The New York Post reported earlier this month that a taxi medallion recently sold for $241,000-a new low. As recently as three years ago, taxi medallions were selling for $1,300,000-a drop in value of over 80%. And there are approximately 50,000 Uber drivers in NYC vs. approximately 13,587 yellow cab drivers.
With just 13,587 yellow cabs on New York City’s streets compared to about 50,000 cars from black cab and app services, New Yorkers now have more transportation options than ever before. In New York City, people took fewer trips and spent less on taxis during the first half of last year compared with 2015, according to a November securities filing from lender Medallion Financial Corp.
According to an article in Skift, 81 percent of Capital One's $690 million in loans for taxi medallions are at risk of default. The share of taxi medallion loans Capital One thinks its borrowers won’t be able to repay in full has nearly tripled over the past year, to 51.5 percent. Another 29 percent of Capital One’s loans are to stressed borrowers who could be at risk of default. And BankUnited told its investors in November that nearly 59 percent of its loans secured by taxi medallions were under water. Close to 95 percent of BankUnited’s loans were to New York City borrowers.
Many readers have asked us what the banks that loaned money to medallion owners can or are doing. Their options are as follows: 1. Close and go out of business; 2. File for chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy and liquidate or attempt to reorganize; 3. Sell their non–performing loans to third parties such as hedge funds; 4. Restructure their loans from third parties; 5. Seek capital from third parties; or 6. Work to restructure their loans to medallion owners. Which strategy is optimal? The optimal strategy depends on the facts of each case.
For medallion owners whose loans exceed the value of the medallions, the question remains as to what their strategy should be. The key issue for a medallion owner is whether to continue to own and make payments on a medallion loan, where the value of the medallion is far below the loan balance. For those medallion owners seeking specific advice, please see our post here. Any course of action chosen by a medallion owner involves NYS debtor/creditor law, bankruptcy law and tax law. Medallion owners are advised to seek legal counsel and to proceed with caution.
Many readers have also asked about timing. Assuming the bank or fund that made them the loan is in financial trouble, are they better off negotiating a settlement now or waiting to see what the future holds? This author has negotiated with buyers of distressed debt (defaulted or written off credit card debt) and often those creditors can be more difficult to deal with than banks.
However, in this author’s opinion, taxi medallion prices will continue to decrease in value or remain at these low levels, and taxi medallion owners need to develop a strategy to address these issues based on their own facts and circumstances. To discuss your situation regarding tax medallion ownership, please contact Jim Shenwick.