“Next Step” in New York’s Fight Against Payday Lenders: Adding Banks to the Team

Continuing the fight against payday lenders, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of a new database and the cooperation of Bank of America, which will work with the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) “to help safeguard New York’s consumers.”

New York’s DFS has been particularly aggressive in its efforts to combat online payday lenders over the past year, with multiple investigations of lenders and the issuance of cease-and-desist letters to 35 lenders making allegedly illegal loans in the state. To bolster its efforts, the regulatory agency recruited its first partners in the private sector in April, when it reached an agreement that Visa and MasterCard would stop lenders from collecting payments via their debit networks.

In the regulator’s latest move, the relationship with Bank of America is based upon a database built by DFS with a list of companies that have been the subject of actions based on evidence of illegal payday lending. Gov. Cuomo called the database “a powerful due diligence tool for financial institutions” and “applaud[ed] Bank of America for stepping up as an industry leader in this area.”

The database—which was built based upon a yearlong investigation by DFS and will be updated on an ongoing basis—will serve multiple functions, including providing an additional resource for financial institutions to meet their “know your customer” obligations. In addition to identifying potential illegal actors, Bank of America said it intends to use the information to confirm that merchant customers are not using accounts to make or collect on illegal payday loans and will contact the lenders’ banks with notification of potentially illegal transactions where necessary.

Bank of America also agreed to provide DFS with information about lenders in the database that are engaged in illegal payday lending activities.

To read the DFS press release about the relationship with Bank of America, click here.

Why it matters: Financial institutions should expect their phones to be ringing soon. Calling Bank of America a “strong example,” DFS Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky said his agency “will be reaching out to additional banks asking that they join us in this effort” as the regulator continues its battle against online payday lenders.