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Scott D. Cousins didn’t reinvent the wheel, but the Wilmington, Del., bankruptcy lawyer has turned it in a new direction to help out a retirees committee he represents in the Polaroid Corp. reorganization filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. Like so much else these days, the Internet led to innovation for Cousins, who manages the local office of Miami-based Greenberg Traurig. Cousins was familiar with companies in bankruptcy cases setting up Web sites to explain and update the proceedings for stockholders, customers, suppliers, workers and so on. He had worked on one himself for Valeo Electrical Systems Inc., an automotive supplier that filed for reorganization in the Southern District of New York. Cousins wondered, why not have a Web site for the Polaroid retirees, too? “The debtors do this all the time. We thought we’d try it from the other side,” he said. They did. The Web site www.retireeinfo.com is up and running. It is maintained by Greenberg Traurig with the same purpose in mind as company-sponsored Web sites — to communicate efficiently with large classes of people, in this case 6,000 or so Polaroid retirees. “It’s a lot cheaper to have a Web site than to have associates and partners responding to questions,” Cousins said. The only question is why it has taken so long for Web sites like this to catch on. It seems like a good idea — and an obvious one — to Chris Stuttard, the editor of Bankruptcydata.com, which tracks businesses in bankruptcy. “It’s definitely in its early stages,” Stuttard said. “Bankruptcy is a fuzzy area, and people don’t understand it, so this gives them a central place to ask questions and get questions answered.” The Polaroid retirees certainly do have questions. Polaroid, the instant photography company based in Cambridge, Mass., filed Oct. 12 for Chapter 11 reorganization. Three days before, the company terminated the retirees’ benefits, including health care, life insurance and severance payments, according to court documents. The retirees believe the termination violates federal and Massachusetts state laws, Cousins said. On Jan. 15, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Peter J. Walsh in Wilmington granted the retirees’ request to appoint an Official Retiree Committee with standing to investigate the loss of benefits. In addition, Walsh authorized expenses and fees of up to $80,000 to be paid from Polaroid’s estate to Greenberg Traurig to represent the retirees’ committee. The retirees’ Web site has become the primary means of communication with the thousands of retirees who have a personal stake in the bankruptcy proceedings. The Web site lists the members of the official committee, answers frequently asked questions and provides links to court documents, letters and testimony to members of Congress and news accounts. For example, the Web site explains how the retirees organized (dozens of them met in December near Boston), who was appointed to the committee (five ex-employees), and what to do if the press calls (refer reporters to a public relations consultant retained for the committee.) Naturally not all of the retirees have computer access. A telephone hotline also was set up for them, Cousins said. Karl V. Farmer, a New Hampshire resident and chairman of the retirees’ committee, is sold on the benefit of the Web site. “It’s helped tremendously getting information to a mass number of people. It has relieved the committee members of a lot of e-mail we were getting,” he said. Farmer said he personally was receiving as many as 100 e-mails a day. With the Web site, it has dropped to 10 or 20 daily e-mails. He can handle that, he said.

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