GREENSBORO, N.C. — BB&T Bank’s dealership finance arm, BB&T Dealer Finance, announced today that it will be switching to a flat fee compensation model that eliminates dealer markups on retail installment sales contracts. Some of the bank’s dealer clients believe the move was motivated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s actions in the auto lending arena.

The program changes will go into effect July 1, according to a press release issued by the bank. Dealers said they were contacted by phone following a regional meeting and told that BB&T will now be paying dealers 3% of the amount a car buyer finances, up to a maximum of $2,500.

“I told them this will hurt their volume,” said an F&I manager who requested that his name be withheld. “This is exactly what the bureau longs for: no litigation or outright charges — just simple scare tactics.”

Since issuing its fair lending guidance to auto lenders in March 2013, the CFPB has recommended that lenders adopt a flat fee compensation policy to eliminate fair lending risks. The regulator alleges that policies allowing dealers to mark up the interest rate on retail installment sales contracts result in minority car buyers paying higher rates. However, industry groups like the National Automobile Dealers Association say the methodology the CFPB uses to determine the presence of discrimination in auto lending is flawed and that a flat fee compensation model will not eliminate dealer pricing discretion, since dealers would still exercise discretion in selecting the finance source to which they would sell a contract.   

“We are committed to the fair and equal treatment of all consumers,” said Derek Lane, BB&T Dealer Financial Services manager, in a release issued today by the bank. “The automobile finance industry provides a valuable service, and we highly value our long-standing dealer relationships. This new program will strengthen the process long term for both consumers and our dealer clients.”

A BB&T spokesperson contacted by F&I and Showroom added: “After testing and evaluating flat-fee products for the last two years, we believe this is a good long-term business decision for both consumers and our dealer partners.”