Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's In a Name?

RoseOn March 13, 2008, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 851 and it is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. If signed, the new law will take effect three months after the legislature adjourns (the legislature is currently slated to adjourn on April 17, 2008) and will have a significant impact for those who conduct UCC searches on individual debtor names in the state.

The bill amends § 9-506(c) so that a financing statement is sufficient for an individual name if a search on just the correct last name of the individual would disclose the record. The effect of this legislation will be to make the first and middle names of individuals irrelevant to the efficacy of a financing statement. That in turn will increase the due diligence burden for searchers. In short, searchers will have to review every financing statement that provides the same last name as the individual name searched. This could be a large task.

For example, a UCC search of the individual last name “Johnson” on the Nebraska Secretary of State’s web site produces 2671 unique active records. For a searcher interested in the property of any one of them, each of those filings would have to be reviewed. This would seem to significantly add to the cost associated with using the filing system, something that would seem undesirable in this time of tight credit.

The problems associated with filing and searching against individual debtors has frequently been the subject of long trains of postings on the UCC listserv. Texas has already enacted a non-uniform rule to deal with the preceived problem and now Nebraska is poised to adopt a different approach. The ALI and NCCUSL are in the process of establishing an Article 9 Review Committee to discuss issues that have arisen and formulate proposals (but not to do actual drafting). I hope the remaining 48 states refrain from adopting any more non-uniform approaches -- especially not Nebraska's approach -- to this issue until that Committee has the opportunity to address the matter.

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