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Imminent Senate Vote on Bill to Make Auto Lending Discrimination Easier

Monday, April 16, 2018
Rebecca Borné

Car lending industry and their allies in Congress have consistently attacked the CFPB auto lending guidance despite clear evidence showing that, for decades, car dealer markups have led to discriminatory lending

Several Civil Rights organizations urge Members to vote “no” on repealing guidance that protects against unlawful discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate is expected to schedule a vote on Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution S.J. Res 57, which was introduced by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to undo the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) 2013 indirect auto lending guidance. This important guidance is a key step to limit the discriminatory impact of dealer interest rate markups in the auto lending industry. A House companion CRA resolution was recently introduced by U.S. Congressman Lee M. Zeldin (R-NY-01). This would be a first-of-its-kind vote, abusing the streamlined procedures of the CRA—intended to address only recently passed agency actions—to try to undo longstanding guidance issued over five years ago.

The effort to eliminate this important consumer protection comes on the heels of a recent investigative report released by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) detailing the ongoing racially discriminatory practices that exist in the auto lending market. In their findings, NFHA uncovered that more than half the time white borrowers with weaker credit profiles received less expensive pricing options and more favorable treatment than their non-white counterparts who were more financially qualified.

A group of civil rights organizations decried the Senate and House’s actions to make it easier for discrimination to happen at car leaderships and is urging members to reject both CRA resolutions to rollback the CFPB auto lending guidance.

“It’s disheartening to see the kind of grip that the industry has over our Members of Congress. If this guidance gets overturned, it will undermine the progress that the CFPB has made to limit unlawful racial discrimination in the auto lending market. Years of data make clear that racial discrimination harms the economic viability of families of color, especially those who are low-income, where a car is often one of the biggest purchases made by a household. The CFPB has found discriminatory pricing in the auto financing market and should have the ability to use the full range of its regulatory tools and authority to address it. The agency’s mission shouldn’t be hamstrung by industry influence. Members of the House and Senate should reject both resolutions and recommit themselves to policies that root out racial discrimination, not advance it,” said Rebecca Borné, Senior Policy Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending.

“This latest assault on consumer protections is another troubling indication that Congress is willing to sell out consumers for industry’s favor. Racial discrimination in auto lending has been well documented and has negatively affected the Latino community. Our elected leaders should look for ways to keep consumers from being discriminated against instead of making it easier for them to be preyed upon. CFPB’s guidance addressed these financial abuses and should be supported by Congress, not repealed,” said Samantha Vargas Poppe, Associate Director of Policy & Advocacy, UnidosUS.

“The findings from the National Fair Housing Alliance’s in-depth investigation into auto lending discrimination revealed troubling patterns of unfair and potentially illegal treatment. Our Non-White testers who experienced discrimination would have paid an average of $2,662.56 more than their less-qualified White counterparts. Congress needs to strengthen protections for consumers not weaken them. Congress would be in derelict of its duties and responsibilities to the American public if it overturns or weakens the CFPB’s guidance governing auto financing,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO at the National Fair Housing Alliance.

“If Congress scraps the CFPB auto lending guidance, then we could undoubtedly see a wave of racial discrimination in the auto lending marketplace. Personal automobiles are necessary in most communities to access employment, education, health care, and many other essential services. Charging people of color more money for their auto and financing is not only immoral, but it’s illegal and it drains a family’s household income. The public, across demographic and political lines, strongly supports CFPB action to crack down on discriminatory auto lending practices. This important guidance should stay intact,” said Wade Henderson, Senior Advisor at the Center for Responsible Lending.

“For more than 109 years, the NAACP has worked to remove discriminatory barriers to equal protection and equal opportunity under law. Our fight to strengthen and implement crucial protections to limit and end racial discrimination in lending is as important today as it was when we were founded in the early 20th Century. As such, we strongly urge everyone who believes in fairness and equality to add their voices and influence to end predatory lending and financial discrimination in auto loans and other financial services,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination should have no place in our auto lending markets but, as NFHA’s compelling report shows, it still continues to occur.  The CFPB’s auto lending guidance is an important step to address that problem. Sadly, Congress now wants to undermine the CFPB’s ability to root out discrimination by passing an industry-supported resolution.  Congress should not pass this resolution unless it wants racial discrimination in lending to increase,” said Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Ricardo Quinto at ricardo.quinto@responsiblelending.org.