Questions Raised over SSG ‘Bankruptcy’

Respondents to both this site and Dave Walker’s recent related posts (Dave’s Backup Site | Dave’s Main Site) are asking searching questions about the legitimacy of SSG’s apparent filing for bankruptcy.

Citing USA website lawyershop.com, ‘canon law’ and ‘mm’ — who may well be the same person using different aliases — have expressed concern over the possibility of Bankruptcy Fraud:

Bankruptcy Fraud
Bankruptcy, by definition, is when a debtor is declared – either by creditors or his own account – legally insolvent. His property is liquidated and divided among his creditors to pay his debts. But when a debtor falsely claims bankruptcy, attempts to conceal his assets, launches petition mills or files multiple claims, he is committing bankruptcy fraud – a federal offense.

Types of Bankruptcy Fraud
Concealment of assets, petition mills, and multiple filings are the most common types of bankruptcy fraud.

Concealment of Assets
Concealment of assets accounts for nearly 70 percent of all fraudulent bankruptcy cases filed by individuals. This type of fraud occurs when a person purposely fails to list every one of his assets on his bankruptcy claim, knowing that creditors cannot liquidate valuables of which they are not aware. Similarly, business owners frequently conceal assets when filing for bankruptcy – they transfer money or properties to their relatives’ or associates’ names so that the assets cannot be confiscated.

Observations over the weekend from ‘justflyingkites’ certainly seem to support this possibility and raise the further question of whether filing for bankruptcy in the USA can, in any case, apply to SSG as a UK registered charity:

According to advice from USDAW (they say they have not had enough time to research thoroughly) a charity registered in Britain cannot be made insolvent through the American courts. USDAW has discovered that the ENC management company consists of the Brewer brothers and one of their wives.

As for hiding their assets – the two independent shops have been told to deposit takings in a new bank account in the name of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.

Whatever eventually emerges, one thing seems sure: the Brewers’ behaviour — in their treatment of their staff, in their general communications and in their business dealings — falls far short of the standards of honesty and integrity one might hope to expect from a Christian organisation. This is nothing new, of course: the history of Christianity is littered with examples of abuse and devious dealings done, supposedly, in the name of Christ. I find myself wondering if Spencer Burke has the right of it when he says:

Maybe the greatest gift the Christian religion can offer the world right now is to remove itself from the battle for God. Perhaps it’s time to release the claim to universal privilege it grants itself as the only “true religion”. 

(p.48, A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity)

On the other hand, I find myself somehow not yet ready to roll over and die, to concede defeat to the likes of the Brewers. Perhaps as Steph, another respondent here, has commented, I am naive, but I’d sooner go down in history as naive than silent. I am also uncomfortably aware of Jesus’ remarks about judging others, but again, are we not called to speak out against injustice and dishonesty when we see it? Again, I do not consider silence to be an option.

As last time, watch this space…

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5 responses to “Questions Raised over SSG ‘Bankruptcy’

  1. Pingback: Former SPCK shops: Is SSG’s ‘backruptcy’ legitimate? » The Cartoon Blog by Dave Walker

  2. Pingback: Former SPCK shops: Is SSG’s ‘bankruptcy’ legitimate? « CartoonChurch backup site

  3. This reminds me of my experiences a couple of years ago with a certain car dealership which targets the Christian market. My wife and I bought a car from them which within three days broke down. We took it back to them under their warranty, but before they finished repairing it, they went ‘bankrupt’. The showroom’s administrator’s (apparently the showroom was a separate company, although this was not made clear to us when we bought from them – the car being for sale on the parent company’s website) were unable to then return our car for over a week. Meanwhile the parent company was bought out by a company which had been registered 6 months previously, had a slightly different name but had up to then not been trading in any manner. This company refused to take responsibility for the warranties of the company which they had just bought, although it seemed that those involved were all the same. Eighteen months later, they continue to sponsor Christian events, and trade on the basis of the name, reputation and ‘more than 25 years experience’ of the previous company.

  4. Sorry, I forgot to make my actual point, which is that as far as I can tell this is a fairly standard way of shedding unprofitable parts of your business and debts.

  5. justflyingkites

    SSG goes under many different guises. Last time I counted it was seven. What we need to bear in mind is what a previous blogger stated about the Brewers lawyering for a long time.

    They have legally ringfenced Durham and Chichester. They have legally separated St Stephen the Great Charity Trust, which is registered with the Charities Commission, from St Stephen the Great LLC. The LLC part of the charity dealt with the bookshops and only the LLC has been declared bankrupt to avoid paying suppliers and dealing with tribunals.

    In short I think they may have covered their tracks – they’re good at lawyering. I can’t be too sure about the Australian link.

    It’s up to suppliers to decide whether or not they will deal with SSG. It’s up to them to remove stock from shelves.

    There should be no place in Christian Bookselling for people like the Brewers.

    Like you Phil, I do not want to judge them. Like you I believe that every Christian is called to fight injustice. When Desmond Tutu was accused of using the Bible to fight the injustices of the Apartheid government, he said something like, “well they shouldn’t have given the Bible to us in the first place.” You are right, silence is not an option.

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