11/02/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/02/2018 15:00
The Justice Department today announced that Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union has agreed to pay $95,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by repossessing vehicles owned by SCRA-protected servicemembers without first obtaining the required court orders. Under the agreement, Hudson Valley has agreed to pay $65,000 to compensate seven servicemembers whose cars it unlawfully repossessed and will pay a civil penalty of $30,000 to the United States.
The Department launched an investigation into Hudson Valley's repossession practices after learning of two private lawsuits filed in the Southern District of New York. In both lawsuits, the plaintiffs alleged that Hudson Valley violated the SCRA by repossessing the plaintiffs' vehicles after plaintiffs had entered military service. The Department's subsequent investigation identified seven additional violations and revealed that, prior to August 2014, Hudson Valley did not have any written policies or procedures that addressed the SCRA's protections against non-judicial auto repossessions.
Hudson Valley, headquartered in Poughkeepsie, New York, is one of the largest credit unions in the country.
'Financial institutions must recognize and honor their responsibilities to our men and women in uniform,' said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. 'Our nation depends upon the selfless devotion and sacrifice of our servicemembers and we must ensure that they receive all rights and protections afforded to them by law.'
'Protecting service members is a high priority for this Office and the country,' said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. 'We are pleased that Hudson Valley has taken these remedial steps, and this Office will continue to protect the rights of men and women in uniform.'
The agreement requires Hudson Valley to provide $10,000 in compensation to each of the six affected servicemembers, plus any lost equity in the vehicle with interest. An additional servicemember, whose vehicle was repossessed but returned within 24 hours, will receive $5,000. Hudson Valley has also taken steps to repair the credit of the affected servicemembers.
The agreement resolves the claims and causes of action asserted in the United States' Complaint against Hudson Valley filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Hudson Valley will contact servicemembers to be compensated through this settlement in the upcoming months and will distribute payments at no cost to servicemembers.
The Department's enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Civil Rights Division's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and U.S. Attorney's Offices throughout the country. Since 2011, the Department has obtained over $467 million in monetary relief for servicemembers through its enforcement of the SCRA. For more information about the Department's SCRA enforcement efforts, please visit www.servicemembers.gov.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights under SCRA have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.