NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Individuals have started filing bankruptcies at a higher pace than a year ago as they seek protection from creditors under existing law before new bankruptcy legislation takes effect in October, according to an annual report.
USA Today reported Tuesday that bankruptcy filings surged 12 percent in April, May and June from the same period last year, according to exclusive numbers from research firm LexisNexis. The newspaper said that compares with a 2.6 percent decline during the first three months of the year, LexisNexis says.
The new law, which passed Congress April 13, takes effect Oct. 17. It puts limits on use of Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, which allows individuals to shed debt, and forces them to reorganize their finances under Chapter 13, which requires debts to be paid.
"People are certainly expecting a last-minute rush," says Henry Sommer, editor in chief of Collier on Bankruptcy, which is a guide for bankruptcy attorneys.
Banks and credit card issuers were among the major forces pushing for the new bill. But they could be hurt in the short-term by the spike in filings.
Citigroup (Research) told investors last week that an increase in filings by individuals added about $175 million to credit costs in its North American credit card business in the second quarter. Chief Financial Officer Sallie Krawcheck told analysts that while the bank expects bankruptcy rates could moderate, there is likely to be "another spike up" before the law takes effect.
For more on what the new bankruptcy law means for individuals, click here.