MCLEAN, Va. — The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today, asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to release internal documents acknowledging that the agency intended to regulate the auto finance market through enforcement action, and eschewed evidence that its methods for estimating disparate impact were deeply flawed.
This is the second time in less than three months that the NADA has requested internal CFPB documents leaked to American Banker. A request filed in July asked that the bureau turn over documents that allegedly stated the CFPB’s “goal” in the auto lending arena was to significantly limit dealer discretion, despite the fact that the regulator is specifically prohibited from regulating auto dealers under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The CFPB denied the NADA’s request three days later.
On Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, American Banker published articles that made numerous references to internal CFPB documents. Those documents supposedly show that the CFPB based its understanding of vehicle financing on a now-discredited study conducted by the Center for Responsible Lending. The bureau also allegedly acknowledged in the documents that the proxy methodology it uses to determine the presence of discrimination in auto lending is flawed, yet it continues to use the results to reach large settlements with finance companies like Honda Finance Corporation and Fifth Third Bank.
"These documents demonstrate a lack of transparency and accountability that should be deeply troubling to anyone concerned about how significantly a regulator can influence a market that affects millions of consumers," said NADA President Peter Welch in a statement on the NADA’s website. "Consumers benefit tremendously from the discounts they get from dealers, and they have every right to demand that their voices be included in — not willfully excluded from — the debate about how to regulate the auto finance market."
Earlier this month, during the bureau’s semi-annual report to Congress, CFPB Director Richard Cordray was challenged by lawmakers over the methods the bureau is using to bring enforcement actions against auto lenders. The regulator noted that “‘Accurate’ is in the eye of the beholder,” and that the CFPB is working to find the most reliable method possible to determine the presence of discrimination in auto lending.
However, Cordray was not forthcoming about the internal documents cited by American Banker, telling members of Congress he was only “roughly familiar" with the memos.