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Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday he has selected Lawrence A. Friedman as director of the executive office of the United States Trustees Program, the bankruptcy court watchdog that has lacked a permanent director for more than a year. Often criticized as obstructionistic by the corporate bankruptcy bar, the Trustees office has become more aggressive in challenging adviser and legal fees, disinterestedness and raising concerns about indemnification of bankruptcy advisers. “I have always been a big admirer of the U.S. Trustee program, but it has been criticized by many Chapter 11 lawyers because they sometimes criticize fees, and they may take positions that seem unjustified or naive,” said Stephen Case, an attorney with Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York. “Friedman is very well regarded and brings an excellent form of experience.” Friedman, who starts his new duties today, said his experience is primarily with consumer bankruptcies, but he has worked on Chapter 11 cases. He is the immediate past president of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, the professional association for Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees. Since 1990, he has served as a Chapter 7 trustee in the Eastern District of Michigan. “I’ve been working for the last 12 years in my little corner of the world,” said Friedman, reached in his Southfield, Mich., law office as he packed for his move to Washington. “Now I can raise the bar and improve the integrity of the system.” Friedman started his law firm, Friedman & Kohut, in 1995. The firm’s practice includes consumer and commercial bankruptcy, commercial litigation, insolvency and real estate law. Before that, Friedman was a solo practitioner. The Trustees office, which must represent the public’s interest in bankruptcy cases, supervises the operations of 21 regional U.S. Trustees and 95 field offices covering 88 federal judicial districts. It is a component of the Justice Department. The office will also be responsible for administering the bankruptcy reform legislation under discussion in Congress if President Bush signs it into law. The Trustees office has grown in experience and sophistication, Case said. Moreover, Marty Zohn, an attorney with Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles, thinks Friedman’s experience with consumer bankruptcy will be helpful. Although the giant Chapter 11 cases receive the most attention, Zohn said, about 1.4 million of the nearly 1.5 million bankruptcies filed in 2001 were individual, consumer-type cases, not corporate ones. “Experience with the major cases is less essential to a major part of the trustee director’s responsibility,” Zohn said. “The U.S. Trustee’s Office is essentially a very large law firm with experienced lawyers and business analysts. The job of the head of that organization is to set a tone and establish a vision.” Harvey Miller at Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York said he applauds the appointment of a director who served as a Chapter 7 trustee, and has no concerns about the trustee’s role in complex corporate bankruptcy cases. “I’m assuming in Chapter 11 cases there are active creditors committees, and the role of the U.S. Trustee won’t be significant,” Miller said. Friedman received his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., and his undergraduate degree from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich. Copyright (c)2002 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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