DFS Releases Recommendations for Online Lending

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One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY
At left, One Commerce Plaza where DFS’ Albany office is based

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) released a report on Wednesday on the subject of online lending in the state. The report was mandated by a bill signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 1 of last year. According to the original bill, this report was to be researched and composed by a task force of multiple parties. But in the eleventh hour, the section regarding the task force was struck. The report is to be presented to the governor, the temporary president of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the chair of the senate standing committee on banks, and the chair of the assembly standing committee on banks.

Wednesday’s 31-page report is based on survey responses from 35 online lenders operating in the state, lending both to businesses and to individuals. One of the revelations in the report is that, from the data obtained, “New York individuals appear to account for a higher total dollar amount of loans than New York businesses.”

The report presents three primary assertions:

Equal Application of Consumer Protection Laws.

The report establishes that New York has strong consumer protection laws and regulations that apply to financial institutions. “These protections should apply equally to all consumer lending and small business lending activities,” the report reads. The report explains that there are strong protections against payday lenders and indicates that there should be strong protections across the board, even though the financial products and the consumers may vary widely.

Usury Limits Must Apply to All Lending in New York.

The report asserts that access to credit at usurious rates has long been prohibited in New York and that online lenders should not be able to bypass this by having arrangements with banks in other states, like Utah, where the usury laws are different. In New York, the civil usury rate is 16% and the criminal usury rate is 25%. But because online lenders have arrangements with out-of-state banks, they can charge interest at rates well above 25%.

Currently, if an online lender sues a merchant for not paying, the merchant cannot use usury as a defense. In the report, DFS recommends that a business should have the right to present usury as a defense.

All Online Lenders Should be Licensed and Supervised.  

The report states that New York State chartered banks, credit unions and licensed non-depositories are subject to regular examinations by the DFS and, if applicable, federal regulatory agencies.

“Many online lenders remain unlicensed in New York with no direct supervisory oversight from a safety and soundness or consumer compliance perspective,” the report reads. “Direct supervision and oversight is the only way to ensure that New York’s consumers and small business owners receive the same protections irrespective of the channel of delivery [of financing.]”

Some of these issues relate to the well-known 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding court decision, in which a credit card consumer (Madden) won a case against a debt-collection agency (Midland Funding) because the court decided that Midland, as a non-bank, was not allowed to charge interest above what was allowed in the state.       


Last modified: July 12, 2018
Todd Stone

Category: Online Lending, Regulation

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