Lenders tackle compliance, CFPB

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Compliance and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- topics that have a direct bearing on dealerships -- will be high on auto lenders' agenda this month in New Orleans.

Among the speakers scheduled at the annual American Financial Services Association Vehicle Finance Conference is Patrice Ficklin, assistant director of the CFPB's Office of Fair Lending. The conference takes place Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, immediately before the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. Ficklin is scheduled to speak on Jan. 23.

In a November blog on the CFPB's Web site, Ficklin called discrimination in auto lending a "silent pickpocket." On Dec. 20, Ficklin was among the CFPB representatives who announced a $98 million settlement with Ally Financial.

"Ally Financial Inc. and Ally Bank have markup policies that have resulted in illegal discrimination against over 235,000 African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers," she said in a blog the same day.

In a written statement, Ally said it does not "engage in or condone violations of law or discriminatory practices."

The CFPB's recommended fix is for lenders to restructure dealer compensation so dealerships don't have any influence on interest rates. That could take the form of flat fees or a fixed percentage of the amount financed, the CFPB says, but the bureau insists it is leaving it up to lenders to decide how to change dealer compensation.

Other topics on the AFSA agenda also touch on regulation, such as a session on "AFSA University," a Web-based compliance training program for lender employees.

Still others serve as a reminder that the business of making auto loans and leases continues, such as a session on improving customer satisfaction and also dealer satisfaction.

Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors, is a keynote speaker on Jan. 23.

AFSA said the conference theme is "Navigating the New Normal."

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com.

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