“In a region where wage workers rely heavily on cars to get to and from work, it is imperative that auto insurance is accessible and affordable,” said Thomas Keily, Consumer Data and Research Coordinator at the Western New York Law Center. “Part of the process of making auto insurance accessible and affordable is to ensure that drivers are priced based on how they drive rather than on unrelated factors such as their education or occupation. The Western New York Law Center applauds the Federal Insurance Office on establishing an affordability standard for personal auto insurance and calls on state lawmakers and regulators to act to ensure that all drivers are priced fairly and at a rate they can afford.”
Editorials and comments on the “Community Financial Services Access and Modernization Act”
- Politicians are pocketing campaign funds from the check-cashing industry and considering an economically dangerous policy change”
- Interview with former DFS Superintendent Lawsky discussing check cashing bill on Inside City Hall
The issue of vacant and abandoned zombie foreclosures is one that has plagued Western New York for years. While the problem is widely known, the scope and scale of the problem has been hard to determine. The difficulty stems from banks assigning mortgages in bulk, discharge mortgages and walk away from properties based on internal decisions, and drag their feet in foreclosure actions to avoid more negative assets on their books. Banks benefit from a foreclosure system that allows them to hide behind the process and claim no interest in a property. Time and time again, when asked by neighbors to maintain a home, banks deny responsibility while paying the taxes to protect their investment in the property. Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns and the Western New York Law Center have been working with municipalities, local governments, and community members to bring light to this issue and develop clear resolutions to address the blight in our neighborhoods.
The Bank Shame Campaign Accountability Report of May 11, 2016 includes properties received from the New York Department of Financial Services, JP Morgan Chase, and from research conducted by the WNY Law Center and Assemblyman Kearns’ office.
Research and subsequent analysis done by the Law Center revealed that major auto insurers charge those with less education and lower-status jobs higher premiums for limited liability auto insurance. The Law Center conducted a study on rate calculation practices of Progressive and Liberty Mutual, who serve thousands of drivers, in Buffalo, New York. The study examined socioeconomic indicators, specifically education and occupation, as they relate to the premium auto insurance companies charge Buffalo drivers. The research conducted by the Law Center shows:
- For Buffalo citizens with clear driving records, Progressive charges a Buffalonian with a high school diploma working as a bank teller 15% ($694 vs. $603) more than the same driver working as a Vice President with a Master’s degree.
- Further, for Buffalo citizens with clear driving records, Progressive charges a female driver working as a bank teller with a high school diploma 31% ($810 vs. $617) more than a male driver working as a bank teller with a high school diploma.
- For Buffalo citizens with clean driving records, Progressive charges a female driver working in a managerial position with a Master’s degree 28% ($696 vs. $545) more than a male driver employed as a Vice President with a Master’s degree.
- For Buffalo citizens with clean driving records, Liberty Mutual charges a bank teller with a high school diploma 24% ($900 vs. $726) more than the same driver working as a Vice President with a Master’s degree.
In May 2015, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) published their “Report on New York’s Foreclosure Process.” Their analysis focused on average lengths of most phases of the foreclosure process, specifically from the filing of the foreclosure action to the auction of the foreclosed property. As that data clearly showed, a longer foreclosure process is associated with greater debt and a lower likelihood of the homeowner obtaining a loan modification. Furthermore, the DFS report concluded that many homeowners experience frequent and unnecessary delays throughout the process. This report supplements those findings by focusing on an earlier and more specific time frame—from the initial default date to the first mandatory settlement conference in Erie County, one of the NYS Counties with an extremely high number of foreclosures . The number of days that are allowed to pass between the initial default and the filing of foreclosure action is crucial to include, as it is a period of time during which the homeowner is accruing debt. This report aims to provide a more accurate understanding of how far homeowners are behind when they first have access to the mandatory settlement conference, further contextualizing data regarding ultimate case outcomes.
The Western New York Law Center conducted an in-depth examination of auto insurance practices in Buffalo, New York. The research revealed that Progressive and Liberty Mutual use socioeconomic indicators, such as education and occupation, to discriminate against low income drivers. The trends uncovered by the Law Center are consistent with discriminatory practices taking place nationwide. The report not only details the extent of the research findings it also lays out how the discriminatory practice hurt drivers in Buffalo.
This is NYRL’s response to the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) request entitled “Monitoring Availability and Affordability of Auto Insurance” issued on July 2, 2015.