Failed online lender NextCard Inc. goes under

By Michael Liedtke The Associated Press
Friday November 15, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Failed online credit card issuer NextCard Inc. sought bankruptcy protection Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to come back as a financial services consultant. 

The Chapter 11 filing, made in a Delaware bankruptcy court, had been anticipated. Federal regulators seized San Francisco-based NextCard’s bank nine months ago and then cut off its credit card operations in July. 

The company had been staying afloat under a short-term service contract with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The agency ended the arrangement on Oct. 31. 

A one-time darling of the dot-com boom, NextCard fell into trouble with regulators a a year ago after issuing too many credit cards to deadbeat borrowers. 

NextCard listed the taxpayer-backed FDIC as its largest creditor with a debt of $140 million. 

In court papers, the company said the FDIC last month agreed to waive the obligation in exchange for a stake in NextCard’s reorganized business or part of the proceeds if the business is liquidated. 

Either way, the FDIC figures to sustain a substantial loss on NextCard’s failure. The agency has previously estimated its losses on NextCard could run as high as $400 million. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating NextCard’s downfall. 

Despite its collapse, NextCard believes it can survive as a consultant to other financial services firms. 

NextCard “believes that such institutions can derive significant value from (the company’s) intellectual property,” Robert Linderman, the company’s general counsel, said in a sworn declaration. 

If its reorganization plan doesn’t pan out, NextCard said it will liquidate. There doesn’t appear to be much left for creditors. As of Sept. 30, NextCard said it had $18 million in assets. 

Besides the FDIC, NextCard’s other major creditors include Amazon.com Inc., which is seeking $10.5 million for an alleged breach of contract. NextCard disagrees with Amazon.com’s claim. 

The bankruptcy filing didn’t elaborate on the nature of the dispute. Seattle-based Amazon.com, which owns an 8 percent stake in NextCard, had operated an incentive program rewarding consumers that ran up big balances on NextCard’s Visa cards. 

Thursday’s bankruptcy represented another crushing blow for NextCard, which once promised to revolutionize the credit card business. 

The comedown hurt NextCard’s shareholders, customers and employees.