A Supreme Court ruling Tuesday will make it tougher for lenders to protect their interests in secured loans.

The court decided that federal bankruptcy law, rather than state statute, applies to a lender's right to record secured assets with state authorities.

The case, Fidelity Financial Services v. Fink, involved a $14,000 car loan. The lender failed to record its claim on the car within 20 days as required by federal statute. So, when the borrower declared bankruptcy, the trustee lumped Fidelity Financial with all unsecured creditors. Fidelity Financial had argued that it wasn't bound by the 20-day limit because its claim was recorded within Missouri's 30-day timetable.

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