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For the Phoenix album, see Bankrupt! Bankruptcy is a legal status of a person or other entity that cannot repay debts to creditors. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor. Bankruptcy is not the only legal status that an insolvent person may have, and the term bankruptcy is therefore not a synonym for insolvency. The word bankruptcy is derived from Italian banca rotta, meaning “broken bank”, which may stem from a widespread custom in the Republic of Genoa of breaking a moneychanger’s bench or counter to signify his insolvency, or which may be only a figure of speech. Failure of John Law’s Mississippi Company led to French national bankruptcy in 1720. In Ancient Greece, bankruptcy did not exist.

If a man owed and he could not pay, he and his wife, children or servants were forced into “debt slavery”, until the creditor recouped losses through their physical labour. The Statute of Bankrupts of 1542 was the first statute under English law dealing with bankruptcy or insolvency. Bankruptcy is also documented in East Asia. A failure of a nation to meet bond repayments has been seen on many occasions. Philip II of Spain had to declare four state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1575 and 1596. The principal focus of modern insolvency legislation and business debt restructuring practices no longer rests on the elimination of insolvent entities, but on the remodeling of the financial and organizational structure of debtors experiencing financial distress so as to permit the rehabilitation and continuation of the business. For private households, some argue that it is insufficient to merely dismiss debts after a certain period.

It is important to assess the underlying problems and to minimize the risk of financial distress to re-occur. In the US, it is very difficult to discharge federal or federally guaranteed student loan debt by filing bankruptcy. The borrower has made a good faith effort to repay the student loans. Even if a debtor proves all three elements, a court may permit only a partial discharge of the student loan.