Cite as: Keith M. Lundin, Lundin On Chapter 13, § 19.1, at ¶ ____, LundinOnChapter13.com (last visited __________).
Since October 17, 2005—the effective date of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA)1—before filing a Chapter 13 petition, every Chapter 13 debtor must either complete a prepetition “briefing”2 or qualify for a temporary exemption3 from or permanent waiver4 of the briefing requirement.5 Eligibility for Chapter 13 depends on getting a prepetition briefing or qualifying for an exemption or waiver.6
So, what is a “briefing”? Maybe “who cares?” is the first response. At one level, debtors and their attorneys don’t really care what constitutes a briefing: if the U.S. trustee has approved a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency (NBCCA) to give prepetition briefings,7 and if the debtor gets a certificate8 from an approved NBCCA attesting that the debtor completed a briefing, chances are no one will ever inquire further whether what the debtor got was the “briefing” that Congress prescribed.
So why should you read further? Two reasons: (1) if the “briefing” the debtor got was expensive, time consuming, abusive and/or worthless of content, then you care because your clients are being victimized and are paying for the privilege; (2) if there was a defect in the briefing—if your clients did not brief “correctly” or if the NBCCA delivered something that doesn’t satisfy the statutory requirements to be a briefing—it may be a defect that isn’t cured by the passage of time and that impairs the bankruptcy relief you and your clients are expecting.
First things first. If you are serious about consumer bankruptcy practice and you have never personally received a § 109(h) briefing, put the book down, find a computer or telephone, pick a provider from the U.S. Trustee Program’s Web site,9 get out your credit card and be briefed. Once you are done, the rest of this discussion will make a lot more sense.
In a statute that consistently fails to deliver detail, § 109(h) tells us five rather specific things about the prepetition briefing:
|1.||It must be received from an NBCCA described in § 111(a).|
|2.||It can be an “individual” or “group” experience.|
|3.||A briefing can be conducted by telephone or on the Internet.|
|4.||A briefing must “outline[ ] the opportunities for available credit counseling.”|
|5.||A briefing must “assist[ ] . . . in performing a related budget analysis.”|
Traveling to new § 111, we know that an NBCCA must be approved by the U.S. trustee (or the bankruptcy administrator). An NBCCA must satisfy detailed, structural and other requirements in § 111. In its original instructions to applicants for approval to be NBCCAs, the U.S. Trustee Program specified this robust requirement:
Adequate Credit Counseling Services. An Agency shall provide, at a minimum, adequate briefings, budget analysis, and credit counseling services to clients that include an outline of available counseling opportunities to resolve a client’s credit problems, an analysis of the client’s current financial condition, discussion of the factors that caused such financial condition, and assistance in developing a plan to respond to the client’s problems without incurring negative amortization of debt. The average length of an adequate counseling session is 60 to 90 minutes.10
More recently, the application to become or to remain an NBCCA requires detailed description of “credit counseling methods and curriculum,” including “average duration of a credit counseling session” and a list of all “counseling services” provided by the agency.11
Nearly eight years after the enactment of BAPCPA, the Executive Office for United States Trustees promulgated rules with respect to NBCCAs and the prepetition briefing process.12 These rules boldly assert that BAPCPA “‘requires debtors to receive credit counseling before they can be eligible for bankruptcy relief.’”13 What the statute describes as a prepetition briefing the U.S. Trustee Program describes as “counseling with respect to client credit problems.”14
You are not confused: there is no mandate in § 109(h) that an individual debtor receive “credit counseling” to establish eligibility for Chapter 13. Section 109(h)(1) requires a prepetition briefing that includes an outline of opportunities for available credit counseling. Use of the word “outline” demands something less than a detailed presentation. Opportunities for credit counseling are not credit counseling itself. A statute doesn’t use the word “briefing” when it intends “credit counseling”—especially when the same section of law repeatedly but not interchangeably uses “credit counseling” also.15 Misinterpretation of § 109(h) has led the U.S. Trustee Program to erect a credit counseling process that is significantly inconsistent with the statute. Debtors are paying dearly for that misinterpretation.
That a briefing can be in a “group” rules out the one-on-one “counseling” that is the model used by credit counseling agencies. You can’t maintain confidentiality in a group or do any of the individualized inquiry and analysis that characterizes credit counseling. The specific reference to a group briefing confirms that a briefing is not credit counseling and demonstrates that Congress, at least in its use of words, did not mandate confidential one-on-one credit counseling as a predicate to Chapter 13 eligibility.
Similarly, “opportunities for available credit counseling” doesn’t convey the same meaning as actual immersion in credit counseling. Perhaps more importantly, use of the words “opportunities” and “available” are an explicit statement of the content of the briefing itself: names and contact information for available credit counseling must be provided.
Assisting an individual to perform a related budget analysis is part of a briefing but not further described by the statute. A related budget analysis becomes redundant if “briefing” already includes “credit counseling.” Budget analysis that relates to a briefing might include information about preparing a consumer budget, perhaps including a form for a budget that the consumer might use.
Notice that there is no mention of “debt repayment plan” or “debt management plan” in the § 109(h) description of the prepetition briefing. Discussed below,16 § 521(b) requires each debtor to file a certificate of completion from the NBCCA that supplied the briefing, together with a copy of any “debt repayment plan” developed through the NBCCA. We can guess that debt repayment plan is something like the “debt management plan” that traditional credit counseling agencies negotiate with credit card lenders in the nonbankruptcy context. It is not obvious from § 109(h)(1) that negotiation of a debt management (or repayment) plan would be an appropriate component of a briefing that outlines the availability of credit counseling services.
The Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules has contributed to misinterpretation of § 109(h). Both the October 2005 and October 2006 versions of Interim Rule 1007(b)(3) referenced “the credit counseling requirement of section 109” notwithstanding that there is no credit counseling requirement in § 109.17 The permanent version of Bankruptcy Rule 1007(b)(3), enacted in 2008, together with the Advisory Committee Notes repeatedly refers to “the credit counseling requirement provided by the 2005 Amendments.” Substituting “credit counseling” for “briefing” without statutory foundation is not helpful.
Anecdotally, it is reported that briefings vary greatly from one NBCCA to another and from one briefing to another. Briefings as short as 20 minutes and as long as two hours were obtained by different debtors from the same NBCCA on the same day in one account.18 There is evidence that approval of an NBCCA by the U.S. trustee is not a guarantee of content or quality of the briefing. It is easy to imagine a briefing designed to convince already scared and stressed individuals that filing bankruptcy is a bad decision.
The cost of a § 109(h) prepetition briefing also varies. The statute requires NBCCAs to provide briefing services “without regard to ability to pay the fee.”19 The rules promulgated by the U.S. Trustee Program state that fees in excess of $50 per person are “not presumptively reasonable.”20 The rules also require NBCCAs to make briefings available at reduced cost or no cost when the individual is financially unable to pay.21 Especially in the online sphere, there is competition for prepetition briefing dollars, and the average briefing over the years has fallen into the $30 to $40 range. It has been said that inability to pay for a prepetition briefing can be a ground for temporary exemption from the prepetition briefing requirement,22 but debtors rarely prevail in this argument.23
Debtors’ attorneys should preview the briefing offered by any NBCCA before sending clients there for briefings. Of course, it is not practical for debtors’ counsel or even a staffer to sit in on every Chapter 13 debtor’s prepetition briefing. But perhaps there are some general rules that can be monitored with respect to what is and what isn’t a briefing.
What if the debtor went to the restroom and attended only part of the briefing? Or what if the debtor’s participation was imperfect because of impaired language skills or problems understanding content? Is it a § 109(h) briefing if the NBCCA was supplied incomplete, inaccurate or fabricated financial information? Can a law office substitute generic financial information when a debtor needs a briefing before actual financial information can be gathered?
These are not idle questions. Sooner or later it will be in somebody’s interest to challenge whether what the debtor did before the petition actually was a briefing for § 109(h) purposes. Not long after the enactment of BAPCPA, one court described how this issue would unfold.
In In re Hawkins,24 the debtor asserted that “regular” credit counseling obtained before the Chapter 13 petition satisfied § 109(h) and that only the § 521(b) certificate25 was lacking. Likening the § 109(h) briefing to the jurisdictional amount in diversity litigation, the bankruptcy court gave this ominous portend of a defective prepetition briefing:
Without question, the debtor obtained counseling prior to the petition date from “an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency.” It is less clear, however, whether that agency “outlined the opportunities for available credit counseling and assisted such individual in performing a related budget analysis.” Congress did not explain what it meant by “available credit counseling” and “a related budget analysis” . . . leaving the court to guess as to what must be addressed specifically in a credit counseling session for that session to count for purposes of § 109(h). . . . It may well be the case that an evidentiary hearing on the issue would reveal that the counseling provided . . . does not in fact satisfy the requirements of § 109(h). . . . For purposes of this court’s limited inquiry into the basis for subject matter jurisdiction, . . . a debtor need only make a colorable claim that she has received such counseling for the court to assert jurisdiction. But if a party in interest were to file a motion to dismiss the debtor’s case for failure to comply with § 109(h), the court would then need to decide as a factual and legal matter whether the debtor actually received such counseling.26
Eligibility under § 109(h) is dependent upon the debtor’s receiving the prepetition briefing described in § 109(h). Hawkins says that eligibility under § 109(h) may be “jurisdictional” in the sense that a defective briefing cannot be waived or cured. Without an eligible debtor, there may be no bankruptcy case to administer.27 Upon objection at any time the bankruptcy court is obligated to examine the basis of its jurisdiction, and that examination may include inquiry into whether an adequate § 109(h) prepetition briefing took place.
Reported cases tell us more about what isn’t a briefing than they tell us about what is. Also, as the senselessness of the prepetition briefing process has sunk into the bankruptcy community, debtors and their attorneys have tested the boundaries of permitted practice.
One of the first things to pop out is that a potential debtor has to take exactly the right course of study before the petition, else no briefing and not eligible. This would seem self-evident and silly if not for redundant silliness by Congress in 2005 with respect to debtor “education.”
Detailed elsewhere,28 in addition to the prepetition briefing, to be eligible for discharge in a Chapter 13 case under § 1328(g)(1), every debtor must also submit to an “instructional course” concerning personal financial management.29 This instructional course on financial management is not the same thing as the prepetition briefing, but predictably, debtors have been confused by the two responsibilities and have obtained the wrong course at the wrong time. It has been held that an “instructional course concerning financial management” completed before the petition does not satisfy the prepetition briefing requirement in § 109(h).30
This is cruel and unnecessary punishment for a transgression without injury. No reported decision compares the “curriculum” for a prepetition briefing and the content of an instructional course on financial management. But for the very thing completely ignored by the U.S. Trustee Program in the design and supervision of these two programs—the statutory requirement that the briefing “outline[ ] opportunities for available credit counseling”—there is little difference between what many NBCCAs do in a prepetition briefing and what many providers do in the financial management course. If anything, there is more useful information in the typical instructional course than in the typical briefing. But form has prevailed over substance. It has to be called a briefing (or “credit counseling”)—the course on financial management won’t suffice, even if delivered before the petition. This refusal to consider whether a financial management course can substitute for a briefing is difficult to reconcile with cases that have found “substantial compliance” with other parts of § 109(h) is enough.31
Another thing that is not an acceptable prepetition briefing is when a debtor does less than all of whatever the NBCCA defines as a complete briefing. For example, in In re Ingram,32 the prepetition briefing consisted of two parts—an Internet portion and a telephone portion. The telephone portion apparently included “budget analysis.” Before filing the Chapter 13 petition, the debtor completed the online portion, but the telephone component was not completed until the next day. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Sixth Circuit concluded that half a briefing was too brief:
[T]he Debtor did not complete the required credit counseling until after he filed his petition. . . . Debtor did not complete the telephone portion of the briefing or receive his individual budget analysis, a mandatory portion of the counseling under § 109(h), until . . . the day after his petition was filed. . . . Compliance with § 109(h) is a prerequisite to obtaining relief under the Bankruptcy Code. By definition, an individual may not be a debtor who is eligible for bankruptcy relief unless he has complied with § 109(h).33
Missing from the BAP’s analysis in Ingram is a definition of “briefing” for § 109(h) purposes. Perhaps the Internet portion completed by the debtor before the petition in Ingram was enough briefing to be a § 109(h) briefing. Until courts tackle the meaning of briefing under the statute, we are stuck with the U.S. Trustee Program’s inflated conception as misapplied by NBCCAs.
Then there is the predicate question whether the debtor must obtain the briefing personally or can an agent be briefed in the debtor’s stead? Perhaps surprisingly, during the vetting of the U.S. Trustee Program rules for NBCCAs between 2008 and 2013, the Executive Office for United States Trustees said this about “third party” briefings:
Furthermore, EOUST declines to prohibit third parties from completing counseling on behalf of a client under appropriate circumstances, such as under a valid power of attorney sufficient to authorize the individual to file a bankruptcy petition on behalf of a client. To the extent state law authorizes powers of attorney, EOUST does not object to the completion of counseling by duly authorized attorneys-in-fact on behalf of clients.34
The question whether an agent can obtain the prepetition briefing for the debtor has been addressed by courts in different contexts, some more benign than others. For example, in In re Mackey,35 the debtor confessed that “Debtor’s Credit Counseling Course was completed by Debtor’s wife.”36 A power of attorney was exhibited attesting to a counseling session by Internet. The U.S. trustee objected that the debtor was not eligible because “a credit counseling certificate obtained by a third party acting as a debtor’s legal representative must ‘set forth the name of the legal representative and legal capacity of that representative.’ 28 C.F.R. § 58.22(o)”37 The bankruptcy court found the debtor’s prepetition briefing certificate38 deficient because it did not disclose the name of the debtor’s wife as the “representative” who actually took the course and it failed to describe the representative’s legal capacity—this information was in a letter from counsel to the court but was not contained in the briefing certificate. Mr. Mackey’s case was dismissed for ineligibility.
In In re Piontek,39 husband-wife debtors filed a joint petition, but the prepetition briefing was attended by only one spouse. The other spouse completed the briefing and received a briefing certificate after the petition. The bankruptcy court concluded that a prepetition briefing attended by one spouse cannot satisfy the § 109(h) eligibility requirement for a filing spouse that did not participate:
The Court rejects the notion that the credit counseling briefing obtained by Mr. Piontek may be imputed to Ms. Burke. . . . [T]he plain language of BAPCPA unequivocally requires that all debtors obtain credit counseling as a condition to bankruptcy eligibility . . . and nothing in the Bankruptcy Code suggests that an individual debtor may delegate such obligation to another party.40
Another bankruptcy court held that the prepetition briefing requirement in § 109(h) is a nondelegable obligation that cannot be performed by an attorney-in-fact or other agent. In In re Estep,41 the debtor filed a briefing certificate stating that the prepetition briefing was obtained by a third party “acting with a power of attorney granted her by debtor.” The bankruptcy court analyzed § 109(h) to reach this conclusion:
The credit counseling requirement under 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(1) is not a delegable obligation. . . . [W]hile Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9010(a)(2) does allow a “debtor, creditor, equity security holder, indenture trustee, committee or other party” to “perform any act not constituting the practice of law, by an authorized agent, attorney in fact, or proxy,” this does not reach so far as to permit an agent to satisfy the credit counseling requirement for principals seeking bankruptcy protection, even if it was the agent’s decision to file bankruptcy on behalf of his principals in the first place. . . . The text and structure of § 109(h) both make absolutely clear that Congress did not intend agents to be able to take the credit counseling requirement in the place of their principals . . . . The strongest evidence of Congress’ intent that the obligation be personal and non-delegable lies not in the requirement itself, but in the exceptions to that requirement. . . . If Congress had meant for debtors to either complete a credit briefing themselves or have someone acting as attorney-in-fact for them do so, there would have been no reason to exempt debtors suffering from incapacity or disability from the requirement at all; the responsibility would simply pass to their designated agents. This compels the common-sense conclusion that the credit counseling requirement is a non-delegable requirement; an agent can no more take a credit counseling class for his principal than he could take a driver’s education course or attend [drug] rehabilitation sessions for his principal.42
Pushing things a bit further, in In re James,43 the debtors completed a prepetition briefing within the 180 days prior to the petition allowed by § 109(h) but did not physically obtain the required certificate.44 The control number provided by the NBCCA that would have allowed the debtors to obtain the official certificates expired and certificates became unavailable. Then real trouble began. A paralegal in the debtors’ attorney’s office went online and repeated the prepetition briefing course for the debtors, altering time entries. A falsified certificate was then filed with the bankruptcy court. Apparently, debtors’ attorney had no knowledge of the paralegal’s action until after the filing, but the attorney was professionally responsible for the paralegal’s misconduct. Counsel was ordered to pay a $2,500 sanction and reimburse fees paid by the debtors.
Pushing the envelope too far, in Goldberg v. Goodman (In re Goodman),45 the debtor supplied information to the attorney’s staff, and staff then obtained a prepetition briefing certificate without the debtor present. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Ninth Circuit found that this practice produced a false briefing certificate that did not satisfy § 109(h):
As for the credit counseling, Goldberg [debtors’ attorney] testified that while a client could do it at home, 99% of his clients completed the credit counseling at his office. . . . Goldberg testified that to save time a staff member would input the information, stating that the client might not even realize they are taking a credit counseling course. . . . [H]is office obtained sufficient personal information to complete the credit counseling without Debtor’s presence based on her completed questionnaire included in the packet during the May 2008 visit. . . . [N]one of Goldberg’s witnesses could establish that Debtor completed the credit counseling in Goldberg’s office. . . . [T]he [bankruptcy] court concluded that Goldberg or his staff impersonated Debtor, improperly obtained her CC Certificate, and filed it in bad faith. The court found that such conduct violated Rule 9011, several ethical rules, and possibly criminal statutes. . . . The Rule 9011 “safe harbor” exception does not apply when . . . the violation involves the petition, since the filing of the petition has immediate serious consequences to creditors, including the imposition of the automatic stay. . . . Despite knowing that Debtor had not obtained it as required under § 109(h), Goldberg nevertheless filed the document. Accordingly, such filing had been done in bad faith.46
In some of these cases, it is hard to tell whether the problem is sharp practice by debtors’ attorneys or something wrong with the prepetition briefing process. The takeaway is that debtors should complete the prepetition briefing course personally and be sure to obtain the required certificate before filing the Chapter 13 petition.47
1 See Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-8, 119 Stat. 23 (2005).
2 See § 18.1 In General.
3 See § 20.1 In General, § 20.2 Timing, Procedure and Form for Certification of Exigent Circumstances, § 20.3 Which Circumstances Are Exigent and Which Exigent Circumstances Merit a Waiver?, § 20.4 Prepetition Request and § 20.5 Briefing after Temporary Exemption.
5 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(1) (“[A]n individual may not be a debtor under this title unless such individual has . . . received . . . [a] . . . briefing.”).
6 The consequences of failing to receive a § 109(h) prepetition briefing are discussed in § 9.5 Consequences of Ineligibility: Jurisdiction; Automatic Stay; Strike, Dismiss or Excuse?.
7 See 11 U.S.C. § 111, discussed below and in § 18.1 In General.
10 See http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/docs/CC_Application_Instructions.pdf, at 4 (visited Jan. 22, 2007).
11 https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111 (last visited May 5, 2017).
12 See 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138 (Mar. 14, 2013). The Rules were effective April 15, 2013, and can be found at 28 C.F.R. Part 58.
13 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138-01, 16,139 (Mar. 14, 2013).
14 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138-01, 16,139 (Mar. 14, 2013).
15 See 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(1), (h)(2)(A) and (h)(3)(A)(ii).
18 Mid-South Commercial Law Institute, Nashville, Tenn. (Nov. 17, 2006) (Attorney wishes to remain unnamed.).
19 11 U.S.C. § 111(c)(2)(B).
20 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138-01, 16,145 (Mar. 14, 2013).
21 See 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138-01, 16,144–45 (Mar. 14, 2013).
22 See § 20.3 Which Circumstances Are Exigent and Which Exigent Circumstances Merit a Waiver?. See, e.g., In re Piontek, 346 B.R. 126, 130 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. July 5, 2006) (Deller) (“As a general proposition, it is this Court’s opinion that a debtor who lacks sufficient resources to pay for credit counseling may, under the right circumstances, have a de facto ‘inability’ to obtain pre-bankruptcy credit counseling for purposes of 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(3)(A)(ii). Indeed, such ‘inability’ to pay for credit counseling may be a ‘satisfactory’ reason for the Court to grant a temporary waiver of the credit counseling requirements mandated by BAPCPA.”).
24 340 B.R. 642 (Bankr. D.D.C. Apr. 20, 2006) (Teel).
26 In re Hawkins, 340 B.R. at 647–48.
27 This issue is discussed in detail in § 9.5 Consequences of Ineligibility: Jurisdiction; Automatic Stay; Strike, Dismiss or Excuse?.
28 See § 156.5 Instructional Course Requirement for discussion of “Instructional Courses Concerning Personal Financial Management” in 11 U.S.C. § 111.
29 See 11 U.S.C. § 1328(g)(1), discussed in § 156.5 Instructional Course Requirement.
30 See In re Irwin, No. 09-20007, 2009 WL 5322418, at *1–*2 (Bankr. S.D. Ga. Apr. 8, 2009) (Dalis) (Prepetition briefing required by § 109(h) is not the same as the postpetition personal financial management course required by § 1328(g)(1); debtor confessed ineligibility by certifying completion of an Internet-based personal financial management course on the day of the petition. “[T]he credit counseling required pre-petition under § 109(h)(1) is not interchangeable with the personal financial management course required post-petition under § 1328(g)(1) as a condition of discharge. . . . Irwin certified that she completed the post-petition requirement of a course in personal financial management. . . . The critical deficiency was Irwin’s failure either to complete or attempt to complete a course in credit counseling. Further, because Irwin cannot turn back the clock to perform an act that she was required to perform before filing her petition, this critical deficiency cannot be cured.”); In re Winston, No. 07-20593-D-13L, 2007 WL 1650926 (Bankr. E.D. Cal. June 6, 2007) (unpublished) (Bardwil) (Disabled debtor who mistakenly completed a course on personal financial management has not received a prepetition briefing for § 109(h) purposes.).
31 See discussion of Burns v. George Basilikas Trust, 599 F.3d 673 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 26, 2010) (Rogers, Tatel, Williams), and Kistler v. Meza (In re Meza), No. 2:06cv1307 MCE, 2007 WL 1821416 (E.D. Cal. June 25, 2007) (unpublished) (England), in § 20.2 Timing, Procedure and Form for Certification of Exigent Circumstances.
32 460 B.R. 904 (B.A.P. 6th Cir. Dec. 16, 2011) (Boswell, Fulton, McIvor).
33 In re Ingram, 460 B.R. at 909–10.
34 Application Procedures and Criteria for Approval of Nonprofit Budget and Credit Counseling Agencies by United States Trustees, 78 Fed. Reg. 16,138-01, 16,147 (Mar. 14, 2013).
35 565 B.R. 238 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2017) (Trust).
36 In re Mackey, 565 B.R. at 239.
37 In re Mackey, 565 B.R. at 240.
39 346 B.R. 126 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. July 5, 2006) (Deller).
40 In re Piontek, 346 B.R. at 132 n.4.
41 No. 08-62163, 2008 WL 4367841 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio Sept. 16, 2008) (Kendig).
42 In re Estep, 2008 WL 4367841, at *1–*2.
43 No. 09-11264, 2010 WL 2107428 (Bankr. W.D.N.C. Apr. 1, 2010) (unpublished) (Hodges).
45 No. NV-12-1643-KiCoD, 2013 WL 4767741 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. Sept. 5, 2013) (unpublished) (Kirscher, Collins, Dunn).
46 In re Goodman, 2013 WL 4767741, at *10–*15. See also Goldberg v. Pagaduan (In re Pagaduan), 447 B.R. 614 (D. Nev. Mar. 25, 2011) (Dawson) (Debtors did not complete prepetition briefing when someone in attorney’s office impersonated debtors online to obtain certificates.), aff’g in part, vacating in part, 429 B.R. 752 (Bankr. D. Nev. Apr. 12, 2010) (Markell) (Debtors’ attorney sanctioned when attorney, or someone in his office, committed forgery by signing signatures of debtors to credit counseling certificates. Debtors testified they were in Canada and did not participate in credit counseling. That attorney or someone in his office impersonated debtors online to complete credit counseling class constituted forgery and potential crime, requiring referral to U.S. Attorney. Bankruptcy Rule 9010 authorizes actions by attorney-in-fact but does not give attorney-at-law authority to take credit counseling classes for clients. Filing certificates violated Rule 9011(b), since certificates were generated by impersonating debtors, making it impossible for attorney to truthfully certify that filings were accurate. Attorney violated Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct by making false statements to tribunal and by engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Sanctions included repaying $1,000 to debtors, paying court $4,920 expected fee, and providing copy of published opinion to clients in all cases in which professional services exceeded $5,000.).