Posts filed under ‘Economy’

And down the stretch they come…

With the legislative session scheduled to end sometime tomorrow, this is the time when most of the really important stuff is voted on, amended, or left to wither on the vine until next January.

While there are a bunch of bills that I will be talking about in the coming weeks there is of course one that continues to grab the attention of all faithful bloggers; I am talking about the Banking Development District bill which continues to advance. Yesterday it passed the Assembly without being laid aside for debate. The final tally was 83 to 9.

Remember now is the time to be contacting all those Senators and debunk all the nonsense the banks have been telling them. For one thing, credit unions do pay taxes, lots of them. You may also want to point out that this bill does nothing more than allow credit unions to participate in a program that would assist areas with a dearth of banking services.

A second issue that came up yesterday doesn’t deal with legislation, but it is a pressing concern not only in NY, but to anyone who offers mortgage loans across the country. State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, issued a report calling for enhanced state/federal coordination of water quality standards. This gives me the opportunity to sound off on one of my personal pet peeves.

No one is ever going to accuse me of being a tree-hugger, but my research of issues surrounding the water contamination in Hoosick Falls and the potential ramifications of hydro-fracking has demonstrated to me that lenders must get clearer guidance from the federal government and the GSE’s in particular about baseline environmental standards including water quality.

As it stands right now any time a mortgage is sold to the secondary market the seller is making strict liability guarantees regarding the environmental safety of the area in which the property is located. If these warranties are breached the lender can be made to repurchase the mortgage. Obviously, this makes sense if someone is selling land in love canal, but most environmental issues are not as clear cut as the extreme cases that get national attention. The result is that lenders who work with the GSE’s are forced to make tough decisions about the long term environmental impacts dealing with issues such as water quality and mediation, often with little guidance from the Federal Government.

Furthermore, many of the areas in need of environmental remediation are already suffering from economic decline. The hesitancy of lenders to lend in these areas (even for a short time) makes these declines even more dramatic.

I applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for highlighting the importance of this issue, but I would suggest that any comprehensive analysis is incomplete unless it also highlights the need for the GSE’s to work more closely with lenders, lending in areas where the water quality is in need of mediation. One of the most basic things they can do is limit the scope and or length of warranties.

 

June 20, 2017 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Banking Development District Bill Gains Traction

Legislation that would allow credit unions to participate in Banking Development Districts (BDD) (S.6700 -Hamilton)/A.6494B -Zebrowski) for the first time in two decades is gaining traction in both houses of the Legislature as we enter the final week of session. This is good news for anyone in need of greater access to financial services. The bill has advanced to the Assembly floor and has been introduced by the Senate Rules Committee, which means it can be voted on at any time by the full legislature.

The BDD program has been in existence since 1997 with the first district authorized in 1999. The basic idea of the program is that localities and financial institutions jointly apply to the DFS for designation as a BDD. In return for opening up a branch in an area underserved by banking institutions, banks and other depository institutions are eligible for low interest deposits.

The program is a great idea since it makes it more cost effective for financial institutions to provide banking services in areas which are currently lacking access to depository institutions. Unfortunately, as the DFS noted earlier this year, banks and other financial institutions “have submitted a modest number of applications over the last twenty years.” In addition, a 10 year review of the program by the Banking Department concluded that it could be “dramatically improved.” Allowing credit unions to participate in the program could provide the jolt it needs to be truly effective.

Shock of shocks, the usual suspects are trying to kill the bill. The kneejerk opposition of the banking industry, while utterly predictable, is even more cynical than usual. Despite the fact that the industry has demonstrated a lack of interest in participating in the program for almost 20 years, it is fighting to keep credit unions from enhancing the program.

This is the latest example of banks being so opposed to credit union that they are putting their own perceived interests above consumers. Despite the fact that we live in one of the wealthiest states in the nation, there are millions of New Yorker’s who have no choice but to turn to check cashers and payday lenders. Anything the Legislature can do to encourage and help persons of modest means get their monies deposited in to a financial institution is in everyone’s best interest.

 

June 16, 2017 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

Three Things To Ponder In the Week Ahead

Here are three things you should know as you snap back from reality following a sunny and dry summer weekend;

  • The Washington Post is reporting that Fannie Mae will begin raising its maximum debt to income ratio from 45 percent to 50 percent, beginning July 29, 2017. This is of course big news for those of you who provide mortgages because it expands the pool of member mortgages that can be sold to the secondary market. Also, remember that under the Dodd-Frank Act any mortgage that qualifies for sale to either Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac is a qualified mortgage. This is a big deal because without this, under the qualified mortgage requirements, the debt to income ratio cannot exceed 43 percent per the CFPB.
  • If all goes as expected, the Federal Reserve will once again nudge interest rates higher when its policy making committee meets later this week. Personally, I am really looking forward to Federal Reserve’s Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference following the festivities. The economy continues to send out a string of mixed signals and it will be interesting to see how much she hedges her bets when it comes to the possibility of future rate hikes later in the year.
  • The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Treasury Department may release as early as today, a 150 page blue print for Regulatory Relief. Among the executive orders signed in the early days of the Trump Administration, was one requiring that the Treasury Department report on potential areas of regulatory reform. While the report has no legally binding impact, it will provide an indication about the top regulatory relief priorities of the administration. Incidentally, the report will not call for the elimination of the CFPB’s single-director structure, but will instead propose that the position be answerable to the president. If it comes out today, I will of course be skimming it as I watch game 6 of the NBA finals, to tell you what is in there about credit unions tomorrow morning. I hope the anticipation doesn’t keep you awake tonight.

On that note enjoy your day!

June 12, 2017 at 8:19 am Leave a comment

Household Debt Hits New Record

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to do their job, but if I was involved in lending for a living I would certainly take a close look at the New York Fed’s quarterly snapshot of household debt released yesterday. Its either (a) an infliction point signaling that sustained higher growth has taken hold; (b) a high point which masks some disturbing trends; or (c) something in-between.

First, the “good” news. The American consumer is back baby! The New York Fed tells us that household debt achieved a new peak in the first quarter of 2017, rising by $149 billion to $12.73 trillion—$50 billion above the previous peak reached in the third quarter of 2008. Balances climbed in several areas: mortgages (1.7 percent); auto loans (0.9 percent); and student loans (2.6 percent). Considering that consumer spending accounts for at least 70% of the nation’s economic growth all this spending is good news. Despite the growth, credit card balances fell 1.9 percent this quarter.

Secondly, there is evidence that we have learned our lesson According to this accompanying research the country still has less mortgage debt than it did a decade ago and lenders have actually followed the credit union lead in lending to more credit worthy borrowers.

So why am I a little skeptical? It doesn’t feel like it but by historical standards we are at the back end of the growth cycle. As none other than Ben Bernanke pointed out in a speech yesterday that from a historical standpoint a recession is due in the next two to four years.   In addition much of the current economic hype is predicated on a “Trump bump” but don’t expect major Reg Relief let alone tax reform until Robert Mueller completes his Russia investigation.

Supreme Court Makes Important Bankruptcy Rule

One of the CFPB’s real pet peeves has to do with debt collectors who continue to seek repayment of debts even after the statute of limitation for their collection has expired. In addition, inquiring minds want to know if it is legal for debt collectors to submit proofs of claim in Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings for the repayment of such debts. Earlier this week the Supreme Court provided guidance on this issue. It ruled that debt collectors do not engage in an unfair and deceptive practice, under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, by submitting claims for stale debts.

MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC v. JOHNSON dealt with a creditor who submitted a proof of claim for repayment of a 10 year old credit card debt. The debtor argued that this was an unfair and deceptive practice since the debt was not collectible. Alabama has a six year statute of limitations. The Court explained that the parties to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are sophisticated. Most importantly the bankruptcy is responsible for reviewing the validity of all claims. The court effectively held that, while a trustee has every right to reject a stale loan there is nothing to keep the debt collector from seeing if he can slip one by the goalie.

Baseball Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Uber

Nothing says summer like hailing a ride from Uber or Lyft, or at least that is what some New York lawmakers think. They recently proposed legislation to push up the effective date of New York’s law authorizing ride hailing services from July 9th to July 3rd, just in time to get a cheap ride home from the beer infused family Fourth of July party.

May 18, 2017 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

How to maximize your TNC protection

As readers of this blog know, the Legislature authorized Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft to start operating in New York State locales beyond NYC as part of the recently approved budget. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Association, the legislation includes some important protections for credit unions. However, there are still additional steps that I would take to maximize your credit union’s collateral protection, particularly as ridesharing is taking hold at the same time that the 72 month car loan has become common place.  Remember this is just one person’s advice and not a substitute for running this by your own counsel.

Ever since plans were laid for TNC networks to come to New York, insurance has always been a big issue. Remember that your typical car insurance policy contains a livery exception, meaning that a driver isn’t insured for accidents that happen while logged into the network to pick up passengers. The legislation addresses this issue by mandating that TNC drivers applying to join a network be informed of the need for additional insurance and mandating that the TNC’s make sure that these drivers are, in fact, properly insured.

While these are important protections, in talking to credit unions I am suggesting that there are still additional steps they should consider taking. Most importantly, I would amend your car loan language with a provision informing the borrower that the use of a vehicle being financed in a TNC without the insurance mandated under NYS Law shall constitute a breach of the lending agreement and may result in the entire amount of the loan being due immediately.

What does this accomplish that New York State’s Law cannot? For one thing it is more expansive than the protections afforded by the law since its prohibitions would apply even to members who are not currently logged in to a TNC Network but who are TNC drivers.This is important because if you have reason to believe that a member is operating as a TNC driver you can call the loan without waiting for an accident. It also provides an additional notice to your members that special TNC insurance is required. Finally, it provides you some level of protection in the event that your member somehow gets to join a network without getting adequate insurance. But under this later scenario I would consider going after the TNC Company for your losses. New York’s TNC legislation takes effect in approximately three months.

By the way, since we are on the subject of TNC’s, I had the pleasure of dropping off my two daughters at Kennedy Airport Monday morning for a flight down to North Carolina. For those of you, who haven’t had the “pleasure” of going to Kennedy, think of those chaotic scenes in third world capitals where a mass of humanity ignores all laws. The one thing noticeably absent from this scene was anything more than a handful of traditional yellow cabs. If I had taken this trip just 5 years ago they would have been everywhere. With the caveat that I have always been accused of being a skeptic when it comes to the future of the medallion industry, all you have to do is go to NYC to realize that the medallion industry as we know it is destined to become an exhibit in the Smithsonian. I am also happy to report that my two kids didn’t witness paying passengers being dragged off the plane and assaulted.

On that upbeat note enjoy your day!

 

 

April 20, 2017 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Why SC Ruling Will Make Your Debt More Attractive

Expect “debt collectors” to have more interest in buying your delinquent loans as opposed to simply contracting for a percentage of collection recoveries if, as expected, the Supreme Court rules in favor of Santander Consumer USA, Inc.

Oral arguments were heard on the case yesterday, in an important collections case, and we can expect a ruling sometime in June. You can also expect states like New York to take a renewed interest in strengthening state level restriction on debt collection practices.

The FDCPA was passed by congress to deter abusive debt collection practices. It was intended to crack down on third-party collectors which is why it does not apply to banks and credit unions which are collecting on their own loans. The question is who exactly is a debt collector under 15 U.S.C.A. § 1692a (West). Under the statute, a debt collector is any person….”who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.” Santander purchased billions in car loans and set about collecting on those that were delinquent. Borrowers alleged that their aggressive collection practices violated the FDCPA, but when they tried to sue Santander for violations it successfully argued before the Court Of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Their argument was that since it was collecting on debt it owned, the statute didn’t apply to its activities.

According to press reports, justices weren’t buying the argument of the borrowers yesterday, who argued that Santander was taking advantage of a loop hole that is inconsistent with congress’s intent when it passed the FDCPA.

No matter how the Federal Law is interpreted, New York is one of several states that has a state level DCPA modeled after the federal law. In a brief submitted to the Supreme Court, New York joined several such states in arguing that existing state level prohibitions aren’t adequate. The brief noted for example, that New York’s debt collection statute (NY General Business Law § 600 et. seq.) has traditionally been interpreted in reference to the federal law and that it does not permit consumers to bring a lawsuit.

Stay tuned – this provides another classic example of how a change in direction in the federal level is often met with push back on the state level.

April 19, 2017 at 9:43 am 1 comment

Wells Fargo In The News for All The Wrong Reasons- Again

Wells Fargo continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, for consumer advocates anxious to argue why we are all better off with the CFPB.

Yesterday, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered the bank to pay $5.4 million in back wages to an employee they fired in 2010, after reporting suspected incidents of mail and wire fraud by “bankers” under his supervision.

Although a written decision didn’t accompany this news there is wide-spread speculation that the whistle blower was disciplined for reporting instances related to the opening of phony accounts without customer permission. Remember, the CFPB was the regulator that discovered and fined Wells Fargo for this misconduct.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why OSHA is fining Wells Fargo, it’s because it was given the authority to enforce Sarbanes-Oxley’s whistle blower protections provisions. Go figure.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes it illegal for a publically traded company to discharge, suspend, threaten, harass, or discriminate against any employee who provides information to assist in the investigation of a violation of certain Federal Laws (18 USC 1514A). The bank has the option of appealing OSHA’s fine. It should quit while it’s behind; but somehow I don’t think that is going to happen.

Of course, the fact that Wells Fargo has engaged in misconduct discovered by the CFPB doesn’t make the CFPB’s structure anymore constitutional or prudent. But try telling that to the Elizabeth Warren’s of the world.

 

New York Extends Budget till May 31

In what is new ground for the Cuomo Administration the legislature and the Governor have agreed to a temporary budget extending until May 31, while they continue to work on a budget plan for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. This sure does have a back to the future feel to it.

April 4, 2017 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.

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