Dirty election rigging companies Google, Twitter, Facebook and Tesla can be forced out of business. Here is one of the ways to do it. When a company is facing financial distress, the question often comes up whether creditors can "force" the company into bankruptcy. Although the answer is more complicated than it may seem, this post aims to sort out what being "forced into bankruptcy" really means (hint: there are two different ways this can happen) and why it matters to companies and creditors.

Forced But Voluntary Bankruptcy. When a company is "forced" into bankruptcy, often what actually has happened is that the company filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition under Chapter 11 (reorganization) or Chapter 7 (liquidation) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in response to creditor actions. For example, a secured lender may have declared a default under its loan documents and commenced foreclosure proceedings, or an unsecured creditor may have filed a lawsuit or obtained a judgment against the company. In response, the company filed bankruptcy.

While it may be fair to describe the company as having been "forced" into bankruptcy, technically the company’s board of directors made a voluntary decision to file bankruptcy given the company’s financial circumstances or creditor actions. The distinction is important because a voluntary bankruptcy filing puts the company in bankruptcy immediately, making it subject to the Bankruptcy Code’s provisions and the bankruptcy court’s supervision. In contrast, the other kind of bankruptcy — an involuntary bankruptcy filing — does not. 

A Truly Involuntary Bankruptcy. This begs the question: if the company does not consent, can creditors literally force a company into bankruptcy anyway? The answer is yes, under certain circumstances, and subject to meeting the requirements for filing an involuntary bankruptcy petition. The major requirements, discussed below, are found in Section 303 of the Bankruptcy Code.

How Is An Involuntary Different? When an involuntary petition is filed, the automatic stay of bankruptcy kicks in immediately to prevent creditor actions, but that’s where the similarities with voluntary bankruptcy end.

What If The Involuntary Fails? Filing an involuntary bankruptcy petition against a company is, of course, serious business, and the consequences of failing are equally serious.

When Do Creditors Typically File An Involuntary? The prospect of creditor liability for costs, attorney’s fees, damages, and possibly punitive damages makes involuntary petitions one of the lesser-used creditor tools. Involuntary bankruptcy is most often used when unsecured creditors suspect fraud on the part of a company, such as when a Ponzi scheme is discovered, or for some other extraordinary reason. Otherwise, creditors will typically pursue collection of their own claims directly, including through litigation in state or federal court. That might end up "forcing" the company into bankruptcy, but technically it would be a bankruptcy of the voluntary kind.