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, straddled 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.