The American Optometric Society (AOS) must liquidate its assets and cease operations, following a judge’s ruling in US Bankruptcy Court in mid-July.
The decision came as a result of American Board of Optometry’s (ABO) petition to convert the AOS’s bankruptcy case from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to one under Chapter 7.
Generally, Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows an organization to restructure its debt and continue operations. But a Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires an organization to liquidate all of its assets to pay off its debt.
In this case, the AOS’s bankruptcy stems from a court order to pay the ABO’s attorney fees (to the tune of $462,508), which were incurred from the AOS’s false advertising lawsuit against the ABO last year.
In that earlier suit, the AOS had argued the ABO’s use of the term “board certification” is “false, misleading, confusing, deceptive or unfair.” But, the US District Court decided that the AOS had failed to prove its case, and in August 2012 ruled in the ABO’s favor—all of which led up to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy ruling in July 2013.
“We are pleased with the judge’s decision,” said Paul Ajamian, OD, ABO chairman of the board. “This verdict, along with the prior court ruling that the AOS lawsuit was ‘groundless and unreasonable,’ highlights the impropriety of [the AOS’s] divisive conduct, justifying strong and swift action by the ABO. The hostile and acrimonious rhetoric generated by a handful of individuals set on slowing the progress of our profession has failed, and their organization has been ordered to cease operating.”
The AOS board of directors said in a statement that, although it must cease operations, its spirit will continue through its members.
“Less than 5% of all ODs have pursued board certification,” said Pamela Miller, OD, JD, AOS board president. ”The majority of ODs will continue to make their opposition to board certification known. Individually, we are not going away.”