affect pre-conditions but then I don’t know how you do that and how you pay for that. If you don’t so some of these other programs, so it’s all so interrelated in terms of how one thing affects another. If you cut one thing, then how do you afford something else? So we know how it all plays out, it’s really just a guess on anyone’s part and all I can do is cross my fingers and my toes and hope that all these things are being considered because it doesn’t take a lot for a business to be affected and the thing which we see and this is what I deal with the most and I can get the most challenging or emotional when you are dealing with people that have financial issues whether it’s a business or a person, it always affects them personally and physically. So a lot of issues and emotional problems, breakups, divorces, suicides, unfortunately are effects of having stress and financial issues that people need to understand that can be resolved. No matter how this looks like it’s going to be in the next administration and how things play out, people need to understand that there are people to talk to and work things out because they can get out of control and you need to understand that they don’t have to. There are people there, financial experts, consultants, lawyers, people like myself and Liner, you know, we help everybody with different aspects of their problems but wherever you go, there are people that can help you and that’s a really important thing to think about because in this economy and in this world now, we’ve had the too big to sell and companies going bust, people still, they have nobody to trust and that’s for a good reason. We’ve seen these companies that are so greedy in what they do. People need to just remember. There are good people, there are ways to deal with these problems and they need to get help both financially and personally with their emotions and physical ailments to address these things.

Tracy: I really want to thank you so much for your time and insight. This is really a fascinating waiting game. A special thanks to my guest attorney Robbin with the business solutions and financial restructuring group at Liner LLP. Robbin, thank you so much for your time and we will wait and see what happens.

Robbin L. Itkin: Right. That’s all we can do. We can hopefully deal with it

Tracy: Crossing fingers and toes, right?

Robbin L. Itkin: Right. Exactly and thank you so much

Tracy: If someone would like to maybe pick your brain or get some legal advice, what is the best way to reach out to you?

Robbin L. Itkin: Probably, emailing me is really good. I’m on my emails all the time and it’s ritkin@linerlaw.com and I’m happy to address questions and see if I can help people. That’s something I’m really happy to do.


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