Charles Forman, the court-appointed Christian Bernard bankruptcy trustee, generously took some time to talk with me today. Here is an update on what’s happening there:
Within the last week I’ve had discussions with several potential liquidators, and have gotten proposals about going out of business sales and the like. We hope to have the stores back open within the next ten days.
About the employees: The employees [generally got] paid every two weeks. The company shut down a day or two before the end of that pay period so the employees were not paid. I went to the bank and asked to create a mechanism by which the employees could be paid their back wages and the bank agreed. I’ve sent off the checks and hopefully that will take care of the open payroll.
There is also a handful of other issues, like the 401K plan. Those will get sorted out.
[He adds that the chain hopes to rehire the Christian Bernard employees for the liquidation sales.]
The consumer issues: The chain was shut down on December 26 at two or three in the morning. So many employees showed up for work with no place to go. So naturally you have a situation where you have repair items and special order items still in the store with no way of contacting people.
One of the first things the liquidators will do is to go back to those people who have contacted me, look at the store records, identify people who had items there and make arrangements to return their goods.
We want to try to do this in a way that’s as fair and as consumer friendly as possible.
He said that consumers with issues should write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call his law firm at 201-845-1000. He said the firm hopes to get back to most people within a day or so, and if they don’t, they should contact him again.
One interesting thing that came out in the comments on my last post is whether the chain was owned by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The court papers don’t mention it, and Forman doesn’t know, but the BBC, Salon, and a slew of websites seem to think so.