Amateur investors that scooped up JC Penney shares prior to filing bankruptcy are now asking a judge to give them some reprieve as they look to approve its restructuring plans.

These investors are pleading with the bankruptcy judge to avoid being wiped out of the investments they made leading up to department store retailer’s bankruptcy filing, claiming they had no knowledge that Chapter 11 was coming for JC Penney as it previously announced that it was undergoing a transformation plan to turnaround its business, Bloomberg reported.

In one letter obtained by the news outlet to the bankruptcy judge, John Hardt, a  50-year-old investor who purchased 10,000 shares of JC Penney, wrote: “I hope and pray for you to consider the shareholders.”

Investors such as Hardt who picked up shares of the bankrupt company often find themselves learning an expensive lesson as they lose all they invested through the bankruptcy process as shareholder value disappears virtually every time.

JC Penney, which filed for bankruptcy in May, has been criticized for not yet announcing a buyer after being courted by Amazon, Authentic Brands Group, and mall operators Simon Property Group Inc. and Brookfield Property Partners, Bloomberg said.

But Joshua Sussberg, JC Penney’s bankruptcy lawyer from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, said at the company’s June 9 hearing that “if there is any possible way ... to give a meaningful recovery to shareholders, we will fight for it.”

Investors in JC Penney may be holding out for a buyer to pay cash for any outstanding shares, but that is a practice that is unheard of in bankruptcy as any value that is recuperated is given to lenders with senior collateral claims and any remaining balance then forwarded to unsecured lenders and vendors.

At the time JC Penney entered bankruptcy, it had $2 billion in secured debt and $9 billion in total debt.

JCPenney will close some stores in phases as part of its restructuring JCPenney will close some stores in phases as part of its restructuring Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JUSTIN SULLIVAN