Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Repossessions of Taxi Medallions by Secured Lenders

Here at Shenwick & Associates, an increasing part of our law practice involves workouts of loans for borrowers with taxi medallions as collateral for the loan.   Over the past three months, we’ve noticed a trend in which the bank or secured lender repossesses the taxi medallion(s) when the loan is in default, instead of allowing the borrower to retain the medallions during workout negotiations.

Under New York law, the security agreement and other loan documents, lenders can repossess taxi medallions, which usually happens on nights or weekends when the cab is not in use.  Typically, the Marshal will crowbar the medallion off the dashboard and take the rate card.  Although the cab is not repossessed, if the cab is subject to a vehicle loan that is in default, the cab may also be repossessed.

Some borrowers have asked us why the lenders repossess the medallions without notice to the borrowers.  New York law and the loan documents signed by the borrower provide that no notice is required for the lender to exercise its remedy of repossession.  And if borrowers were noticed in advance of the repossession, lenders would run the risk of the collateral medallion(s) being hid from the lender!  Accordingly, if you own a medallion and the loan is in default, you may want to park the taxi in a garage or in a location other than on the street.

For borrowers whose medallions are in default, many workouts will ultimately end with surrender or repossession of the medallion.  In certain cases, surrender or repossession of the medallion can end litigation or other collection efforts by the lender.

Taxi medallion loan borrowers and guarantors whose medallion(s) were repossessed still run the risk of a deficiency judgment for the balance of the loan by the borrower or a judgment against the guarantor.  Some lenders may forbear from seeking a deficiency judgment once the medallion is repossessed, but borrowers need to be aware that loan documents allow for that remedy until the statute of limitations has run.  In New York, the statute of limitations for a lender to seek the deficiency balance from a borrower is six years.  In many cases when a lender obtains a deficiency judgment, we negotiate a discounted settlement by threatening bankruptcy or by having the client file for bankruptcy.

Another factor that repossessed taxi medallion owners must consider is relief of indebtedness income pursuant to § 108 of the Internal Revenue Code. Simply stated, if a taxi medallion owner owes a bank $1,000,000 and only repays the bank $500,000, then the tax law provides that they must recognize $500,000 of income on their tax return. Borrowers need to discuss this potential issue with their accountant or tax advisor during settlement negotiations.

For more information about defaulted taxi medallion loans and repossessed medallions, please contact Jim Shenwick.

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