The auto finance industry gained a new regulator in 2015 with the publication of the CFPB’s larger participant rule, which, for the first time, allows the Bureau to supervise larger non-bank auto finance companies. In this new compliance environment, larger participants would be prudent to examine past bulletins and consent orders executed by the CFPB to proactively prepare for examinations and enforcements in the coming year.

Regulation by Bulletins and Consent Orders

CPFB Bulletin 2013-02, which set forth the CFPB’s initial views regarding the risk under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act associated with “allowing” dealers the discretion to “mark up” the rates of customers’ retail installment sale contracts, provided a basis for two 2015 consent orders. Broadly speaking, the Bulletin noted two possible ways auto finance creditors could mitigate their risk – eliminating dealer discretion or monitoring for disparities in dealer discretion and then providing customer remediation for such disparities.

Since 2013 there have been three public CFPB consent orders regarding dealer pricing discretion. The first order, executed with a large bank holding company and its subsidiary bank in 2013, required the respondents to pay remediation for past transactions within the order’s scope, pay a $18 million civil money penalty, and establish a program to monitor and remediate disparities going forward. This contrasts with the two public consent orders that were issued afterwards. Those subsequent orders, entered into with a captive finance company and a large regional bank in the summer and fall of 2015, respectively, provided the respondents with the option of reducing the range of acceptable “markup” (i.e., the difference between the rate of the installment contract and the institution’s buy rate) to 125 basis points for contracts with a term of 60 months or less and 100 basis points for contracts with a term of more than 60 months. If a respondent selected this option, then monitoring for compliance with these markup limits is required, but monitoring and remediating disparities in dealer markup is not required. Both orders also included other options involving reduced dealer discretion, but did not include an option to monitor and remediate disparities without any change in the permitted dealer discretion.

Larger Participant Rule for Auto Finance

The CFPB’s larger participant rule for auto finance, which became effective on August 31, 2015, extended the CFPB’s supervisory authority to nonbank auto finance companies that have at least “10,000 annual originations.”

  • “Originations” in this case includes credit for the purpose of purchasing an automobile, leases of automobiles, refinancings of such transactions, and purchases of such transactions.
  • The rule excludes title lending and securitization transactions.
  • “Automobile” includes any self-propelled vehicle primarily used for personal, family, or household purposes for onroad transportation except for motor homes, RVs, golf carts, and motor scooters.

Now that the rule is in effect, CFPB examinations of non-bank auto finance companies are expected to follow. In light of this new rule, companies should examine other areas where the CFPB has been active in connection with other consumer financial products, in the event the Bureau extends such initiatives into auto finance. Those areas include:

  • Fair lending
  • Credit reporting
  • Debt collection
  • Treatment of servicemembers
  • Ancillary products
  • Vendor management