Assignment for the benefit of the creditors (ABC)(also known as general assignment for the benefit of the creditors) is a voluntary alternative to formal bankruptcy proceedings that transfers all of the assets from a debtor to a trust for liquidating and distributing its assets. The trustee will manage the assets to pay off debt to creditors, and if any assets are left over, they will be transferred back to the debtor.
ABC can provide many benefits to an insolvent business in lieu of bankruptcy. First, unlike in bankruptcy proceedings, the business can choose the trustee overseeing the process who might know the specifics of the business better than an appointed trustee. Second, bankruptcy proceedings can take much more time, involve more steps, and further restrict how the business is liquidated compared to an ABC which avoids judicial oversight. Thirdly, dissolving or transferring a company through an ABC often avoids the negative publicity that bankruptcy generates. Lastly, a company trying to purchase assets of a struggling company can avoid liability to unsecured creditors of the failing company. This is important because most other options would expose the acquiring business to all the debt of the struggling business.
ABC has risen in popularity since the early 2000s, but it varies based on the state. California embraces ABC with common law oversight while many states use stricter statutory ABC structures such as Florida. Also, depending on the state’s corporate law and the company’s charter, the struggling business may be forced to get shareholder approval to use ABC which can be difficult in large corporations.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]