DALLAS — On Monday, Santander Consumer USA revealed in a regulatory filing that it could face regulatory scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its dealer participation policies.
On July 31, according to the filing, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) notified Santander that it had alerted the DOJ to what it considers to be violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The bureau alleges that the auto loans purchased by Santander from dealers contained “statistical disparities in markup” charged to minority borrowers.
The CFPB also noted that the “treatment of certain types of income” in the finance source’s underwriting process could be at odds with the ECOA.
“The company does not believe that there are any proceedings, threatened or pending, that, if determined adversely, would have a material adverse effect on the consolidated financial position, results of operations, or liquidity of the company,” the filing read, in part.
Santander paid $9.35 million in February to resolve a DOJ lawsuit charging that its vehicle repossession practices violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Its subprime auto lending business was also the subject of scrutiny by the DOJ and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley last year.
The finance source noted in its regulatory filing that it has received civil subpoenas from multiple state regulators, and is “complying with the requests for information and document preservation” related to its underwriting and securitization of auto loans.
The CFPB has been targeting multiple finance sources in recent months related to auto lending policies that allow dealers to mark up the interest rate on retail installment sales contracts as compensation for arranging financing for car buyers. The regulator believes that when dealers are given the discretion to mark up interest rates, minority buyers pay more for auto loans than white buyers.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fifth Third Bank could be forced to cap the markup it allows dealers to make as part of a rumored settlement with the bureau. Honda Finance Corporation reached a $24 million settlement with the bureau and the DOJ in July, and agreed to lower its markup caps from 2.25% to 1.25% above the buy rate for auto loans with terms of five years or less, and from $2% to 1% on loans with longer terms.