The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in United States History

Written by Carly Hallman

The biggest bankruptcy of all time was declared by Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008. They had $691,063,000,000 in assets prior to bankruptcy.

Before filing for bankruptcy, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. Due to Lehman’s involvement in mortgage origination, it plummeted tremendously amid the 2008 mortgage crisis. Here are the 20 biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history and some noteworthy bankruptcies of 2017 and 2018.

20 Biggest Bankruptcies in US History Infographic

Would you like to embed this infographic on your site?

Washington Mutual, a savings and loan holding company, declared bankruptcy 11 days later due to the same financial crisis.

Washington Mutual’s was the second-largest bankruptcy of all time, with assets valued at $327,913,000,000. It was the largest savings and loan bank in America at the time.

The third-largest bankruptcy was by Worldcom Telecommunications on July 2, 2002, with assets of $103,914,000,000.

The downfall of what was once the largest global Internet network was triggered by a $4 billion accounting scandal. Auditors discovered that fraudulent accounting methods were used to hide Worldcom’s decreasing stock prices.

As for more recent financial calamities, here are five high-profile bankruptcies of 2018:

  1. Claire’s — In March, it announced that it would be closing some of its stores in an attempt to reduce its approximate $2.1 billion debt.
  2. Sears — When Sears filed for bankruptcy in October, it had 687 stores and about 68,000 employees. In February 2019, Sears chairman Eddie Lampert won court approval to buy Sears out of bankruptcy. The deal will keep about 400 stores open and save 45,000 jobs.
  3. Kmart — Kmart is a part of Sears Holdings and was affected by its parent company’s bankruptcy. Seventy percent of stores have closed in recent years.
  4. David’s Bridal — David’s Bridal declared bankruptcy in November. It was struggling with heavy debt, shifting tastes in the wedding industry, and a decline in U.S. marriage rates. It is now owned by lenders who helped reduce the debt load by about $450,000,000.
  5. Nine West — After filing for bankruptcy protection in April, Nine West closed down all 70 of its stores. The company sold its Nine West and Bandolino shoe and accessory businesses to Authentic Brands Group (owner of fashion brands like Frye, Vince Camuto, and Juicy Couture) in June for $340,000,000.

The Top 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in United States History, Ranked by Assets at Time of Bankruptcy

Company and Date Assets at the Time of Bankruptcy
Lehman Brothers
Sept. 15, 2008
$691,063,000,000
Washington Mutual
Sept. 26, 2008
$327,913,000,000
Worldcom Inc.
July 2, 2002
$103,914,000,000
General Motors
June 1, 2009
$82,290,000,000
CIT Group
Nov. 1, 2009
$71,000,000,000
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
Jan. 14, 2019
$71,000,000,000
Enron
Dec. 2, 2001
$65,503,000,000
Conseco
Dec. 17, 2002
$61,390,000,000
MF Global
Oct. 31, 2011
$41,000,000,000
Chrysler
April 30, 2009
$39,300,000,000
Thornburg Mortgage
Jan. 5, 2009
$36,521,000,000
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
April 6, 2001
$36,152,000,000
Texaco
Dec. 4, 1987
$34,940,000,000
Financial Corporation of America
Sept. 9, 1988
$33,864,000,000
Refco
Oct. 17, 2005
$33,333,000,000
IndyMac Bancorp
July 31, 2008
$32,734,000,000
Global Crossing
Jan. 28, 2002
$30,185,000,000
Bank of New England
July 1, 1991
$29,773,000,000
General Growth Properties
April 16, 2009
$29,557,000,000
Lyondell Chemical
June 1, 2009
$27,392,000,000

You might also like...