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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Auto financing company settles multistate subprime lending action for $550 million

State Issues State Attorney General Auto Finance UDAP Deceptive

State Issues

On May 19, the California attorney general, along with 33 other attorneys general, announced a multistate $550 million settlement with an auto sales financing company for allegedly placing subprime borrowers in auto loans that carried a high risk of default, in violation of state consumer protection laws. Specifically, California’s complaint alleges that the company violated the state’s Unfair Competition Law by, among other things, (i) extending auto loan credit to borrowers the company knew or should have known were likely to result in default and repossession; (ii) failing to disclose to borrowers the high risk of failure associated with the loans; (iii) requiring borrowers to make payments through methods that resulted in third-party fees; and (iv) misrepresenting borrowers’ ability to acquire repossessed vehicles already sent to auction. Additionally, the attorney general alleges that the company “turned a blind eye” to dealer abuse, resulting in higher origination prices for borrowers.

According to the press release, the company will pay approximately $433 million in forgiveness of loans still owned by the company across the U.S. and will waive deficiency balances for borrower loans that the company no longer owns. Notably, certain borrowers who had defaulted as of December 31, 2019 but were still in possession of their vehicle will be allowed to keep the vehicle and have the deficiency balance on the loan waived. California’s settlement also requires injunctive measures such as (i) requiring the company to consider the borrower’s ability to repay the loan; (ii) barring the company from purchasing loans where the borrower’s residual income is zero or negative; (iii) setting reasonable debt to income ratios; and (iv) no longer requiring dealers to sell ancillary products.

In addition to California, the multistate settlement includes: Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, who together with Attorney General Becerra comprise the executive committee; as well as the attorneys general of Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

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