Through Saturday, October 15, more than 1.4 million Americans had filed for personal bankruptcy, a figure that was nearly 20 percent higher than the similar period last year. Business bankruptcies jumped 153 percent.

This last-minute rush at the lawyers’ offices was prompted by the new bankruptcy reform law (Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2003), which took effect on October 17.

Under the new law, if a New Jersey family’s income exceeds the state median ($55,221), that family may have to file for Chapter 13, not Chapter 7, which expunges most debt. Consumers who want to file for Chapter 7 must first participate in credit counseling from an approved, non-profit credit counseling agency. After they file, they must participate in a financial education session before their debts are discharged.

On the surface this sounds like good financial sense, to teach big spenders how to live within their means.

Opponents of the new law believe it is unfair to the working poor, those who simply don’t earn enough money to make ends meet. Pat Nanda, of Creative Business Decisions (CBD) on Roszel Road, is convinced the law will drive more people into delinquency. His 22-year-old company builds credit and risk scoring models used by issuers of credit to individuals and businesses. Its web-based software help auto lenders reconfigure credit scores for those who might otherwise have their loans rejected.

Theoretically the new law will help his company, but Nanda opposed the law. "Now people have to pay someone to advise them how to get out of debt, when they can’t get out of debt because of their circumstance," says Nanda. "They will pay more and the probability of them getting the right kind of bankruptcy is less."

Increasing the delinquent population increases the number of those with low credit scores, called the "sub prime" population. "People are going to prey upon them by charging exorbitant interest rates," says Nanda. "In a "rich get richer and poor get poorer" scenario, the sub prime debtors pay 20 to 30 percent interest on their credit cards, in contrast to the 15 percent interest that those with good credit ratings pay, says Nanda.

Nanda hopes he can help high interest-paying consumers buy homes and get lower rates. With his latest web-based software, which simulates how the three major credit bureaus calculate their scores, a consumer could see how his credit score might change if he took a particular action – paying off credit card A versus credit card B, for instance.

"I am looking at people who typically rent, who have stable jobs as bank tellers or prison guards and they are paying anywhere from $800 to $1,300 a month in rent. They don’t know or have a clue that they are eligible to buy a home. The first level is to have them buy a home. The second level is how to get a good interest rate. That’s where the simulation comes in," says Nanda. He and a partner will target the Hispanic market.

Nanda quotes Dickens’ "Tale of Two Cities," to say that the new law also brings "the best of times and worst of times." Those who do manage to declare bankruptcy will be quite popular with the credit card companies. "The credit card companies will jump on them faster because they know they can’t declare bankruptcy for another seven years."

Creative Business Decisions Inc., 12 Roszel Road, Suite B 200, Princeton 08540. Pat Nanda, president. 609-452-9551; fax, 609-452-0614. Home page: www.cbdcredit.com

Bankruptcy Move

Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 210, Plainsboro 08536. Prasada Reddy Kambham, vice president. 609-716-1190; fax, 609-716-1142. Home page: www.aurobindo.com

Able Laboratories (ABRX), 1 Able Drive, Cranbury 08512-3609. 609-495-2800; fax, 609-495-2705. Home page: www.ablelabs.com

U.S. Bankruptcy Court is scheduled to hear Able Laboratories motion that it will auction its assets, using Aurobindo Pharma USA as a "stalking horse" bidder. Aurobindo, a generic drug manufacturer like Able, was founded in 1988 and is based in Hyderabad but has a U.S. office at Princeton Meadows Office Center (U.S. 1, March 24, 2004). Able has entered into a nonbonding letter of intent with Aurobindo Pharma USA for the sale of its assets.

In July Able filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and in August it decided to sell its business and assets.

Name Change

Doral Forrestal, 100 College Road East, Princeton 08540. 609-452-7800; fax, 609-452-7883. Home page: www.doralforrestal.com

In January the Doral Forrestal will change its name and be rebranded as a Marriott hotel, but the owners, Interstate Hotels and Resorts Inc. of Arlington, Virginia, will remain the same. The Marriott had administered what is now the Westin Hotel and Conference Center in Forrestal Village. Interstate leases the land from Princeton University.

Expansions

The Rock Brook Consulting Group, 103 Melrich Road, Cranbury 08512. Greg DeMarco, President. 609-655-2055; fax, 609-655-2044. Home page: www.therockbrook.com

In March, 2004, after 13 years as a managing principal in a major New Jersey engineering services firm, which he grew from 1 to 60 employees, Greg DeMarco, 46, went out on his own and founded the Rock Brook Consulting Group, an engineering services firm providing full mechanical, engineering, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection services. (The other firm needs to remain anonymous due to legal issues.)

The company has expanded and grown exponentially. With 20 employees it just moved into 3,000 square feet of office space on Melrich Road. "We took off like a rocket," says DeMarco. "We just moved into larger space and we’re already close to outgrowing it."

For a company that has been around for only a year and a half, DeMarco and his team have landed some pretty big fish, including Daiichi Pharmaceutical’s U.S. headquarters in Madison and a five-star resort on 500 acres in Peapack-Gladstone. The Daiichi project, which involved turning a 24-year-old building into a state-of-the-art facility, won the Morris County Commercial Real Estate Impact Award. The resort job, for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin conglomerate, involves renovating an existing mansion that was formerly owned by the king of Morocco. It is the only U.S. location for a Virgin resort, and it will include a hotel, restaurants, and spa.

Other contracts include one for Johnson & Johnson to create the engineering guidelines to be used in every J&J building worldwide. A baseload engineering contract has just been awarded by Pfizer. Rock Brook provided engineering services for a regional sales office for Microsoft in Metropark. And the company will be soon be working on the base building infrastructure for a 210,000 square-foot facility in Woodcliff Lakes for Advance Realty.

DeMarco credits his success to his team, which has both recent graduates from the Rutgers school of engineering, as well as professionals with 20 to 40 years of engineering experience under their belts. "When we first started out, we were presenting to the senior management of the Fortune 100 based on my contacts in the business. To their credit, they weren’t afraid to hire a firm that was one year old, because of the quality of my team."

"The people at Matrix development brought us in on the Liberty Commons project in Trenton because they’ve known me for years. But Lundbeck Pharmaceutical didn’t know me. They sent four guys from Denmark over to review us and other national firms. They were looking for technical ability, maturity, and integrity. Those are things you can’t fake. It had absolutely nothing to do with fee. Being selected is a testament to the quality of our team."

It’s a good thing DeMarco loves his job, because he spends a lot of time doing it. Making it a bit easier is the fact that his wife, Anne L. DeMarco, serves as both CFO and legal counsel for the firm. She received her J.D. from Villanova, and, before joining Rock Brook, worked for Hill Wallach. The couple and their four children live in Skillman.

DeMarco, who was raised in Brooklyn as one of three boys by his schoolteacher father, and a mother who taught four foreign languages, received a B.A. in mechanical engineering from Notre Dame in 1982 and an MBA from Rutgers in 1998.

"Being in complete control of my own business makes me want to do better. Clients see that," says DeMarco.

One of the firm’s strengths, he believes, is its ability to take the technical aspects of a project and translate the financial ramifications for the client. "Many of our clients don’t understand engineering details such as BTUs and watts. But when I sit down with the CFO and say ‘this is going to cost you $2 million, but here’s how we can save $1.5 million,’ he picks his head up."

From where DeMarco is standing, the future looks bright. "New Jersey is alive and well. Look at what’s happening with these major corporations. And they’re all our clients."

Proquest Investments, 90 Nassau Street, Fifth Floor, Princeton 08542. Pasquale DeAngelis, chief financial officer. 609-919-3560; fax, 609-375-1047. Home page: www.proquestvc.com

Proquest Investments, a venture capital firm specializing in healthcare management, expanded at the end of August from 600 Alexander Road to 90 Nassau. With 6,500 square feet located on the fifth floor, the new space almost doubles that of the old office. The firm reports $500 million under its management. Phone and fax remain the same.

New in Town

Competency Assessment Solutions, 332 Wall Street, Princeton 08540. Darica Ward, president. 609-921-8870, extension 101; fax, 609-921-7951. Home page: www.competencyassessmentsolutions.com

Darica Ward and Jane Donahue have founded Competency Assessment Solutions, which offers experience-based web-based solutions for healthcare competency measurement and reporting. Donahue was until recently the CEO of Princeton-based Consumer Health Services. She sold CHS to Grey WPP earlier this year. Having previously worked for Janssen Pharmaceutica, J & J, and Merck, she holds a Ph.D in social research from Bryn Mawr.

Ward has an MBA from American University and had been the director of compensation for the 13,000 employees of Inova Heath System in Virginia.

The company’s website has job-description templates to help hospitals streamline hiring, training, and performance appraisals and reviews. Employees can register for training and take courses online. Because the documents are web-based, healthcare employees can access their own records to see which courses have been assigned to them, register for them electronically, and take courses online.

PS Design, 2617 Main Street, Lawrenceville 08648. Pierre Sardain. 609-540-4128. Home page: www.pierresardaindesign.com

Pierre Sardain recently moved his two-year old design firm, PS Design, from Los Angeles to the second floor of 2617 Main Street in Lawrenceville. He relocated because his wife, Alison Easterling, teaches history at the Lawrenceville School.

PS Design has created a wide-range of projects for healthcare, shipping, management consulting, interior design, music, and non-profit clients. Sardain provides everything from graphic design for branding, logos, advertising, sales materials, catalogs, newsletters, posters and signage, and promotional items, to web design and programming.

His former positions include an eight year career with AB7, a French company that manufactures chemical-based products for home, garden, pool, and aquarium use. At AB7, he created an in-house graphic design studio, initiated and implemented a website, oversaw TV and magazine advertising, designed in-store marketing displays, and managed the design and packaging of five brand lines, covering more than 1,000 products.

From 1983 to 2003, Sardain served as art director for Harmonia Mundi USA, an independent music label in West Los Angeles, where, among other duties, he handled magazine ads, two monthly sales catalogs, and three corporate websites.

His formal training took place at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Toulouse where he earned a BFA in 1989 in graphic design. After moving to the United States in 1998, Sardain graduated from the FEMBA (Fully Employed MBA) program at the Anderson School at UCLA in 2003, with an emphasis in marketing and business strategy.

While Sardain’s background is heavy in corporate communication and design work, he most enjoys working with non-profit clients. He is currently negotiating a project with the Lawrenceville School, and has completed projects for the Norman Lear Center at USC, the Toulouse low-income housing authority, and the Utah Worker’s Compensation website.

People’s Choice Asset Management Group, 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 111, Princeton 08540. David E. Zimmer CFA, executive vice president. 609-936-1741; fax, 609-946-1508. Home page: www.pchl.com

People’s Choice Asset Management has opened an office at 103 Carnegie Center. The firm handles the mortgage portfolio for parent company, People’s Choice Home Loan, located in Irvine, California. PCHL opened this office for closer proximity to New York’s financial markets.

Legal Moves

Lawrence R. West Attorney at Law, 41 Airpark Road, Suite 1, Princeton 08540-5796. 609-279-1777; fax, 609-279-1778.

Lawrence R. West has opened a law practice near Princeton Airport at 41 Airpark Road. A part-time flight instructor, Lawrence retired after 28 years as a prosecutor in Middlesex County. Specializing in criminal defense and municipal court cases, West received his J.D. in 1973 from Rutgers Law School in Newark, and his undergraduate degree from Bucknell.

Mark H. Jaffe, Attorney, 195 Nassau Street, Princeton 08540. 609-683-7575; fax, 609-683-0906.

After 15 years at 20 Nassau Street, Mark Jaffe moved his general law practice on October 1st to 195 Nassau Street. Jaffe graduated in 1988 with a J.D. from the Cardoza School of Law at Yeshiva University. He also holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from Rutgers University. The phone and fax have changed. He focuses on real estate, family, and municipal court, and juvenile matters.

Deaths

Steven A. Clark, 52, on October 11. He was the chief of strategy, policy, and analysis at New Jersey Transit.

Joseph File, 82, on October 15. A physicist, File retired in 1993 after 37 years at Princeton University and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He was also a retired colonel in the Marine Corps.

Miriam E. Rothman, 72, on October 16. An entrepreneur, her ventures included Beck and Call, a firm that provided personal services to the Route 1 community in the 1980s.

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