Chart of the day: the largest bankruptcies in US history

The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, with assets of over $600 billion is the largest in U.S. history. Wikipedia has catalogued the list of the largest U.S. bankruptcies of all time. (Hat tip: Börsennotizbuch)

Drum roll, please.

The current Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 1978 by § 101 of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978[34], and generally became effective on October 1, 1979. The current Code completely replaced the former Bankruptcy Act, sometimes called the “Nelson Act”[35], which initially entered into force in 1898. The current Code has been amended numerous times since 1978. See also the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Before 1898 there were several short-lived federal bankruptcy laws in the US. The first was the act of 1800[36] which was repealed in 1803, followed by the act of 1841[37] which was repealed in 1843, and then the act of 1867[38], which was amended in 1874[39] and repealed in 1878.

The largest bankruptcy in U.S. history occured on September 15, 2008, when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection with more than $639,000,000,000 in assets[40], greater the next 15 largest bankruptcies put together.

The next 15 largest corporate bankruptcies are as follows[41]:

Company Bankruptcy Date Total Assets Pre-Bankruptcy
Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. 9/15/2008 $639,000,000,000 (approximate)
Worldcom, Inc. 7/21/2002 $103,914,000,000
Enron Corp. 12/2/2001 $63,392,000,000
Conseco, Inc. 12/18/2002 $61,392,000,000
Texaco, Inc. 4/12/1987 $35,892,000,000
Financial Corp. of America 9/9/1988 $33,864,000,000
Refco Inc. 10/17/2005 $33,333,172,000
Global Crossing Ltd. 1/28/2002 $30,185,000,000
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. 4/6/2001 $29,770,000,000
UAL Corp. 12/9/2002 $25,197,000,000
Delta Air Lines, Inc. 9/14/2005 $21,801,000,000
Adelphia Communications 6/25/2002 $21,499,000,000
MCorp 3/31/1989 $20,228,000,000
Mirant Corporation 7/14/2003 $19,415,000,000
Delphi Corporation 10/8/2005 $16,593,000,000
First Executive Corp. 5/13/1991 $15,193,000,000

Bankruptcy in the United States, Wikipedia

  1. dearieme says

    But if they were index-linked, would any from the far past appear on the list?

  2. Edward Harrison says

    Very good point! I haven’t had the time or desire as yet to inflation adjust these bankruptcies and ones further down the list. Continental Illinois went bust and I believe this would surely make the list as they were a very large institution.

    What is interesting to note is the relative size of the financial sector these days. The financialization of the US economy makes financial services bankruptcies that much more impactful.

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More