US accuses Toyota of discriminatory auto lending – The Detroit News
Washington — Toyota Motor Credit Corp., the lending arm of the world’s largest automaker, said it has been accused of discriminatory pricing of loans by the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In a securities filing Friday, the California-based lender said it has received a letter that its “practices resulted in discriminatory pricing of loans to certain borrowers in contravention of applicable laws, and informing us that they are prepared to initiate an enforcement proceeding unless we agree to a voluntary resolution satisfactory to them.”
The Justice Department and the CFPB want Toyota Credit to pay fines and make changes to its pricing practices.
Vincent Bray, a spokesman Toyota Credit — which is the largest auto lender in the United States by volume, including new, used and lease transactions — said it received initial notice of the government’s investigation in April 2013. He said Monday there have been a discussions between the company and CFPB about reaching a resolution.
He said in recent months the company has put in place a new compliance management program that has “a lot more monitoring and reporting.” He said the company’s intent “is to reach some sort of voluntary resolution that (the CFPB) is going to be satisfied with.”
It’s the latest in a growing fight between the Obama administration and auto dealers and finance companies. In December, Ally agreed to pay $98 million to settle claims that the lender discriminated against more than 235,000 minority auto buyers. The Justice Department said that between then and April 2011, about 100,000 African-American car buyers, 125,000 Hispanic borrowers and 10,000 Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers paid Ally higher interest rates than white borrowers, because of race and not on credit-worthiness.
Dealers routinely arrange financing for customers. They are often allowed by lenders to mark up the interest rate charged to consumers, allowing them to keep the difference. The CFPB contends that dealers at times charge minority buyers a higher rate than white buyers. In March 2013, the CFPB issued guidance urging banks to avoid discriminatory practices.
Auto dealers are pushing back.
Last month, they said a new study of more than 8.2 million loan records by Charles River Associates commissioned by the American Financial Services Association suggested the CFPB’s methodology for determining discrimination in an auto lender’s portfolio is “conceptually flawed in its application and subject to significant bias and estimation error.”
The National Automobile Dealers Association said the study shows CFPB’s methodology frequently misidentifies the background of consumers and dramatically overestimates differences in rates paid by different groups of consumers. The methodology also fails to account for numerous factors unrelated to the consumer’s background that affect the amount consumers paid and they argue it fails to account for legitimate reasons for pricing differences.
CFPB spokesman Sam Gilford declined to comment on Toyota Credit and said it is reviewing the study.
In September, the administration proposed federal oversight of larger auto finance companies for the first time, after it uncovered discrimination against minority buyers who have taken out loans for cars at major banks.
The new rules would mean oversight for 38 large non-bank auto lenders, including captive finance arms of companies like Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and Nissan Motor Co. They would cover any non-bank that made 10,000 auto loans or leases in a year. CFPB declined to provide a list of the 38, but said there are as many as 530 non-bank auto lenders.
Currently, only auto finance companies that are banks or bank holding companies — like Detroit-based Ally Financial Inc. — are subject to federal oversight.