On April 30, the CFPB published its second annual report to Congress on its fair lending activities. According to the report, in 2013 federal regulators referred 24 ECOA-related matters to the DOJ—6 by the CFPB—as opposed to only 12 referrals in 2012. The report primarily recaps previously announced research, supervision, enforcement, and rulemaking activities related to fair lending issues, devoting much attention to mortgage and auto finance. However, the Bureau notes that it is conducting ongoing supervision and enforcement in other product markets, including credit card lending. The Bureau also identifies the most frequently cited technical Regulation B violations.
With regard to housing finance supervision and enforcement, the CFPB reports that while many lenders have strong compliance management systems and no violations, the CFPB’s ECOA baseline reviews have identified factors that indicate heightened fair lending risk at some institutions, including weak or nonexistent fair lending CMS, underwriting and pricing policies that consider prohibited bases in a manner that presents fair lending risk, and inaccurate HMDA data. The CFPB referred three mortgage-related cases to the DOJ. Two of those involved findings that a mortgage lender discriminated on the basis of marital status; the DOJ deferred to the Bureau’s handling of the merits of both. The third contained findings that a mortgage lender discriminated on the basis of race and national origin in the pricing of mortgage loans. That referral led to a joint DOJ-CFPB enforcement action.
In the area of auto finance, the report highlights the CFPB’s auto finance forum and March 2013 auto finance bulletin, and again defends the CFPB’s proxy methodology, which has been challenged by members of Congress and industry since the CFPB issued its auto finance bulletin. The CFPB states that it is currently investigating whether a number of indirect auto financial institutions unlawfully discriminated in the pricing of automobile loans, particularly in their use of discretionary dealer markup and compensation policies using a disparate impact analysis. During the reporting period, the Bureau made one referral to the DOJ, and subsequently took joint enforcement action with the DOJ against that indirect auto financial institution for alleged violations of ECOA.
The report indicates that the Bureau has expanded its focus beyond mortgage and auto finance, noting that the CFPB is conducting ECOA Baseline Reviews and ECOA Targeted Reviews of consumer financial services providers of other products, singling out credit cards as an example. The report adds that the CFPB also referred to DOJ three matters related to unsecured consumer lending, but that DOJ declined to act upon such referrals.