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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DFPI takes action against auto loan company

State Issues Licensing DFPI State Regulators Enforcement Consumer Finance California Fair Access to Credit Act California Financing Law

State Issues

On December 14, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a consent order with an auto title lender, resolving allegations that the company (respondent) violated the Fair Access to Credit Act’s prohibition on making loans of $2,500 to less than $10,000 with interest rates greater than 36 percent. According to the consent order, the respondent was an established auto title lender that entered into an agreement with a Utah state-chartered bank to provide the bank with marketing and servicing services in connection with auto title loans offered to California consumers (Bank Loan Program). The respondent and the bank began offering Bank Loan Program loans to California residents in January 2020. That same month, the Fair Access to Credit Act amended the California Financing Law to prohibit licensed lenders from making loans with principal amounts of $2,500 to less than $10,000 with interest rates greater than 36 percent, plus the Federal Funds Rate. The consent order noted that “some loans made to California borrowers under the Bank Loan Program had principal amounts of $2,500 to less than $10,000 and were at interest rates that exceeded 36% plus the Federal Funds Rate.” The Commission served a subpoena seeking documents and information related to the Bank Loan Program with respect to California borrowers. After DFPI initiated the investigation, the respondent ceased marketing Bank Loan Program loans of less than $10,000 to California borrowers.

Pursuant to the consent order, the respondent agreed to not market auto title loans of less than $10,000 with interest rates exceeding 36 percent plus the Federal Funds Rate in a program involving a state-chartered bank and to not service such loans until September 2023, unless there is an intervening change in the law or regulation that would otherwise permit it to do so.