A "Bankruptcy Petition Preparer" (the "Preparer") is a non-attorney who assists pro se debtors in the preparation of bankruptcy petitions and documents related to filing for bankruptcy. Preparers are regulated under section 110 of title 11 of the United States Code the (the "Code"). This section of the Code severely limits the scope of a Preparer's duties. Preparers lack the same rigorous legal and ethical training acquired by bankruptcy attorneys; therefore, some Preparers try to take advantage of debtors who are often ignorant of the bankruptcy system. Section 110 of the Code outlines sanctions to deter Preparers from behaving in an unscrupulous manner.
The legislative purpose of section 110 is to protect consumers from abuses by nonlawyer petition preparers. This includes protecting debtors from misrepresentation or conduct that is "fraudulent, unfair, or deceptive." To reprimand Preparers that engage in this conduct, a court can order injunctive relief, order damages to be paid to the debtor, or enjoin the person from taking on the role of a bankruptcy petition preparer.
Two questions that arise are: (1) What behavior is regarded as fraudulent, unfair, or deceptive conduct, and (2) what sanctions can a court impose beyond those listed in section 110? Part I of this Memorandum discusses the types of behavior by Preparers that constitute misconduct under section 110. Part II discusses the different types of sanctions a court can order to prevent Preparers from taking advantage of their debtor clients.