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New Ethics Certification Available for F&I Personnel; Legal Updates Offered Online

July 9, 2003

The Institute for Ethical Behavior has announced the development of what it calls "the first online, interactive ethics course custom designed for retail automotive professionals."

Once certified, the user receives monthly legal updates, according to John Walsh, curriculum director of the Institute for Ethical Behavior.

The purpose of the new course is "to promote ethical behavior and strict ethical compliance with all laws, rules and regulations for marketing, sales and leasing of all products and services by F&I (finance and insurance) managers and directors," said Walsh, who created the course.

"The course does not compete with other sales or ethics courses at a dealership," Walsh said. "It is designed to complement them in the area most vulnerable to lawsuits."

One of the main objectives of the course is increased customer satisfaction. According to Walsh, that translates into more referrals, more repeat busines and fewer complaints from customers -- ultimately lowering the risk of lawsuits.

The course, "Ethics Certification for Automotive Finance Professionals," is now required for graduation for Automotive Marketing majors at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. "This is another way of preparing our graduates for the real world," said Joseph Lescota, chairman of the Automotive Marketing Department at Northwood. "They will learn to encourage customer retention through ethical business practices. It not only helps retain customers, but also helps retain employees."

Research and development for the course consisted of more than 200 interviews of F&I managers, F&I directors, general managers, dealers, owners, finance providers, attorneys, regulators, association executives and consumers, according to Walsh. The research, which is ongoing, started in the spring of 2000. As background for the course, the Institute reviewed more than 500 lawsuits involving automobile dealers, as well as the Web sites of several state attorneys general.

"We review hundreds of lawsuits against dealers every year," said attorney Thomas Hudson, senior partner at Hudson Cook, LLP, publisher of CarLaw.com. "The last place dealers should want to be is before a jury, being accused of fraud or unethical conduct. This ethics course should be an important part of every dealer's overall compliance program."

"As part of our commitment to ethical behavior, we use the Walsh program," said John Fern, controller of Camelback Toyota in Phoenix, Ariz. "The course takes about two hours, right here at the dealership, and is filled with current information. It directs our sales management personnel to the right way to do business. In retailing 7,000 vehicles a year, we know this training is an integral part of our ethical success."

"Our industry has made a renewed commitment to strong ethics and quality customer service, and this initiative is an important step in furthering that goal," said Alan Starling, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. "It all starts in the showroom, and programs like this reinforce that message with dealers in a very practical and productive way."

Priced at $39 per person, the certification is good for one year and is renewable. Each successful student receives a Certificate of Ethics, which may be framed and displayed, as well as monthly legal updates via e-mail. Large dealer groups may add messages for their employees, according to Walsh.

The course may be downloaded and reviewed free of charge at www.InstituteForEthicalBehavior.com.

About the Institute for Ethical Behavior

The Institute for Ethical Behavior is a subsidiary of the Walsh Agency, Inc., a Connecticut corporation founded in 1970.

A principle of the firm, John Walsh has been teaching ethical sales training to securities and futures brokers for more than 25 years.

The Walsh Agency Inc. is a government authorized ethics certification provider for the securities and futures industries.

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