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Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General, announced today that Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“Hudson Valley”) 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 service members without first obtaining the required court orders. Under the agreement, Hudson Valley has agreed to pay $65,000 to compensate seven service members whose cars it unlawfully repossessed and will pay a civil penalty of $30,000 to the United States.
This Office 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. This Office’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, and has committed to protecting service members’ rights in the future.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Protecting service members is a high priority for this Office and the country. 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.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said: “Financial institutions must recognize and honor their responsibilities to our men and women in uniform. Our nation depends upon the selfless devotion and sacrifice of our service members and we must ensure that they receive all rights and protections afforded to them by law.”
The agreement requires Hudson Valley to provide $10,000 in compensation to each of the six affected service members, plus any lost equity in the vehicle with interest. An additional service member, 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 service members.
The agreement resolves the claims and causes of action asserted in the United States’ Complaint against Hudson Valley filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
For more information about the United States’s SCRA enforcement efforts, please visit www.servicemembers.gov. Service members 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 www.legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain is in charge of the case.