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Ruiz Bill to Prohibit Investment of State Pension in Entities Targeting Victims of Hurricane Maria with Mortgage Foreclosures in Puerto Rico Advances

Ruiz NJBOE photo 4

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz that would prohibit investment of state pension and annuity funds in entities engaged in mortgage foreclosures that target victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“The people of Puerto Rico continue to suffer from the effects of Hurricane Maria months after the storm devastated the island. An overwhelming number of residents are without basic necessities, including electricity in some parts of the island, and are struggling just to get by,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “It is unconscionable that companies are targeting victims of this disaster with foreclosure actions. New Jersey should send a clear message to these businesses that we will not be investing in them if they pursue home foreclosures and ignore the suffering and dire financial circumstances facing the residents of Puerto Rico.”

The bill, S-1914, prohibits the state from investing any assets of any pension or annuity fund under the management of the Division of Investment in the Department of the Treasury in any entity directly or indirectly engaged in mortgage foreclosures of property during periods of a federally announced mortgage foreclosure moratorium in a Presidentially-Declared Major Disaster Area impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The bill also applies the investment prohibition to entities involved in mortgage foreclosures during extensions of those moratoria and during period of lapses in extensions of a moratorium. The bill is intended to withdraw from state investments in private equity funds that have holdings in mortgage companies that aggressively pursue home mortgage foreclosures on the island of Puerto Rico which was left devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The bill requires the Director of the Division of Investment to provide an initial report detailing the current investments held in violation of the bill within 60 days of the date of enactment and a monthly report detailing the progress made in disposing of those investments.

The New York Times reported in December that about one-third of the island’s 425,000 homeowners were behind on their mortgage payments to banks and Wall Street firms that previously bought up distressed mortgages. Tens of thousands had not made payments for months. Some 90,000 borrowers became delinquent as a consequence of Hurricane Maria, according to Black Knight Inc.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 11-0-1, and next heads to the Senate for further consideration.