Posts filed under ‘New York State’

New York State Releases Emergency Mortgage Regulations

Good morning folks, with a special shout-out to our sleep deprived federal lobbyists who are eagerly awaiting final passage of the massive stimulus package reportedly agreed on by Senate negotiators early this morning.

While we wait to see what is tucked away in the trillion-dollar stimulus package, New York’s governor continues to impact banking operations on a daily basis.  Late yesterday afternoon, the Department of Financial Services released emergency regulations that lay out the legal obligations of New York State regulated institutions that have members suffering a financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Today’s blog is a high level snapshot with more analysis forthcoming, particularly as the Association fields questions regarding its implementation.

What does the Regulation require?

            It requires financial institutions to provide 90-day mortgage forbearances for New York State residents with New York State property who have a demonstrated financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In addition, such institutions must also waive ATM, overdraft and credit card fees for such individuals.  This last requirement applies to ATMs that are owned and operated by the banking organization.

By when do I have to get this program up and running?

            You have up to ten days to provide notice to your members of these options.

How do I determine if someone qualifies?

              You develop the criteria that can include an examination of an individual’s financial resources.  This means that you have to develop an application for individuals seeking to apply.  Denials have to be in writing and members have to be given notice of the opportunity to contact DFS to challenge a negative determination.

Does it apply to my credit union?

            This answer involves some gray area.  What we know for sure is the mortgage regulations do not apply to mortgages owned or being serviced on behalf of the GSEs.  We also know unequivocally that the mortgage regulations only apply to New York State property owned by New York State residents.  In contrast, these regulations apply to:

“…any New York regulated banking organization as defined under New York Banking Law and any New York regulated mortgage servicer entity subject to the authority of the Department.”

The gray area involves an assessment as to whether or not this definition extends to exempt organizations subject to registration requirements under New York Law.

Stay safe. Stay healthy, and remember, if you are reading this blog, you have a roof over your head and a safe place from which to wait out this bizarre period in our history.

March 25, 2020 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

New York State Releases Emergency Mortgage Regulations

Good morning folks, with a special shout-out to our sleep deprived federal lobbyists who are eagerly awaiting final passage of the massive stimulus package reportedly agreed on by Senate negotiators early this morning.

While we wait to see what is tucked away in the trillion-dollar stimulus package, New York’s governor continues to impact banking operations on a daily basis.  Late yesterday afternoon, the Department of Financial Services released emergency regulations that lay out the legal obligations of New York State regulated institutions that have members suffering a financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Today’s blog is a high level snapshot with more analysis forthcoming, particularly as the Association fields questions regarding its implementation.

What does the Regulation require?

            It requires financial institutions to provide 90-day mortgage forbearances for New York State residents with New York State property who have a demonstrated financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In addition, such institutions must also waive ATM, overdraft and credit card fees for such individuals.  This last requirement applies to ATMs that are owned and operated by the banking organization.

By when do I have to get this program up and running?

            You have up to ten days to provide notice to your members of these options.

How do I determine if someone qualifies?

              You develop the criteria that can include an examination of an individual’s financial resources.  This means that you have to develop an application for individuals seeking to apply.  Denials have to be in writing and members have to be given notice of the opportunity to contact DFS to challenge a negative determination.

Does it apply to my credit union?

            This answer involves some gray area.  What we know for sure is the mortgage regulations do not apply to mortgages owned or being serviced on behalf of the GSEs.  We also know unequivocally that the mortgage regulations only apply to New York State property owned by New York State residents.  In contrast, these regulations apply to:

“…any New York regulated banking organization as defined under New York Banking Law and any New York regulated mortgage servicer entity subject to the authority of the Department.”

The gray area involves an assessment as to whether or not this definition extends to exempt organizations subject to registration requirements under New York Law.

Stay safe. Stay healthy, and remember, if you are reading this blog, you have a roof over your head and a safe place from which to wait out this bizarre period in our history.

March 25, 2020 at 9:31 am 1 comment

Developments Over The Weekend You Need To Know About

There have been some important developments over the weekend that you need to know about.

First, state and federal banking regulators, including the NCUA, issued a joint statement yesterday encouraging financial institutions to work with borrowers “who are or may be unable to meet” payment obligations because “of the effects of the COVID-19”. In addition, the regulators conferred with the Financial Accounting Standards Board and confirmed that credit unions can take these steps without automatically characterizing them as Troubled Debt Restructurings (TDRs) for accounting purposes. According to the statement “regardless of whether modifications result in loans that are considered TDRs or are adversely classified, agency examiners will not criticize prudent efforts to modify the terms on existing loans to affected customers”. This is a good statement to keep in the files.

Second, common sense has prevailed. In response to an emergency declaration issued by President Trump on March 13th, NCUA issued this guidance allowing credit unions to conduct virtual annual meetings provided that certain conditions are met. It also reiterates that credit unions have the option of postponing the annual meeting. Incidentally, an earlier order issued by New York State also gives corporations and credit unions the explicit authority to conduct virtual, annual and special meetings.

Third, an Executive Order issued by New York’s Governor Cuomo clarified what the DFS expects financial institutions to do in response to the pandemic. The order also makes clear that this mandate only applies to state chartered and state licensed institutions. This means that a federal credit union is not subject to this order but its CUSO is. For those of you subject to New York law, the order stipulates that a financial institution that does not provide a 90-day mortgage forbearance to any person or business who has a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic where it would be prudent to do so shall be committing an unsafe and unsound business practice. This is not guidance. It is a mandate. When in doubt, grant the forbearance. The order also empowers DFS to regulate and restrict ATM fees, overdraft fees and credit card fees during this emergency. This will be done pursuant to emergency regulations.

Fourth, there are two other orders you may have missed that impact your credit union whether it is state of federally chartered. The first permits electronic notarization. This is a huge potential benefit to your members who are nervous about going into your branch. Secondly, New York State has suspended all statutes of limitations in civil actions. This means that even though the court system is all but shut down it will not prevent you from taking legal action against members from whom debts need to be collected or mortgages foreclosed on once the emergency period has ended.

Finally, my wife assures me that liquor stores are classified as essential services under New York’s stay-at-home-order. I don’t know about anyone else, but a couple of months of cabin fever combined with non-stop regulations is the perfect recipe for a five o’clock drink. Have a good day and stay safe.

March 23, 2020 at 9:41 am 1 comment

Legislature To Pass Coronavirus Legislation

Good morning folks.  If all goes according to plan, the legislature is scheduled to convene today for the first time since two Assembly members contracted the coronavirus.  In normal times, we would be in the homestretch of intense budget negotiations with the state’s fiscal year scheduled to start on April 1st.  But these are not normal times. Instead, one of the most challenging issues facing legislators is how to convene safely.

When the legislature does meet, one of the bills it has tentatively agreed to take up provides leave for all employees who are either subject to  a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by New York State, or need to care for someone who is.  This legislation is part of a larger bill mandating that all employees be provided with sick leave.

The Governor in this year’s budget proposal originally proposed the sick leave legislation.  It implements a sliding scale of sick leave benefits depending on the size and income of the employer.

On one end of the scale, employers with four or fewer employees with a net income of less than $1 million dollars would have to provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in the calendar year.  In contrast, employers with 100 or more employees in any calendar year would have to provide at least 56 hours of paid sick leave.  This is a tentative deal and if there are changes before the bill is passed, we will let you know.

Incidentally, if the legislators are looking for helpful bills to pass in this time of crisis, one measure they should consider is legislation authorizing remote notarization services.  Many other states already have legislation providing for remote electronic notarization. In tomorrow’s blog, I will provide you all with some information about the impact that the virus is having on mortgage lending – and options that policymakers have to streamline the lending process.

 

March 18, 2020 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

Seven Ways COVID-19 Is Impacting Your Operations

Greetings from the state that is number one in COVID-19 cases; as of Sunday afternoon.

There have been an amazing number of developments affecting your credit union over the weakened.  I am emphasizing those that you may not have heard about yet.

New York Delays New Servicing Regulations

I actually have some good news to tell you this morning.  I found out over the weekend that New York’s  Department of Financial Services has issued an emergency regulation putting on hold for an additional 90 days new servicing regulations which many credit unions and mortgage bankers were wondering how they were going to comply with.  In announcing the delay DFS Superintendent, Linda A. Lacewell explained that “the volume and complexity” of the new regulations, especially since they require new programing and disclosure requirements for home equity lines of credit, has led the department to conclude that businesses need more time to comply, particularly at a time when they have to concentrate on the pandemic.

A special shout out to the New York Mortgage Bankers Association, which did a great job alerting stakeholders to the difficulties in complying with this regulation.

State Issues COVID-19 Emergency Relief Order

New York’s Department Of Financial Services issued an order exempting state licensed and state chartered financial institutions including state chartered credit unions from some regulations with which they would normally have to comply.  Most importantly, these institutions can now close and relocate branches and offices without first providing notice to DFS.  In addition, licensed individuals such as mortgage originators can work from home with the understanding that they are still subject to New York’s regulations.  Entities are still expected to inform New York State of any relocations.

Additional Developments…

Also over the weekend, the Governor asked businesses that could do so, to voluntarily shut down and allow their employees to work from home.

Finally, the state has imposed limits on the size of mass gatheringsHere is his first order.  This situation is very fluid and we may see further reductions in the authorized size of mass gatherings.

Fed Gone Wild

Just how low can the Fed go?  The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee announced yesterday that it was slashing the Federal Funds rate to zero (!) and “expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events…”

When the history of this pandemic is written, it will be marked as the end of a unique period in American history during which the Federal Reserve exercised a decisive impact on the American economy.  In 1987, Alan Greenspan calmed the stock market following its dramatic decline; it was the Fed that helped minimize the impact when the dot-com bubble popped; and Ben Bernanke mitigated the impact of the Great Recession of 2008 by going on a mortgage buying binge.

My how times have changed.  Interest rates are already too low to have much of a stimulus impact and they will have no effect in coxing Americans out of their homes to hoard more toilet paper.

The Fed did take one important step recently.  It announced a massive infusion of funds into the repurchase market.  It also announced it would accept a broader range of securities for these arrangements.

The repurchase market plays an absolutely crucial role in the economy.  It is the mechanism by which the largest of the large financial institutions manage their liquidity on a daily basis by getting short-term loans of cash in return for collateral such as bonds.  The system has had some hiccups over the past year and no one quite knows why.  Stay tuned.

With the Fed out of bullets, it is up to Congress and the President to come together and agree on a stimulus package.  On Saturday, the house took the first step in this legislative dance by passing legislation which extends limited family leave protections to some employees and increasing funding for programs such as SNAP.  The precise impact of this proposal is being debated this morning, with critics already complaining it contains too many loopholes to help most workers.  If, as expected, the Senate passes the bill this week and the President signs it, the real contentious debate gets started.  Both sides are already jockeying for position over what should be included in a larger stimulus package.

March 16, 2020 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

Can Your Employee Use Medical Marijuana At The Credit Union?

Since 2014 when New York legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, lawyers, HR professionals and employers have grappled with how best to reconcile two provisions of New York’s law which seem to be in conflict with one another. On the one hand, § 3369(2) of New York’s Public Health Law stipulates that a certified patient authorized to use marijuana shall be deemed a disability under New York’s Human Rights Law which bans discrimination against the disabled and mandates that employers provide employees reasonable accommodations to do their jobs.

Conversely, this same subdivision goes on to explain that it does “not bar the enforcement of a policy prohibiting an employee from performing his or her duties while impaired by a controlled substance” or put the employer in the position of violating Federal Law.

New Jersey also authorizes the medical use of marijuana with provisions similar to New York’s. A recent decision by its Supreme Court, while not binding in New York, could be used as persuasive authority by future employees claiming to have been discriminated against by their employers. I would certainly take a look at this case and consider whether the type of activities performed by your credit union employees justify policies that you may have regarding the use of marijuana in the workplace.

In Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., a funeral director came down with cancer in 2015 and was prescribed marijuana under New Jersey’s Medical Use Law. One day he got into an accident while driving a company vehicle. He went to the emergency room and explained that he had marijuana in his system because of his cancer treatment but the doctor was unconcerned because he was clearly not impaired. Nevertheless, he was fired for violating the corporate policy against using drugs during work hours, a policy with which NCUA’s employees are all too familiar these days.

He sued claiming that he was lawfully using marijuana and he was being discriminated against because of his medical disability in violation of NJ law. The lower court disagreed because of a provision of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Act that “nothing” requires an employer to accommodate a medical user of marijuana. The case eventually found its way up to the New Jersey Supreme Court. In a brief decision, it held that it was obligated to interpret New Jersey law in a way that reconciled the two provisions. It ruled that “The Compassionate Use Act does not have an impact on the plaintiff’s existing employment rights. In a case such as this, in which plaintiff alleges that the Compassionate Use Act authorized his use of marijuana outside the workplace, the Act’s provisions may be harmonized” with New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws.

Think about the impact that this decision has for those of you who have branches in New Jersey. Most importantly, you should make sure that your policies don’t discipline an employee simply because he or she is lawfully using marijuana. The case also raises an interesting issue that employees also need to consider. In this case, there was documented evidence that the employee was not impaired. Would the outcome have been different if the employee was impaired? And if so, how are employers going to make the distinction between an employee with marijuana in his system and an employee with marijuana in his system who is impaired? These are interesting questions that we won’t know the answer to for several years. But in the meantime, your policies have to be drafted in consideration for these questions in any state which authorizes medical marijuana use.

March 12, 2020 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

DFS Issues Preparedness Mandates

New York’s Department of Financial Services issued two separate guidance and “request for assurance” notifications yesterday mandating that institutions it regulates provide within 30 days a report to the department outlining the steps it is taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak. One of the documents assesses the potential financial impact of COVID-19, while the other deals with steps that are being taken to modify operations in response to the outbreak.

DFS expects to receive a written explanation responding to a series of questions including:

1.Assessment of the credit risk ratings of the customers, counterparties and business sectors impacted by COVID-19;

2.Assessment of the credit exposure to customers, counterparties and business sectors impacted by COVID-19, arising from lending, trading, investing, hedging and other financial transactions, including any credit modifications, extensions and restructurings (including capitalizations of interest);

3.Assessment of the scope and the size of credits adversely impacted by COVID-19 that currently are in, or potentially may move to, non-performing/delinquent status, including consideration of stress testing and/or sensitivity analysis of loan portfolios and the adequacy of loan loss reserves;

4.Assessment of the valuation of assets and investments that may be, or have been, impacted by COVID-19;

5.Assessment of the over-all impact of COVID-19 on earnings, profits, capital, and liquidity (including impact on loan-to-deposit ratio) of your institutions; and

6.Assessment of reasonable and prudent steps to assist those adversely impacted by COVID-19. See DFS Guidance to New York State Regulated Banks, Credit Unions and Licensed Lenders Regarding Support for Businesses Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus.

The other guidance includes a separate set of questions:

1.Preventative measures tailored to the institution’s specific profile and operations to mitigate the risk of operational disruption, which should include identifying the impact on customers, and counterparts;

2.A documented strategy addressing the impact of the outbreak in stages, so that the institution’s efforts can be appropriately scaled, consistent with the effects of a particular stage of the outbreak, which includes an assessment of how quickly measures could be adopted and how long operations could be sustained under different stages of the outbreak;

3.Assessment of all facilities (including alternative or back-up sites), systems, policies and procedures necessary to continue critical operations and services if members of the staff are unavailable for long periods or are working off-site, including an assessment and testing as to whether large scale off-site working arrangements can be activated and maintained to ensure operational continuity. This would also include an assessment and testing of the capacity of the existing information technology and systems in light of a potential increased remote usage;

4.An assessment of potential increased cyber-attacks and fraud;

5.Employee protection strategies, critical to sustaining an adequate workforce during the outbreak, including employee awareness and steps employees can take to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. See New York State Department of Health website: https://health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/ and CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html;

6.Assessment of the preparedness of critical outside-party service providers and suppliers;

7.Development of a communication plan to effectively communicate with customers, counterparties and the public and to deliver important news and instructions to employees, along with establishing forums for questions to be asked and addressed;

8.Testing the plan to ensure the plan policies, processes and procedures are effective; and

9.Governance and oversight of the plan, including identifying the critical members of a response team, to ensure ongoing review and updates to the plan, including the tracking of relevant information from government sources and the institution’s own monitoring program.

March 11, 2020 at 10:07 am 1 comment

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, 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. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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