• The New York Times published a story alleging ‘swing voters’ are repelled by impeachment. Turns out, they really interviewed Trump voters – Alternet.org
    https://www.alternet.org/2019/09/the-new-york-times-published-a-story-alleging-moderate-swing-voters-are-re

    This week, Sabrina Tavernise and other New York Times reporters have been focusing on swing voters and the issues that could sway them either for or against President Donald Trump in the 2020 election — including an impeachment inquiry in response to the Ukraine scandal. Tavernise, on Twitter, posted, “I talked with six swing voters today. Impeachment repelled every one of them. This could cost Dems at polls.” But pollster Matt McDermott responded that the voters Tavernise was referring to weren’t really swing voters, but committed conservatives or strong Trump supporters.

    McDermott, responding to Tavernise’s tweet, posted, “No, the New York Times did not talk to six ‘swing voters’ about impeachment. The article quotes a handful of devout GOP voters who the NYT has repeatedly interviewed multiple times.”

    The New York Times article that McDermott was referring to rang with the headline, “Elated, Furious, Wary: Impeachment Divides Voters, Like Everything Trump.”

    McDermott, director of Whitman Insight Strategies, specifically discussed some of the voters the Times had interviewed and explained why he didn’t consider them swing voters but rather, staunch conservatives or Trump loyalists.

    For example, a Tennessee woman named Donna Burgraff was interviewed. McDermott notes that the Times presented Donna as an example of a swing voter who “doesn’t favor impeachment. The problem? NYT interviewed the same woman last year. She voted for Trump and the Republicans again in the midterm.”

    McDermott notes that another person presented by the Times as a swing voter, Trisha Hope, has repeatedly attended Trump rallies. Hope, McDermott tweets, “admits she’s been to 23 Trump campaign rallies. 23!…. She’s a Trump fanatic, not a swing voter.”

    Reggie Dickerson is also presented by the Times as a swing voter, but Dickerson, McDermott points out, “was highlighted in an AP story last year entitled ‘In the heart of Trump country, his base remains unshaken.’ Reggie has a portrait of Robert E. Lee hanging in his living room. No, Reggie is not a swing voter.”

    McDermott asserts, “The NYT is repeating its exact same 2016 reporting antics, presenting devout Trump supporters as some sort of forgotten swing constituency. Why does this keep happening, and why do they keep going back to the same individuals for interviews?”

    #Fake_news #Micro_trottoir #Journalisme #new_York_Times

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Refuses to Be ’Gaslit’ by The #New_York_Times
    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/ocasio-cortez-rejects-the-new-york-times-version-of-herself

    Fox News’ abuse of power, and of Ocasio-Cortez, comes as no surprise, given the Murdochian media complex’s total commitment to making sure their audience sees Ocasio-Cortez and her peers — specifically, congressional “Squad”-mates Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — as the socialist enemies of (white) America that President Trump insists they are. But a perhaps more remarkable, or at least more subtle, kind of critique came Wednesday from one of the nerve centers of center-left media, in the form of Catie Edmonson’s New York Times story, “How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Learned to Play by Washington’s Rules.”

    #centre_gauche (d’un segment amputé de sa moitié gauche)

  • Travaux herculéens à #New_York pour résister à la #montée_des_eaux
    https://www.lapresse.ca/international/etats-unis/201909/21/01-5242230-travaux-herculeens-a-new-york-pour-resister-a-la-montee-des-eaux

    Dans une ville si dense que personne n’imagine déserter les quartiers côtiers les plus exposés, la municipalité a fait de la fortification de ses 850 kilomètres de côtes une priorité. Et annoncé une série de mesures pour se protéger des eaux – qui pourraient monter de 1,80 m d’ici 2100 – et des tempêtes à répétition qui s’annoncent.

    Au sud-est, sur la presqu’île des Rockaways, proche de l’aéroport J. F. Kennedy, et au sud, à Staten Island, deux quartiers durement frappés par Sandy, 15 kilomètres de dunes ont été érigées, et des millions de tonnes de sable déversées pour consolider les plages des Rockaways ou de Coney Island, à Brooklyn.

    Plusieurs milliards de dollars ont été dépensés pour protéger le réseau électrique et le métro, indispensable à la circulation des 8,5 millions de New-Yorkais.

    Des murets faits de conteneurs de sable spécialement conçus contre les inondations sont apparus dans plusieurs quartiers, notamment à Brooklyn ou à Manhattan, près de Wall Street : une mesure de protection temporaire, pour cinq ans, en attendant des fortifications plus pérennes pour protéger le cœur historique et financier de New York.

    #climat

  • Ellis Island

    Gli indiani mohegan l’avevano chiamata Isola del Gabbiano, gli olandesi l’avevano ribattezzata Isola delle Conchiglie, fin quando il mercante Samuel Ellis, acquistandola, non impose il suo nome, segno di possesso di quello stretto banco di sabbia nello Hudson. Il nome restò, mentre la proprietà passò alla città di #New_York che, a più riprese, ingrandì l’isola grazie a una discarica creata con la zavorra delle navi e il terreno estratto dai tunnel della metropolitana.
    Per i migranti fu semplicemente l’Isola delle Lacrime – in tutte le lingue dei popoli che la attraversarono: island of tears, île des larmes, isla de las lágrimas, ostrov slez ecc.


    Source : https://www.bollatiboringhieri.it/libri/donatella-di-cesare-stranieri-residenti-9788833927350

    #toponymie #Ellis_Island

  • #Apartheid scolaire à #New_York
    https://www.lapresse.ca/international/etats-unis/201909/08/01-5240378-apartheid-scolaire-a-new-york.php

    Lors d’une assemblée publique, une femme blanche de l’Upper West Side (UWS) s’insurge à voix haute contre un plan destiné à mettre fin à un véritable apartheid dans les 16 écoles intermédiaires publiques de son district. Celui-ci inclut une partie de Harlem, quartier beaucoup moins favorisé que l’UWS – et peuplé majoritairement de Noirs. Le plan prévoit d’offrir 25 % des places dans les écoles les plus sélectives (et blanches) du district à des élèves qui ont des résultats inférieurs à leur niveau d’études en anglais et en mathématiques dans les examens de l’État.

    [...]

    Le maire de New York et candidat démocrate à la présidence refuse pour le moment de prendre position sur ces recommandations. Il sait bien que toute remise en question du statu quo fera bondir de nombreux New-Yorkais, dont plusieurs se considèrent comme #progressistes.

    Sophie Mode, militante au sein d’un groupe d’élèves new-yorkais appelé Teens Take Charge, en a long à dire sur ces #progressistes.

    « [...] Cela démontre bien le nœud du problème, à savoir que les #idées progressistes sont différentes des #actions progressistes », a confié l’élève de 11e année à La Presse.

    #en_théorie #etats-unis

  • An Atlas of Radical Cartography

    This Atlas is an atlas and not the atlas. Rather, it is one of many possible atlases, given the abundance of artists, architects, and others using maps and mapping in their work. While all maps have an inherent politics that often lies hidden beneath an “objective” surface, the contributions to An Atlas of Radical Cartography wear their politics on their sleeve. This publication includes ten pairs of politically engaged maps and texts from within the growing movement of cultural producers who have parallel or integrated activist practices.

    The 10 MAPS:
    1) Chetla Lock Gate, Marginal Land Settlement in Calcutta, 1984
    2) Routes of Least Surveillance
    3) Rendition Flights 2001-2006
    4) Geography of the Fürth Departure Center
    5) Guias de Ruta / Route Guides
    6) From South to North
    7) the los angeles water cycle: the way it is, not the way it should be and one day will be
    8) New York City Garbage Machine
    9) The US Oil Fix
    10) A World Map: in which we see...

    Image Los Angeles Water cycle by Jane Tsong

    http://www.an-atlas.com/contents.html

    #Cartographie_radicale #visibilisation #counter_geography #faire_monde

  • #New_York (USA) : communiqué revendiquant l’attaque de l’ambassade grecque
    https://fr.squat.net/2019/09/03/new-york-usa-communique-revendiquant-l-attaque-de-l-ambassade-grecque

    Le 2 septembre 2019, nous avons attaqué l’ambassade grecque à New-York, en détruisant la vitre de la façade et en taguant l’entrée d’un “(A)”. Ceci a été fait en solidarité avec les anarchistes et les réfugiés d’Exarchia, où l’Etat fasciste grec a commencé à expulser les squats et à envoyer des migrants dans des camps […]

    #actions_directes #Amériques #Athènes #Exarcheia #prison #sans-papiers #USA

  • The Message of Measles | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/02/the-message-of-measles

    One day in the early sixties, Saul Zucker, a pediatrician and anesthesiologist in the Bronx, was treating the child of a New York assemblyman named Alexander Chananau. Amid the stethoscoping and reflex-hammering of a routine checkup, the two men got to talking about polio, which was still a threat to the nation’s youth, in spite of the discovery, the previous decade, of a vaccine. At the time, some states had laws requiring the vaccination of schoolchildren, but New York was not one of them. In his office, on the Grand Concourse, Zucker urged Chananau to push such a law, and shortly afterward the assemblyman introduced a bill in the legislature. The proposal encountered resistance, especially from Christian Scientists, whose faith teaches that disease is a state of mind. (The city’s health commissioner opposed the bill as well, writing to Chananau, “We do not like to legislate the things which can be obtained without legislation.”) To mollify the dissenters, Chananau and others added a religious exemption; you could forgo vaccination if it violated the principles of your faith. In 1966, the bill passed, 150–2, making New York the first state to have a vaccination law with a religious exemption. By the beginning of this year, forty-six other states had a version of such a provision; it has proved to be an exploitable lever for people who, for reasons that typically have nothing to do with religion, are opposed to vaccination. They are widely, and disdainfully, known as anti-vaxxers.

    Because of the success of the anti-vaccination movement, measles cases have since turned up in twenty-nine other states, but New York has had by far the most cases: 1,046 as of last week, out of a national total of 1,203. This has threatened to wind back decades of success in the containment of the disease since the first measles vaccines were introduced, in 1963—an era when the United States saw between three million and four million cases a year. In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated in the country; if this outbreak isn’t contained by October, it could jeopardize the nation’s so-called measles-elimination status. This would be a dire step back for our public-health system, and a national embarrassment. (Britain, well acquainted with national embarrassment, lost its elimination status this year.)

    Measles, often called the most contagious disease on earth, is an airborne virus. If a person with measles walks into a room, the pathogens can linger there for two hours after the person has gone.

    The virus is infectious even before the appearance of the rash, during which the symptoms can be fever and the “three Cs”: cough, coryza (runny nose), and conjunctivitis. The vast majority of measles cases turn out O.K.—a fortnight of misery—but bad things can and do happen. It isn’t Ebola, but it isn’t chicken pox, either. (That said, it has killed more people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year than Ebola has.) The rate of hospitalization is about one in five, mostly owing to pneumonia, and the mortality rate is about one in a thousand. (In developing countries, it is more like one in a hundred.) Measles may also have a suppressive effect on the immune system for two years—“the shadow of measles,” as I heard one doctor describe it. The disease can cause hearing loss and, in rare cases, five to ten years later, a usually fatal form of encephalitis. Its prevalence, before the development of the vaccine, made it a scourge. Pretty much everyone got it. Its virtual disappearance since has made it seem like an abstraction, one of those common experiences of yesteryear that old-timers think kids today are too coddled to abide, like schoolyard fistfights, helmetless cycling, and child labor.

    “Some people seem to think measles is some happy Norman Rockwell rite of passage for American youth,” Howard Zucker told me. A popular long-standing anti-vax meme depicts a clip of Marcia Brady, in a 1969 episode of “The Brady Bunch,” declaring, “If you have to get sick, sure can’t beat the measles!” Parents who might agree sometimes throw so-called measles parties, to get it over with for as many kids as possible, as soon as possible. What was once a folksy response to inevitable exposure now carries a hint of Munchausen by proxy.

    One need not relitigate the case for vaccines here. There have been more than a dozen large-scale, peer-reviewed studies—the most recent one in Denmark, involving more than six hundred and fifty thousand children—that have found no connection between the M.M.R. vaccine and autism. Are there side effects to vaccines? Sometimes. Are there bad doses or batches? If there weren’t, there would be no such thing as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Does Big Pharma benefit from the vaccine protocol? You bet. At the end of July, Merck, the only U.S. manufacturer of the M.M.R. vaccine, announced that it had earned six hundred and seventy-five million dollars in the previous quarter from the M.M.R. vaccine and the chicken-pox vaccine, a fifty-eight-per-cent increase from the same period last year.

    But vaccines work, both for individuals and for the general public. They are one of the great advances of modern times. And they do not cause autism. The science on this point is settled, to the extent that any science ever is, in the pursuit of proving a negative.

    The measles outbreak has helped clarify for many public-health professionals that the virus they’re fighting isn’t so much measles as it is vaccine hesitancy and refusal. With the spread of mass shootings and conspiracy theories like QAnon, we are becoming more comfortable with the concept that ideas behave like viruses. This pandemic’s Patient Zero is harder to pinpoint. Suspicion of authority, rejection of expertise, a fracturing of factual consensus, the old question of individual liberty versus the common good, the checkered history of medical experimentation (see: Tuskegee, Henrietta Lacks, Mengele), the cynicism of the pharmaceutical industry, the periodic laxity of its regulators, the overriding power of parental love, the worry and suggestibility it engenders, and the media, both old and new, that feed on it—there are a host of factors and trends that have encouraged the spread of anti-vaccination sentiment.

    But, if we have to pick a Patient Zero, Andrew Wakefield will do. Wakefield is the British gastroenterologist who produced the notorious article, published in The Lancet in 1998, linking the M.M.R. vaccine to autism. The study, which featured just twelve subjects, was debunked, the article was pulled, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine—as well as his reputation, in scientific circles anyway. But, owing to his persistence in the years since, his discredited allegations have spread like mold. In the anti-vaxxer pantheon, he is martyr and saint.

    “It’s shocking how strong the anti-vax movement is,” Zucker said. “What surprises me is the really educated people who are passionately against vaccinations. I see this as part of a larger war against science-based reality. We need to study vaccine hesitancy as a disease.” He gave a TEDx talk recently about the crippling disconnect between the speed at which information, good or bad, spreads now and the slow, grinding pace of public-health work. He managed, by way of the general theory of relativity, to establish the equivalence of H1N1, Chewbacca Mask Lady, and Pizzagate: “How do we immunize and protect ourselves from the damaging effects of virality?”

    People often talk about the anti-vaccination movement as a social-media phenomenon, but in the ultra-Orthodox community, where women are discouraged from using computers and smartphones, it has apparently spread mostly among mothers by word of mouth, through phone trees, leaflets, and gatherings: still viral, but analog. “It’s more about social networks than social media,” Gellin, of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, said.

    In May, there was an ultra-Orthodox anti-vaccination “symposium” in a ballroom in Monsey—men and women separated by a makeshift wall, Wakefield present via Skype. A Satmar rabbi, Hillel Handler, stood and suggested that the measles outbreak was an anti-Hasidic conspiracy concocted by Mayor Bill de Blasio, as a cover for diseases imported by Central American immigrants. Others equated what they called “forced vaccination” with the Holocaust.

    #Rougeole #Vaccination #New_York #Complotisme

  • Flight data from Jeffrey Epstein’s private jets show a lavish travel schedule as the walls closed in
    https://www.insider.com/jeffrey-epsteins-private-jet-flight-data-2019-7

    La traduction avec google

    Avant son arrestation le 6 juillet, les jets privés de Jeffrey Epstein parcouraient le monde tous les trois jours, le plus souvent entre des aéroports situés à proximité de ses propriétés aux États-Unis et en France.

    INSIDER a glané les schémas de voyage d’Epstein à partir de données de vol en masse, recueillies par des passionnés d’avionique, qui utilisent un équipement spécial pour détecter et enregistrer les données que chaque avion diffuse en vol

    Les mêmes données montrent plusieurs voyages internationaux, notamment au Royaume-Uni, en Slovaquie et au Maroc, parfois pour quelques heures à la fois.

    Alors que les journalistes et les procureurs fédéraux se moquaient de Jeffrey Epstein au cours des deux dernières années, le tristement célèbre gestionnaire financier et trafiquant sexuel semble avoir profité d’un style de vie globuleux impliquant des vols hebdomadaires entre ses propriétés à #New_York, au #Nouveau-Mexique, en #Floride, aux #États-Unis. Îles et à #Paris, ainsi que des excursions occasionnelles au #Royaume-Uni, en #Slovaquie et au #Maroc.

    Ce compte rendu des voyages d’Epstein est basé sur deux années de données de vol associées à deux de ses avions de ligne Gulfstream. Sans manifestes détaillés, il est impossible de savoir si Epstein était présent sur chaque vol. Dans l’ensemble, toutefois, les dossiers de vol illustrent une vie improbablement fastueuse et soulèvent d’autres questions sur la façon dont il a gagné et dépensé sa fortune.

    La plupart des vols peuvent être suivis en temps réel par n’importe qui dans le monde. Cependant, Epstein profite depuis longtemps d’ une politique fédérale peu connue qui permet aux propriétaires de jets privés de dissimuler leurs mouvements en temps réel de la vue du public. Dans le même temps, la plupart des aéronefs sont programmés pour diffuser automatiquement leur « numéro de queue », leur vitesse et leur position actuelle uniques en utilisant un système appelé système de surveillance dépendante automatique ou ADS-B. (Ce système deviendra obligatoire en 2020.)

    Toute personne disposant de l’équipement approprié (et relativement peu coûteux) peut capter et enregistrer les signaux ADS-B provenant d’aéronefs au-dessus de sa tête. Au cours des dernières années, des milliers d’amateurs en avionique ont soumis leurs données au site Web ADSBExchange , générant ainsi des cartes détaillées indiquant les trajectoires d’avions autrement bloqués, y compris les deux Gulfstream d’Epstein. Alors que le site fournit les données gratuitement, son propriétaire demande des dons aux entités commerciales qui les utilisent. INSIDER a fait un tel don avant de publier cet article.

    La flotte de jets privés d’Epstein comprend un Boeing 727 et deux Gulfstreams.

    Des dossiers publics suggèrent qu’Epstein possède au moins trois avions à réaction : un Boeing 727, un Gulfstream IV et un Gulfstream GV-SP. Selon les journaux de vol publiés par Gawker en 2015, le numéro de queue du 727 est N908JE. Cet aéronef est immatriculé auprès d’une société du Delaware appelée JEGE, Inc. Les contributeurs ADSBExchange n’ont signalé aucune activité de vol à partir de ce numéro de queue.

    Les Gulfstream sont une autre histoire. Le IV est enregistré à JEGE, LLC et porte le numéro de queue N120JE. Le GV-SP est enregistré auprès de Plan D, LLC et porte le numéro de queue N212JE. Les deux sociétés ont été établies dans les îles Vierges américaines et partagent une adresse avec le bureau d’Epstein à St. Thomas. La même adresse figurait auparavant dans l’entrée d’Epstein dans l’adresse du registre des délinquants sexuels à New York et dans les déclarations d’au moins deux de ses préoccupations sans but lucratif, la Fondation COUQ et la Fondation J. Epstein des Îles Vierges . En outre, leurs schémas de vol suggèrent clairement qu’ils ont été utilisés par quelqu’un qui partage son temps entre les propriétés d’Epstein.

    Entre janvier 2018 et juin 2019, le Gulfstream IV a effectué 57 vols. Au cours de la même période, le Gulfstream GV-SP a effectué 107 vols. Cela suggère qu’un ou les deux avions avaient décollé au moins un jour sur trois. (Les données antérieures à 2018 ne semblent pas disponibles.)

    #Jeffrey_Epstein #lolita_express #élites #élites_internationales DSK(onnection) #jet_set

  • US and Iran, short memories, by Serge Halimi & Pierre Rimbert (Le Monde diplomatique - English edition, August 2019)
    https://mondediplo.com/2019/08/02us-iran

    On 1 September 1983 a Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor downed a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 carrying 269 passengers from New York to Seoul. KAL 007 had accidentally deviated from its planned route and entered Soviet airspace by night, flying over sensitive military installations. The Kremlin said it had mistaken the civilian aircraft for a spy plane. These incidents, extensively documented, provide an opportunity for a scientific experiment: the difference in treatment of the KAL 007 and Iran Air 655 stories gives an accurate measure of the ideological bias of western media, especially the US press which is hailed around the world for its professionalism.

    On 2 September 1983 a #New_York_Times editorial, ‘Murder in the Air’, declared, ‘There is no conceivable excuse for any nation shooting down a harmless airliner.’ Five years later, when a US jet did the shooting, all sorts of excuses seemed conceivable. The NYT emphasised that ‘while horrifying, it was nonetheless an accident. On present evidence, it’s hard to see what the Navy could have done to avoid it’ (5 July 1988). Itinvited its readers to ‘put yourself in Captain Rogers’s shoes [William C Rogers III, who ordered the firing of the missile] ... it is hard to fault his decision to attack the suspect plane.’ The NYT also claimed there was blame on both sides: ‘Iran, too, may bear responsibility for failing to warn civilian planes away from the combat zone of an action it had initiated’ (2).

    #médias #monde_libre #démocraties

  • The steal of the century: stolen land, stolen water, stolen images – Middle East Monitor
    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190627-the-steal-of-the-century-stolen-land-stolen-water-stolen

    Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu must have considered it the longest of long shots but what if the Palestinians by some wild stretch of the imagination had called their bluff on the “deal of the century”; what if they had suddenly decided to turn up in Bahrain for the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop this week?

    To guard against any such thing happening, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, wrote a deliberately offensive and insulting opinion piece on 24 June that the #New_York_Times was happy to publish. “What’s wrong with Palestinian surrender?” mused Ambassador Danon. “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.” Having backed the Palestinians into a corner from which they could only say no, Kushner then had Danon stick the knife in.

    The message, in all its arrogance, was clear: if you don’t take what is on offer, it is going to get a hell of a lot worse. However, we know we have made it impossible for you to take what is on offer, so guess what? The two state solution is well and truly dead; the path to a greater Israel is secured; welcome to the new reality of Palestinian Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza. And, oh yes, we promise to throw cash at you, $50 billion; that’s a lot of dosh, if you do what is commanded of you. If you don’t, well that money is off the table.

    While many commentators have rightly attacked the New York Times for publishing an openly racist and hate-mongering piece, they may have missed the larger significance of what is happening at speed in the killing of the two-state solution. The day before the Danon article, US National Security Advisor John Bolton accompanied the Israeli Prime Minister to land overlooking the Jordan Valley, the most fertile region of the West Bank. Nearly 90 per cent of the valley has been allocated to Israeli settlements and agriculture, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and international law.

    #vol #voleurs #sans_vergogne #Palestine #impunité #etats-unis #sionisme

  • Remembering refuge. Between Sanctuary and Solidarity

    Remembering Refuge: Between Sanctuary and Solidarity is an oral history archive highlighting the stories of people from Haiti, El Salvador, and Guatemala, who crossed the Canada-US border to seek refuge.

    The borders between #Detroit and #Ontario, #New_York and #Quebec sit on the lands of the #Mwami, the #Potawatomi, the #Anishnabek, the #Peoria, the #Haudnesonee, the #Huron-Wendat, the #Mohawk, the St. Lawrence #Iroquois, and the #Abenaki.

    You are hearing a conversation between elders Ateronhiata:kon (Francis Boots) and Kanasaraken (Loran Thompson) of the Kahniakehaka (Mohawk) Nation in Akwesasne. They are sharing stories about the Canada-US border that crosses through their territories.

    https://www.rememberingrefuge.com
    #Canada #frontières #mémoire #USA #migrations #réfugiés #histoire_orale #audio #peuples_autochtones #Québec
    ping @reka

  • Patrick Chappatte sur la décision du NY Times d’arrêter les dessins de presse : « il y a de quoi s’inquiéter »

    Le New York Times ne publiera plus de #dessin_politique dans son édition internationale. Une décision drastique qui arrive après une #polémique en avril sur un dessin sur Benyamin Netanyahou, jugé antisémite. Patrick Chappatte, dessinateur suisse, publie deux dessins par semaine dans le quotidien. Interview.

    https://www.franceinter.fr/culture/patrick-chapatte-sur-la-decision-du-ny-times-d-arreter-les-dessins-de-pr
    #New_York_Times #dessin_de_presse #it_has_begun #NYT #auto-censure

    • États-Unis.La fin du dessin de presse au “New York Times”, symbole d’une liberté attaquée

      L’emblématique quotidien américain ne publiera plus aucune caricature à compter du 1er juillet. Le dessinateur Patrick Chappatte, qui dessine pour le New York Times et pour le quotidien suisse Le Temps, sonne l’alarme : nés avec la démocratie, les dessins politiques sont attaqués quand la liberté l’est.

      https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/etats-unis-la-fin-du-dessin-de-presse-au-new-york-times-symbo
      #the_end

    • Dessin de presse : #fini_de_rire

      Le « New York Times » déclenche de vives réactions en renonçant aux caricatures politiques. Directement visé par la mesure, Patrick Chappatte s’inquiète pour la liberté d’expression. Et celle des dessinateurs de presse

      Quand l’humour est stoppé dans son élan, que reste-t-il ? « Il n’y a pas de limites à l’humour qui est au service de la liberté d’expression car, là où l’humour s’arrête, bien souvent, la place est laissée à la censure ou à l’autocensure », disait Cabu, en 2012, trois ans avant de mourir assassiné dans l’attentat djihadiste contre la rédaction de Charlie Hebdo. La décision du New York Times de renoncer aux caricatures politiques provoque un déluge de réactions. Et des craintes, surtout. Pour la liberté d’expression, l’indépendance des médias et la démocratie. Le dessin de presse est-il mort ? Ou, au contraire, plus puissant que jamais ?

      Un dessin jugé antisémite

      Plusieurs fois primé, Patrick Chappatte collaborait depuis plus de vingt ans avec l’International Herald Tribune d’abord, puis le New York Times, dans sa version en ligne et internationale. Il doit désormais en faire le deuil. Il s’est fendu d’une longue explication sur son blog. « Peut-être devrions-nous commencer à nous inquiéter. Et nous rebeller. Les dessins de presse sont nés avec la démocratie et ils sont attaqués quand la liberté l’est », écrit-il. Patrick Chappatte, qui croque régulièrement l’actualité pour Le Temps, est l’un des deux dessinateurs touchés. L’autre est le Singapourien Heng Kim Song.

      Un dessin publié en avril représentant le premier ministre israélien une étoile de David autour du cou et tenu en laisse par Donald Trump a agi comme l’allumette devant un bidon d’essence. Jugée antisémite, la caricature du Portugais Antonio Moreira Antunes a déclenché une vive controverse, amplifiée par les réseaux sociaux. Très vite, le New York Times l’a censurée. Le directeur de publication A. G. Sulzberger a présenté des excuses et annoncé la fin de la collaboration avec les cartoonistes syndiqués sans lien avec le journal.

      Lundi, le New York Times a fait un pas de plus, radical. Mais James Bennet, le responsable de la section Opinions, précise, dans une déclaration écrite, que la décision était en gestation déjà avant la polémique. « Cela fait plus d’un an que nous envisageons d’aligner l’édition internationale sur la version nationale en mettant fin aux caricatures politiques quotidiennes, et nous le ferons à compter du 1er juillet », dit-il, sans donner plus dans les détails. Il assure que le journal « continuera d’investir dans des formes de journalisme d’opinion, y compris visuel, qui expriment la nuance, la complexité et une voix forte d’une diversité de points de vue ».

      ictimes de censure

      Vraiment ? Aux Etats-Unis, plusieurs cartoonistes ont été victimes de censure pour n’avoir pas ménagé Donald Trump. Nick Anderson et Rob Rogers ont même perdu leur emploi. Dans ce contexte, la décision du New York Times agit comme un clou supplémentaire enfoncé dans le cercueil du dessin politique. Ann Telnaes, caricaturiste pour le site du Washington Post et lauréate du Prix Pulitzer du dessin de presse en 2001, a dans la foulée annulé son abonnement online. « Le New York Times ne soutient plus les caricaturistes depuis des années. Sa dernière décision d’abandonner toutes les caricatures éditoriales est une indication supplémentaire de leur incompréhension de l’objectif du dessin de presse et de son rôle essentiel dans une presse libre », indique-t-elle au Temps.

      Liza Donnelly est tout aussi inquiète et amère. Elle dessine pour plusieurs médias, dont le New Yorker, le New York Times, CNN et CBS. « Chappatte est l’un des meilleurs du monde », commente-t-elle. « Les caricatures peuvent être controversées et nous, les dessinateurs, pouvons être mal compris. Mais la liberté d’expression est cruciale sous toutes ses formes – écrites ou dessinées. J’ai peur que renoncer à des dessins de presse soit un choix fondé sur la crainte de ne pas savoir comment ils seront perçus par le public. Les meilleurs caricaturistes ne travaillent pas en recourant à des stéréotypes ou à des tropes. Comme Chappatte, ce sont des gens réfléchis qui regardent le monde et donnent leur avis. Nous ne pouvons pas perdre cette précieuse contribution ! »

      Plus âgé, le dessinateur Jeff Danziger, qui a été livreur de journaux pour le New York Times, affirme avoir cessé d’essayer de comprendre le journal. « Mais je ne pense pas que cela ait quoi que ce soit à voir avec la liberté de la presse. Le Times est très héroïque lorsqu’il s’agit de s’opposer aux ingérences du gouvernement. L’explication est générationnelle. » Sur Twitter, Matt Wuerker, dessinateur chez Politico, lance un appel : « Nous avons besoin de @PatChappatte et d’humour politique – maintenant plus que jamais ! Faites-le savoir au Times. »
      Chappatte : « Il est temps de se réveiller pour ne pas laisser gagner ceux qui crient le plus fort »

      Le New York Times (NYT) a publié dans son édition internationale du 25 avril un dessin de presse représentant le premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou en chien d’aveugle, tenu en laisse par un Donald Trump aveugle et portant une kippa. Cette caricature a engendré la fureur des lecteurs, des excuses du journal, puis la suppression des dessins de presse politiques dans ses pages. Un choix « regrettable » pour Chappatte, dessinateur de presse pour le NYT, Le Temps et la NZZ.

      Le Temps : Suite à sa publication, le « NYT » a décidé de renoncer aux dessins de presse. L’avez-vous senti venir ?

      Chappatte : Depuis 2013, nous étions deux dessinateurs à l’interne : moi, qui faisais deux dessins par semaine, et un dessinateur de Singapour, qui réalisait un dessin sur l’Asie. Les autres jours, le journal reprenait des dessins d’agence du monde entier. On jouissait d’une grande visibilité, car on était repris sur le site web, les réseaux sociaux et mes dessins étaient même traduits depuis l’an dernier en espagnol et en chinois. Mais, quand ce dessin d’un collègue portugais est paru, le NYT a géré ce problème en cascade et cela a jeté un froid sur toute la profession.

      Il y a encore un mois je recevais un prix pour un dessin publié dans ce journal et les félicitations de l’éditeur. Il y a une relation de cause à effet regrettable. Je suis entré dans ce média par la fenêtre, il y a plus de vingt ans. La position historique du NYT était de ne pas avoir de dessin de presse, comme s’il n’était pas suffisamment subtil ou contrôlable. C’est un retour en arrière ! Ils en ont le droit, bien sûr, mais le contexte dans lequel ça s’est fait laisse un goût très désagréable. Le terrain est devenu très glissant. C’est dommage de réagir ainsi, car cela envoie de mauvais signaux. Le NYT est un étalon auquel les médias se réfèrent. Et il est aujourd’hui un bien triste exemple.

      Pourquoi avoir annoncé sur votre site, en primeur, l’arrêt des dessins de presse ?

      La gestion de cette crise est symptomatique. Il y a un mois, quand ce dessin sur Netanyahou est paru, des internautes étaient choqués à juste titre, et sont tombés sur le NYT. Le fils de Trump a retweeté, Trump aussi, puis Fox News et Breitbart en ont parlé. Le journal a regretté, s’est excusé, mais cela n’a pas été accepté par la foule en furie. Le NYT a publié deux éditoriaux, dont un très dur de Bret L. Stephens, mais il n’y a pas eu d’analyses, de recul, sur cette situation. Pourquoi est-ce arrivé ? Qu’est-ce qu’un dessin ? Et pourquoi celui-ci est-il problématique ? Quelques jours après, l’éditeur a annoncé l’arrêt de l’utilisation de dessins d’agence. Ils voulaient encore garder les dessinateurs internes. Je pensais que le gros de l’orage était passé.

      Mais ils avaient géré cette histoire de manière tellement défensive que je ne voyais pas comment arriver à faire du dessin de presse normalement. Cela a légitimé toutes les attaques dont les réseaux sociaux sont coutumiers. Puis, ils m’ont fait savoir qu’ils allaient arrêter les dessins de presse en juillet. J’ai décidé de partir tout de suite, car le charme était rompu. J’ai alors publié ce texte, même s’ils n’avaient pas encore communiqué sur cette décision, car cela va bien au-delà de moi et du dessin de presse. Dans ce monde on est prompt à être choqué. Les premières voix, les plus outragées, qui se font entendre sur les réseaux sociaux définissent toute la discussion. Celles qui se sont exprimées en premier, il y a un mois, ont défini ce qu’était le NYT. Le journal était emprisonné dans ces filets. Paradoxalement, les rédactions ne semblent pas être préparées face à la foule enragée qui mène des croisades morales sur internet.

      Quelle est la situation des dessinateurs de presse aux Etats-Unis ?

      Elle est inquiétante. Deux des meilleurs dessinateurs, selon moi, ont perdu leur job, car leurs éditeurs ou chefs de rubrique étaient pro-Trump et trouvaient que leurs dessins étaient trop critiques envers le président. C’est aussi arrivé à un ami du Los Angeles Times, dont le propriétaire est aussi fan de Trump, qui lui, a été contraint de partir. S’il est réélu et obtient une majorité dans la foulée au Congrès, on entrera dans une période vraiment dangereuse pour la démocratie. Les libertés sont testées, même là où on les croyait acquises.

      C’est pour cela qu’il y a de telles réactions sur les réseaux, des désabonnements et des appels à écrire au NYT. Les Américains le ressentent et s’inquiètent. En fin de compte, une caricature de Trump, pour ou contre, cela revient au même : parler de lui. Mais les hommes forts ont le cuir très fin et ses supporters arrivent à obtenir des succès en déclenchant leur furie. Il est temps qu’on se réveille pour ne pas laisser la partie être gagnée par ceux qui crient le plus fort. Les dessins sont des prétextes, il faut s’inquiéter de ce que cela révèle. Au-delà d’eux, c’est le journalisme qui est visé par cette rage. Il faut que les rédactions soient préparées et gardent leur sang-froid.

      Propos recueillis par Chamz Iaz
      Les caricaturistes sont en première ligne

      Lorsque la tempête se lève sur les médias, les caricaturistes sont souvent les premiers à sauter. C’est le constat tiré par la Fondation Cartooning for Peace (Dessins pour la paix), une organisation lancée en 2006 à l’initiative de l’ancien secrétaire général de l’ONU, décédé l’an dernier, Kofi Annan après l’affaire des caricatures de Mahomet publiées par le journal danois Jyllands-Posten et qui avaient enflammé le monde musulman.

      « Tout a changé avec les réseaux sociaux, relate Jean Plantu, le caricaturiste du journal français Le Monde et président de Cartooning for Peace. Les dessins publiés par un petit journal danois ont été vus dans le monde entier. Il a suffi d’y ajouter un commentaire pour manipuler les esprits. » Selon le dessinateur, cet effet d’amplification a créé une « nouvelle censure » contre laquelle les démocraties sont loin d’être immunisées, comme le montre la décision du New York Times. « Donald Trump en rêvait, le Times l’a fait », se désole Jean Plantu.

      Contrairement aux journalistes, les statistiques manquent pour les dessinateurs emprisonnés. « Actuellement nous nous occupons de trois cas, le Turc Musa Kart, le dessinateur chinois exilé Badiucao, qui vient de révéler son identité mais qui craint d’être harcelé, ainsi que le caricaturiste nicaraguayen menacé Pedro X. Molina », informe Terry Anderson, directeur adjoint d’une autre organisation de défense des caricaturistes, Cartoonists Rights Network International. Depuis sa création, il y a vingt ans, cette association a eu connaissance d’une centaine de dessinateurs menacés dans le monde.

      https://www.letemps.ch/monde/dessin-presse-fini-rire

  • Betrogene Kutscher in New York - Artikelsammlung


    2014 koste eine Taxikonzession in New York mehr als eine Million Dollar

    Wie Kredite New York’s Taxifahrer ruinierten
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784212

    Taxi loan abuses part of a broader pattern in New York | American Banker
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784207

    How New York could respond to the taxi medallion lending crisis | CSNY
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784206

    How We Investigated the New York Taxi Medallion Bubble - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784205

    Opinion | How New York Taxi Drivers Got Mired in Debt - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784204

    Taxi Industry Leaders Got Rich. Drivers Paid the Price. - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784203

    De Blasio calls for probe of taxi lenders
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784200

    Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784199

    Bad loans were killing the taxi industry long before Uber and Lyft: report
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784197

    As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784196

    ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784193

    Und zum Abschluß etwas Lustigeres aus New York:

    NYCTAXINEWS/CURRENT NEWS
    https://seenthis.net/messages/784190

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Wie Kredite New York’s Taxifahrer ruinierten
    https://www.taxi-times.com/wie-waghalsige-kredite-eine-ganze-generation-new-yorker-taxifahrer-ruini

    Wie waghalsige Kredite eine ganze Generation New Yorker Taxifahrer ruinierte

    28. Mai 2019 von Wim Faber

    Unter dem Titel „Sie wurden betrogen“ enthüllte die New York Times vergangene Woche die Machenschaften mächtiger Branchenführer, die den Preis der Taxikonzessionen in die Höhe und deren Besitzer in die Pleite trieben. Wim Faber fasst für Taxi Times zusammen.

    Im vergangenen Jahr hat eine Flut von Selbstmorden unter New Yorks Taxifahrern die überwältigende Verschuldung und finanzielle Notlage von Konzessionsbesitzern (die in NY ‘Medallion’ genannt werden) brutal unterstrichen. Beamte haben die Krise bislang immer wieder auf die Konkurrenz von Firmen wie Uber und Lyft zurückgeführt.

    Ein in der letzten Woche veröffentlichter Bericht der New York Times des investigativen Journalisten Brian M. Rosenthal ergab jedoch, dass ein Großteil der Pleiten auf eine Handvoll mächtiger Branchenführer zurückzuführen ist. Sie haben den Preis für Taxikonzessionen stetig und künstlich in die Höhe getrieben, bis sich eine Blase bildete, die letztendlich platzen musste. In einem Zeitraum von mehr als einem Jahrzehnt haben sie rücksichtlos tausende Fahrer an Kredite gebunden und dabei mehrere hundert Millionen Dollar eingestrichen, bevor der Markt zusammenbrach.
    Noch im Jahr 2014 zahlten Taxifahrer mehr als eine Million Dollar für dieses Stückchen Blech, das – an der Motorhaube angebracht – den Besitz einer New Yorker Taxikonzession symbolisierte. Foto: Maltz Auctions

    Innnerhalb von zehn Monaten hat die New York Times 450 Personen befragt und eine Datenbank für jeden Medallionverkauf seit 1995 erstellt. Es wurden tausende Einzeldarlehen und Dokumente, einschließlich interner Bankunterlagen und vertraulicher Gewinnbeteiligungsvereinbarungen, überprüft. Die daraus entstandene Geschichte über das New Yorker Taxigewerbe lieferte dann gleich zweimal den Aufmacher für die renommierte Zeitung. In Rosenthal’s ausführlichem Bericht kam keiner im New Yorker Taxigewerbe ungeschoren davon.

    Die Untersuchung deckte zahlreiche Beispiele auf, in denen die Fahrer in ausbeuterischen Krediten gefangen waren. Hunderte Taxiunternehmer hatten tilgungsfreie Kredite unterzeichnet und sich zur Zahlung exorbitanter Gebühren verpflichtet, während sie zugleich ihre gesetzlichen Rechte einbüßten und in der Folge nahezu ihr gesamtes monatliches Einkommen auf unbestimmte Zeit abgeben mussten.

    Diese Geschäftspraktiken brachten Bänker, Makler, Anwälten, Investoren, Flottenbesitzer und Inkassounternehmen enorme Gewinne ein. Die Führer gemeinnütziger Kreditgenossenschaften – sogenannte Credit Unions – wurden zu Multimillionären. Medallion-Makler wurden reich genug, um Yachten und teure Grundstücke in der City zu kaufen. Einer der erfolgreichsten Bänker engagierte sogar den Rapstar Nicki Minaj für eine Familienparty.
    New Yorks Taxifahrer haben ein besseres Einkommen verdient , meinen nicht nur diese Taxifahrer. Foto: NYTWA

    Doch diese Methoden beraubten Einwandererfamilien ihrer Ersparnisse, trieben Fahrer in Schulden, die sie nicht zurückzahlen konnten, und verschlang ein ganzes Gewerbe. Laut einer Times-Analyse der Gerichtsakten mussten mehr als 950 Taxi-Medallionbesitzer Insolvenz anmelden.

    Einige große Banken sind auch in das Taxigewerbe eingestiegen, weil sie einen neuen Markt mit neuen Kreditnehmern suchten. Die Kombination aus schnellem Geld, eifrigen Kreditnehmern und der Lockruf eines seltenen Vermögenswerts trug dazu bei, dass die Preise weit über dem tatsächlichen Wert der Medallions lagen. Einige Branchenführer, so stellte ‚The Times‘ fest, befeuerten den Preisanstieg, indem sie Medallions absichtlich überbezahlten. Dabei haben die Nachforschungen der Zeitung eigentlich eher zufällig begonnen, nämlich als ein Team der Zeitung einem der Berater von Präsident Trump, dem Anwalt Michael Cohen, auf den Zahn fühlte. Der Journalist Rosenthal fokussierte sich auf die 30 Medallions, die Cohen damals besaß.

    Zwischen 2002 und 2014 stieg der Preis für ein Medallion von 200.000 US-Dollar auf über eine Million US-Dollar, und das obwohl die Daten der Stadt belegen, dass sich das Fahrereinkommen kaum verändert hatte. Recherchen belegen zudem, dass rund 4.000 Fahrer in diesem Zeitraum Medallions gekauft haben – angelockt von einer zweifelhaften Prämie. So wie Mohammed Hoque, der 2014 sein Medallion für eine Million US-Dollar kaufte. Von 2002 bis 2014 haben die Marktführer des Taxigewerbes den Preis für Medallions künstlich erhöht, was dazu beigetragen hat, dass sich ihr Marktpreis verfünffachte. Von 1995 bis 2002 waren die Medallionpreise noch relativ stabil geblieben. Seit dem Preisverfall Ende 2014 haben Hedgefonds Hunderte von Medallions gekauft, die von bankrotten Fahrern beschlagnahmt wurden.

    „Das Ganze war wie ein Ponzi-Programm, weil es völlig vom steigenden Wert abhing“, sagte Haywood Miller, ein Schuldenspezialist, der sowohl Kreditnehmer als auch Kreditgeber konsultiert hat. „Dabei kamen die Käufer unter die Räder. Einwanderer, die vielleicht kein Englisch sprechen konnte. Sie wurden betrogen.“

    Ein pakistanischer Einwanderer, dachte, er kaufe nur ein Auto, bekam einen Medallionkredit in Höhe von 780.000,- US-Dollar. Er konnte im Nachgang seine Miete nicht mehr bezahlen. Einem Einwanderer aus Bangladesh wurde gesagte, er solle auf seinem Kreditantrag über sein Einkommen lügen. Er verlor schließlich sein Medallion. Ein haitianischer Einwanderer, der bis zur Erschöpfung arbeitete, um seine monatlichen Zahlungen zu leisten, musste feststellen, dass er nur Zinsen gezahlt hatte und bankrott war.

    Regierungsbeamte ignorierten Warnzeichen und befreiten die Kreditgeber von den Vorschriften. Die Taxi- und Limousinenkommission der Stadt (TLC) war schon ganz auf den Zug aufgesprungen und verwandelte sich in eine „Cheerleaderin für Medallionverkäufe“. Die TLC wurde mit der Regulierung der Branche beauftragt, aber als die Preise stiegen, verkaufte es neue Medallions und erklärte, sie seien „besser als die Börse“.

    Meera Joshi, seit 2011 Mitglied der Kommission für Taxis und Limousinen und von 2014 bis März 2019 ihre Vorsitzende, sagte, es sei nicht die Aufgabe der Stadt, die Kreditvergabe zu regulieren. Aber sie räumte ein, dass den Beamten Warnsignale bekannt waren und sie etwas hätten tun können.

    Nachdem der Medallionmarkt zusammengebrochen war, entschied sich Bürgermeister Bill de Blasio dafür, keine Rettungsaktion zu finanzieren. Anfang dieses Jahres schloss der Stadtratssprecher Corey Johnson das für das Taxigewerbe zuständige Komitee mit der Begründung, es habe den größten Teil seiner Arbeit abgeschlossen.

    Kreditgeber entwickelten ihre Techniken in New York, aber verbreiteten sie unter anderem auch in Chicago, Boston und San Francisco. So veränderten sie nachhaltig das Taxigewerbe in den Vereinigten Staaten. In Interviews lehnten diese Kreditgeber ein jegliches Fehlverhalten ab und begründeten dies damit, dass die Aufsichtsbehörden ihre Praktiken billigten. Es hätten zwar einige Kreditnehmer schlechte Entscheidungen getroffen und zu große Schulden gemacht, allerdings seien auch einige Fahrer froh darüber gewesen ihre kletternden Medallionwerte als Sicherheit für Bargeld zu verwenden. Die Taxiunternehmer, welche ihre Medallions auf dem Höhepunkt des Marktes verkauft haben, hätten damit Geld verdient.

    Lange glaubten die Kreditgeber daran, dass die Medallionwerte weiter steigen würden, wie es in der Vergangenheit fast immer der Fall gewesen ist. Niemand hätte voraussagen können, dass Uber und Lyft das Geschäft unterbieten würden. „Die Leute geben den Banken gerne die Schuld für Dinge, die passieren, weil sie große, schlechte Banken sind“, sagt Robert Familant, der frühere Leiter der Progressiven Kreditunion, einer kleinen gemeinnützigen Organisation, die sich auf Medallionkredite spezialisiert hat. „Meiner Meinung nach haben wir nichts anderes getan, als Kleinunternehmern zu helfen, erfolgreich zu werden.“

    „Es gab viele Akteure und viele Leute haben einfach zugesehen, wie es geschah. Die TLC sah zu, die Kreditgeber sahen zu, die Kreditnehmer freuten sich, wie ihre Investitionen stiegen. Erst als diese auseinanderfielen, begannen die Menschen, Maßnahmen zu ergreifen und mit den Fingern zu zeigen“, kommentiert Meera Joshi, die im März aus der Kommission ausschied. „Es war eine Party. Warum aufhören?“

    Der Bericht in der New York Times blieb nicht ohne Folgen: Am Montag teilte die New Yorker Generalstaatsanwaltschaft mit, sie habe eine Untersuchung über mehr als ein ganzes Jahrzehnt von Kreditvergabepraktiken eingeleitet, bei der Tausende von Taxifahrern mit Migrationshintergrund ihre Schulden abbauen mussten. New Yorks Bürgermeister Bill de Blasio ordnete zusätzlich eine gesonderte Untersuchung der Medallions-Makler an, welche in der Vergangenheit auch bei der Vermittlung der Kredite behilflich waren.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Taxi loan abuses part of a broader pattern in New York | American Banker
    https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/taxi-loan-abuses-part-of-a-broader-pattern-in-new-york

    An investigation by The New York Times earlier this week suggested that the massive collapse in New York City taxi medallion prices since 2014 was not primarily the result of new competition from Uber and Lyft. Instead it was the inevitable outcome of unsustainable lending practices.

    Low-paid cab drivers who dreamed of becoming their own bosses took out loans that required them to pay $1 million or more. The payments often covered only the interest that borrowers owed, and interest rates spiked if the loans were not repaid within a few years. From the lenders’ standpoint, the loans only made sense as long as medallion prices continued to rise.

    Cabbies, many of them immigrants, suffered harsh consequences after taking out loans with terms they did not fully understand.

    Cab drivers who dreamed of becoming their own bosses took out loans that required them to pay $1 million or more.

    Since the articles were published, various politicians have floated potential responses that are narrowly targeted at taxi medallion lending.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a probe of taxi loan brokers. Other local officials suggested that the city should buy onerous loans at discounted prices and then forgive much of the debt.

    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the National Credit Union Administration to conduct a review of supervisory practices at institutions that engage in taxi medallion lending.

    But taxi drivers are not the only businesspeople who regularly get deceived by unscrupulous lenders. So do contractors, restaurateurs and the owners of various other kinds of struggling small businesses. Many high-cost business lenders are based in New York, where unusually favorable laws provide a haven to these companies.

    Some aspects of the New York City taxi loan market were unique. For example, local officials had a vested interest in keep medallion prices high, since the city was generating revenue from the proceeds of sales. Indeed, the Times showed that government officials enabled lending that has put many borrowers in dire straits.

    “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, said in a 2011 interview.

    But in other ways, the loans to cab drivers resembled deceptively marketed loans that have ensnared a wide variety of cash-strapped small-business owners.

    Because the New York City taxi loans were classified as business loans, rather than consumer loans, they did not have to include standard disclosures regarding interest rates. They often included large fees and terms that unsophisticated borrowers did not understand.

    And according to the Times, some taxi medallion lenders used a tool that under New York law offers a uniquely powerful way to collect on business debt. Lenders in the Empire State can require applicants for small-business loans to sign a document called a confession of judgment, which prevents them from contesting any subsequent allegation that they have fallen behind on their payments.

    A Bloomberg News investigation last year found that merchant cash advance companies, which offer high-cost financing to small businesses across the country, have at times abused New York’s court system by forging documents and lying about how much money they are owed in order to obtain speedy judgments that cannot be contested by the borrower.

    Small businesses that use merchant cash advances are required to make daily payments based on a percentage of their daily revenue. The merchant cash advance firms avoid complying with New York’s strict usury rules by classifying their financing not as a loan, but rather as a purchase of the company’s future credit card receipts.

    The Bloomberg articles also chronicled the role of New York City marshals — mayoral appointees who enforce the court judgments, get a cut of the proceeds, and have been accused in some cases of improperly seeking to collect money outside of the city.

    As evidence of business lending abuses in New York has mounted, little change has occurred at the state level, though there does appear to be a growing appetite for reform.

    Last year, the New York State Department of Financial Services argued in a report that borrower protection laws and regulations should apply equally to all consumer lending and small-business lending activities.

    The Bloomberg investigation reportedly sparked probes by the New York attorney general’s office and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the Federal Trade Commission has also opened an investigation of potentially unfair or deceptive practices in the merchant cash advance industry.

    The loan practices that hurt taxi drivers are part of a broader pattern in New York, which has become the nation’s capital for predatory business lending. It remains to be seen whether state lawmakers and regulators will connect the dots.

    Bankshot is American Banker’s column for real-time analysis of today’s news.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How New York could respond to the taxi medallion lending crisis | CSNY
    https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/how-new-york-could-respond-to-taxi-medallion-lending-crisis.html

    Experts and lawmakers weigh in on easing the pain of burdened medallion owners and preventing predatory lending in the future.
    By ANNIE MCDONOUGH
    MAY 22, 2019

    After a two-part New York Times investigation into predatory lending practices for taxi medallions delineated how industry leaders and government agencies participated in, encouraged or ignored risky lending, calls for action sprang forth – sometimes from the very same officials or agencies that had been asleep at the switch.

    Various deceptive or exploitative lending practices contributed to the rise and precipitous fall of taxi medallions in New York City. Medallions worth $200,000 in 2002 rose to more than $1 million in 2014, before crashing to less than $200,000. The bubble was inflated by loans made without down payments, requirements that loans had to be paid back in three years or extended with inflated interest rates, and interest-only loans that required borrowers to forfeit legal rights and give up much of their income. Borrowers – typically low-income, immigrant drivers – were left in the lurch when the bubble burst, an event that the taxi industry has long blamed primarily on the rise of app-based ride hail services like Uber and Lyft. While the rise of app-based ride hail did contribute to the now-ailing taxi industry, the revelations in the Times show government officials – including the Taxi and Limousine Commission which acted as a “cheerleader” for medallion sales – ignored the warning signs.

    Since Sunday, when the first Times story was published, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced an inquiry into the business and lending practices that “may have created” the crisis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a joint probe by the TLC, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into the brokers who helped arrange the loans, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into the credit unions involved in the lending, and members of the New York City Council and state Legislature, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, have called for hearings and legislation to resolve the issue.

    The various proposals raised thus far are unlikely to fully address the damage caused to many medallion owners, some experts say. The Times investigation found that since 2016, more than 950 taxi drivers have filed for bankruptcy, with thousands more still suffering under the crippling loans. This is combined with a string of taxi and other professional drivers who have committed suicide in the past year and a half.

    Some of the solutions offered have focused on preventing the kind of reckless lending practices exhibited for taxi medallions. Stringer called on state lawmakers to close a loophole that allows lenders to classify their loans as business deals – as opposed to consumer loans, which have more protections for borrowers. A bill introduced last week by state Sen. Jessica Ramos would also establish a program to assist medallion owners who are unable to obtain financing, refinancing or restructuring of an existing loan through a loan loss reserve. State Sen. James Sanders and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who chair the state Legislature’s committees on banks, declined to comment.

    But classifying loans for medallions as consumer loans might not be appropriate, said Bruce Schaller, a transportation expert and former deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation. “I think the difficult question with the individual drivers is that they are in business, they are planning to make money off of their increase in medallion prices. Should they have the same protections as someone who is taking out a mortgage on a house, who is presumed to be very vulnerable?” he asked. “That may well be the case, but (drivers) are also in a business in a way that the prospective homeowner isn’t.”

    The TLC told the Times that it is the responsibility of bank examiners to control lending practices, while the state Department of Financial Services said that it supervised some of the banks involved, but often deferred to federal inspectors. “The TLC is gravely concerned that unsound lending practices have hurt taxi drivers and has raised these concerns publicly,” Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen said in an emailed statement. “Banks and credit unions are regulated by federal agencies that have substantial oversight powers that the TLC does not have. The TLC has taken steps within our regulatory power to help owners and drivers by easing regulatory burdens and working with City Council to limit the number of for-hire vehicles on the road. We have pushed banks to restructure loan balances and payment amounts to reflect actual trip revenue.”

    Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, also mentioned interest in preventing risky lending practices. “We are deeply concerned about predatory lending in the medallion business,” Stein wrote in an email. “While TLC has no direct regulatory oversight over lenders – that is squarely under the purview of federal regulators – we continue to look for every means of helping owners and drivers make ends meet. We’ve discontinued medallion sales, secured a cap on app-based for-hire-vehicles, and we strongly urge federal regulators to do more as well.”

    But remedies at the federal level may not be realistic, according to David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, with a speciality in transportation and land use planning. “There doesn’t seem to be any appetite for what would be reasonable lending standards. Reasonable standards that would include verifiable collateral or values that were based on something other than made-up dollar amounts,” King said, adding that he doesn’t see those changes being made under the current administration. “The housing bubble of 11 years ago, I think that was a sufficiently national concern that has inspired some movement from Washington. Whereas I think something like an asset bubble in New York, just like an asset bubble in one region, isn’t going to be enough to spur federal legislation.”

    Schaller said that while lending regulation fixes could be beneficial for preventing this kind of crisis in other industries, there’s action that can be taken now by the city to alleviate some pain. “The real question is, if the city now decides that they were part of the fraud, then they should refund the money,” he said. “It’s one thing to close a loophole, it’s another thing to decide that you need to make restitution.”

    City Councilman Mark Levine, who has been working on legislation along those lines for nearly a year, agreed that the city needs to take responsibility. “There has been a lot of attention to the whole industry of lenders and brokers who push these loans on the drivers in ways that were not transparent and really deceived them, and may very well constitute some sort of legal fraud,” he said. “But the city itself also bears responsibility for this, because we were selling medallions with the goal of bringing in revenue to the city and we were promoting them and pumping them up in ways that I think masks the true risks that drivers were taking on. And, most egregiously, we had a round of sales in 2014 when it was abundantly clear that we were headed for a price drop, because by that point app-based competitors had emerged and there were other challenges.”

    Levine’s vision for immediately helping those drivers still suffering under unsustainable loans would involve the city acquiring the loans from lenders who either cannot or will not be flexible with borrowers, and then forgiving the debts. Though the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, the idea is to partially finance the buy-back by placing a surcharge on app-based ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. Levine’s office is still working on confirming that the City Council would have the authority to levy that kind of surcharge. If it doesn’t, they would encourage that action be taken in Albany.

    But, as the Times’ investigation into the issue has revealed, much of the damage to drivers and medallion owners has already been done – including to the hundreds of medallion owners who have declared bankruptcy. “If someone paid $800,000 for a medallion loan and paid part of that off, and has had their house repossessed, now Mark Levine is saying, ‘well, we’ll just refund whatever’s left dangling out there,’” Schaller said. “If I were on the losing end of that bargain, I’d say I want my $800,000 back.”

    The idea of a buy-back, Levine admitted, is not a perfect solution, but it’s one he said can help the thousands of medallion owners stuck right now. “It would not address that kind of horrible, horrible hardship,” he said, referring to those owners who have forfeited assets and sustained other losses.

    If there’s any upside to the stories relayed in the Times about medallion owners financially devastated by bad loans and the failing taxi industry, it may be that it’s a call to action – even if it’s coming too late for some. “It’s had a dramatic impact on the interest in the Council about finding solutions,” Levine said of the heavy punch packed by the Times’ investigation. “It gives new impetus to this effort, which is good, because it’s complicated, and it’s going to require a political push to make it happen. The revelations in this article made that more likely.”

    Annie McDonough is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How We Investigated the New York Taxi Medallion Bubble - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/reader-center/taxi-medallion-investigation.html

    It took a year, 450 interviews and a database built from scratch to answer a simple question: Why had anyone ever agreed to pay $1 million for the right to drive a yellow cab?

    By Brian M. Rosenthal
    May 22, 2019

    Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

    The story started, like a lot of stories seem to, with President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

    On April 9, 2018, the F.B.I. raided Mr. Cohen’s office, thrusting him into the national spotlight. The next day, the top editors at The New York Times asked five reporters to start working on a profile. I was one of them.

    The other reporters researched Mr. Cohen’s family, his legal career, his real estate interests and, of course, his work for the president. I took on the last piece of his business empire: his ownership of 30 New York taxi medallions, the coveted permits needed to own a yellow cab.

    After a few weeks of reporting, the team learned enough to publish our story on Mr. Cohen. And I discovered enough to know what I wanted to investigate next.

    At that time, the taxi industry was becoming a big story. Mr. Cohen had owned his medallions as an investment, counting on them rising in value because of the city’s decision to issue only about 13,000 permits. But thousands of the medallions were owned by drivers themselves, and two driver-owners had just died by suicide. Public officials were talking about how the price of a medallion had plummeted from over $1 million to under $150,000. Most were blaming ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    I had a different question: Why had anybody ever paid $1 million for the right to the grueling job of being a cabby?

    When I pursue an investigation, I identify the single most important question that I am trying to answer, and orient all of my reporting around it. (For example, why did it cost more to build subway track in New York than anywhere else in the world? Or why did Texas have the lowest special education rate in the country?) In this case, I ended up interviewing about 450 people, and I asked almost all the same question: Why did the price reach $1 million? It became my North Star.

    I heard plenty of theories, but I began to get somewhere only when I had an epiphany: No driver-owner had ever really paid close to $1 million for a medallion. On paper, thousands of low-income immigrants had. But while they had poured their life savings into their purchase, virtually all had signed loans for most of the cost — and never really had a chance to repay.

    I needed to examine as many loans as possible, to see if they were as unusual and reckless — and predatory — as some of my sources said they were. But how?

    I got a lead from an unexpected source: the lenders themselves.

    After prices had started crashing, the lenders in the industry had tried to squeeze money out of borrowers. Many of them had filed lawsuits against borrowers — lawsuits which had to include copies of the loans.

    I ultimately reviewed 500 of these loans, and I saw disturbing patterns: Almost none of them included a large down payment. Almost all of them required the borrower to repay everything within three years, which was impossible. There were a lot of interest-only loans, and a wide variety of fees, including charges for paying loans off too early. Many of the loans required borrowers to sign away their legal rights.

    Armed with the loan documents, I started calling dozens of current and former industry bankers, brokers, lawyers and investors. Some pointed me to disclosures that lenders had filed with the government, which were enormously helpful. Others shared internal records, which were even better.

    New York City did not have reliable digital data on medallion sales, so I used paper records to build a database of all the 10,888 sales between 1995 and 2018. The city taxi commission had never analyzed the financial records submitted by medallion buyers, so I did. Nobody knew how many medallion owners had gone bankrupt because of the crisis, so I convinced my boss to pay a technology company, Epiq, to create a program that sped through court records and spat out a tentative list — and then two news assistants helped me verify every result.

    As I dug into the data and the documents, I sought out driver-owners. I wanted to understand what they had been through. To find them, I went to Kennedy International Airport.

    The fare from taking someone from the airport into Manhattan can make a cabby’s day, and so drivers wait in line for hours. And over several visits during a couple of months, I waited with them, striking up conversations outside a food stand run by a Greek family and next to pay phones that had stopped working years ago. After talking briefly, I asked if I could visit their homes and meet their friends.

    In all, I met 200 taxi drivers, including several I interviewed through translators because they did not speak English fluently. (Some of those men still had signed loans of up to $1 million.) One by one, they told me how they had come to New York seeking the American dream, worked hard and gotten trapped in loans they did not understand, which often made them give up almost all of their monthly income. Several said that after the medallion bubble burst, wiping out their savings and their futures, they had contemplated suicide. One said he had already attempted it.

    The day after we began publishing our findings, city officials announced they were exploring ways to help these driver-owners, and the mayor and state attorney general said they were going to investigate the people who channeled them into the loans.

    In the end, the three front-page stories that we published this week about the taxi industry barely mentioned Mr. Cohen at all.

    But they did something much more important: They told the stories of Mohammed Hoque, of Jean Demosthenes and of Wael Ghobrayal.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Opinion | How New York Taxi Drivers Got Mired in Debt - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/opinion/letters/new-york-taxi-drivers.html

    Readers decry unscrupulous lending practices and sympathize with the unwitting drivers whose lives were ruined.

    May 22, 2019

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt.

    To the Editor:

    “Driven to Despair,” by Brian M. Rosenthal (“Taken for a Ride” series, front page, May 19), is both shocking and significant. It explains how medallion brokers and unscrupulous bank loan sharks have for personal profit put many thousands of unsophisticated New York City taxi drivers in debt and ruined their and their families’ lives by manipulating the taxi medallion business and writing risky loans.

    New York City and New York State governments need to exert better, fairer control of the taxi medallion business, help debt-ridden drivers and punish severely those money-grubbing entrepreneurs who have profited unduly at the expense of others.

    Norton Mezvinsky
    New York

    To the Editor:

    The corrupt practices outlined in this valuable exposé have created a new genre of poverty among taxi drivers. Many can no longer afford to drive, while others can barely afford routine maintenance and their cabs are often in need of repair. The same situation exists in Chicago. Restitution must be paid to those who were duped by city governments eager for revenue.

    The other half of the story that requires documentation is how Uber and Lyft grew up unimpeded by rules that applied only to taxi drivers, creating an environment of unfair competition.

    Bruce Joshua Miller
    Chicago

    To the Editor:

    Why in the world did New York City allow the value of medallions to rise and fall, such that industry leaders “steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst”?

    Why not simply set a fixed price adjusted for inflation that drivers could pay, period? All the problems described in your article would have been avoided.

    Jean-François Brière
    Delmar, N.Y.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Taxi Industry Leaders Got Rich. Drivers Paid the Price. - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/nyregion/newyorktoday/nyc-news-taxi-medallions.html

    In the past year and a half, eight professional drivers, including three taxi medallion owners, have died by suicide. Since 2016, 950 taxi drivers have filed for bankruptcy. And as of Monday, a city task force created last year to study the taxi industry had no members.

    The Times published an investigation this week into what caused financial ruin for so many drivers.

    Industry disrupters like Uber and Lyft have drawn lots of attention, but the real problem was that lenders made reckless loans as regulators looked on, my colleague Brian M. Rosenthal reported. The loans generated huge profits for lenders, as well as for city coffers.

    The practices were similar to those that led to the housing market crash and global financial crisis of 2008. They also created what one analyst called “modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Here are five takeaways from Mr. Rosenthal’s investigation.

    [Read Part 1 of the investigation: How reckless loans devastated a generation of taxi drivers.]

    Uber and Lyft did not cause the crisis in New York City’s yellow taxi industry

    The taxi medallion bubble burst in 2014. Uber entered the city in 2011, and Lyft in 2014.

    The internet-based ride-hailing companies may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for the investigation said the industry would have collapsed regardless because of inflated medallion prices and risky lending practices.

    City data shows that 97 percent of yellow cab rides start in central Manhattan, or at the airports, where Uber and Lyft are less popular.

    On a per-cab basis, each taxi’s revenue has decreased by about 10 percent since Uber entered New York, according to the city’s data.

    Taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of taxi medallions

    To drive a yellow taxi in the city, you need a medallion.

    After years of stability, medallion prices soared from $200,000 in 2002 to more than $1 million in 2014. Some industry leaders have admitted to intentionally causing prices to spike. During that time, revenue generated by taxis barely changed.

    Taxi industry leaders steered drivers into reckless loans

    From 2002 through 2014, about 4,000 people signed loans to buy taxi medallions.

    Drivers borrowed up to $1 million, often without a down payment, according to financial documents. Many were required to repay their loans within three years, which was practically impossible, forcing them to extend the terms of their loans at inflated interest rates.

    Hundreds of drivers signed interest-only loans requiring them to forfeit legal rights and indefinitely give up almost every dollar they earned.

    You can imagine the toll: Some borrowed even more money, and a few, facing financial and other pressures, died by suicide.

    [Read Part 2: How top officials counted money while drivers were trapped in loans.]

    Lenders protected themselves by selling those loans

    People who made risky taxi loans protected themselves by selling the loans to other institutions.

    At the market’s height, the six nonprofit credit unions most involved in the industry sold about $3 billion in medallion loans to 122 other credit unions, according to financial disclosure forms.

    Officials ignored years of warning signs

    In 2010, a city employee wrote a report showing that cabbies weren’t making enough to support their loans.

    In 2014, state inspectors gave a presentation to officials in Albany.

    Earlier this year, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, shut the committee overseeing the industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    The state attorney general’s office said yesterday that it had opened an inquiry into the lending practices, while Mayor de Blasio ordered a city investigation into the brokers who helped arrange loans.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • De Blasio calls for probe of taxi lenders
    https://nypost.com/2019/05/20/de-blasio-calls-for-probe-of-taxi-lenders-following-predatory-loan-report

    May 20, 2019 - Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a probe Monday of the city taxi market following a damning report that claimed industry leaders duped drivers with predatory loans and artificially inflated the costs of cab medallions for years– leading to their eventual collapse.

    “Today I ordered a joint investigation by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into predatory practices by brokers in the taxi industry,” the mayor said in a statement.

    The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities, the mayor said.

    The New York Times reported Sunday that brokers shopped exploitative loans to cash-strapped, often immigrant drivers who were crushed by hefty monthly fees.

    De Blasio said the review will set new rules to prevent future abuses.

    “It’s unacceptable to prey on hardworking New Yorkers trying to support their families and we’ll do all that we can to put an end to it,” he said.

    The deep decrease in medallion values from a high of $1.3 million in 2013 to just $250,000 last year is also due to the flood of Uber and Lyft cars into the market.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/nyregion/nyc-taxi-medallion-loans-attorney-general.html

    May 20, 2019 - The investigations come after The New York Times found that thousands of drivers were crushed under debt they could not repay.

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.

    The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

    The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

    The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

    The findings also drew a quick response from other elected officials. The chairman of the Assembly’s banking committee, Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, said his committee would hold a hearing on the issue; the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he was drafting legislation; and several other officials in New York and Albany called for the government to pressure lenders to soften loan terms.

    The biggest threat to the industry leaders appeared to be the inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, which will aim to determine if the lenders engaged in any illegal activity.

    “Our office is beginning an inquiry into the disturbing reports regarding the lending and business practices that may have created the taxi medallion crisis,” an office spokeswoman said in a statement. “These allegations are serious and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he supported the inquiry. “If any of these businesses or lenders did something wrong, they deserve to be held fully accountable,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Lenders did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, they denied wrongdoing, saying regulators had approved all of their practices and some borrowers had made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. Lenders blamed the crisis on the city for allowing ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to enter without regulation, which they said led medallion values to plummet.

    Mr. de Blasio said the city’s investigation will focus on the brokers who arranged the loans for drivers and sometimes lent money themselves.

    “The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities,” the mayor said in a statement. “The review will set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt hard-working drivers.”

    Four of the city’s biggest taxi brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, said the city should not get to investigate the business practices because it was complicit in many of them.

    The government has already closed or merged all of the nonprofit credit unions that were involved in the industry, saying they participated in “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” At least one credit union leader, Alan Kaufman, the former chief executive of Melrose Credit Union, a major medallion lender, is facing civil charges.

    The other lenders in the industry include Medallion Financial, a specialty finance company; some major banks, including Capital One and Signature Bank; and several loosely regulated taxi fleet owners and brokers who entered the lending business.

    At City Hall, officials said Monday they were focused on how to help the roughly 4,000 drivers who bought medallions during the bubble, as well as thousands of longtime owners who were encouraged to refinance their loans to take out more money during that period.

    One city councilman, Mark Levine, said he was drafting a bill that would allow the city to buy medallion loans from lenders and then forgive much of the debt owed by the borrowers. He said lenders likely would agree because they are eager to exit the business. But he added that his bill would force lenders to sell at discounted prices.

    “The city made hundreds of millions by pumping up sales of wildly overpriced medallions — as late as 2014 when it was clear that these assets were poised to decline,” said Mr. Levine, a Democrat. “We have an obligation now to find some way to offer relief to the driver-owners whose lives have been ruined.”

    Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, proposed a similar solution in a letter to the mayor. He said the city should convene the lenders and pressure them to partially forgive loans.

    “These lenders too often dealt in bad faith with a group of hard-working, unsuspecting workers who deserved much better and have yet to receive any measure of justice,” wrote Mr. Stringer, who added that the state should close a loophole that allowed the lenders to classify their loans as business deals, which have looser regulations.

    Last November, amid a spate of suicides by taxi drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming debt, the Council created a task force to study the taxi industry.

    On Monday, a spokesman for the speaker, Mr. Johnson, said that members of the task force would be appointed very soon. He also criticized the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that sold the medallions.

    “We will explore every tool we have to ensure that moving forward, the T.L.C. protects medallion owners and drivers from predatory actors including lenders, medallion brokers, and fleet managers,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

    Another councilman, Ritchie Torres, who heads the Council’s oversight committee, disclosed Monday for the first time that he had been trying to launch his own probe since last year, but had been stymied by the taxi commission. “The T.L.C. hasn’t just been asleep at the wheel, they have been actively stonewalling,” he said.

    A T.L.C. spokesman declined to comment.

    In Albany, several lawmakers also said they were researching potential bills.

    One of them, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan, a member of the committee on banks, said she hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year. She said the state agencies involved in the crisis, including the Department of Financial Services, should be examined.

    “My world has been shaken right now, to be honest,” Ms. Niou said.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Bad loans were killing the taxi industry long before Uber and Lyft: report
    https://nypost.com/2019/05/19/bad-loans-were-killing-the-taxi-industry-long-before-uber-and-lyft-report

    The financial woes of the city taxi market may not be entirely the fault of ride-hailing companies — the industry was a house of cards waiting to collapse, a report says.

    An investigation by the New York Times Sunday put the blame on industry leaders who artificially inflated taxi medallions costs fivefold over 12 years and created a massively profitable loan market built on questionable lending practices similar to those at the center of the housing crash.

    In 2013, a taxi medallion fetched $1.3 million, but by last year, the market had plunged and medallions were selling for less than $250,000.

    While much of the decline in value can be attributed to the flood of Uber and Lyft drivers, the report says exploitative loans, hundreds of which were interest-only, strapped drivers, often immigrants and unclear on the terms, with hefty monthly costs.

    The report says some loan costs became so steep, there weren’t enough hours in a week to drive to make a profit and eventually, all of their monthly fares went to pay the loans.

    When the market bottomed out in 2014, the head of the Progressive Credit Union, Robert Familan, made nearly $35 million from his medallion loan non-profit company.

    Employees were encouraged to give out shaky loans with bonuses and trips, the report says.

    The lenders denied any wrongdoing and the former chairwoman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said it wasn’t the commission’s job to regulate the lending, the report says.

    But Meera Joshi did tell the paper “lots of people just watched it happen.”

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

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