CFPB Puts Consumer Lenders on Notice Regarding Discriminatory Practices

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The CFPB today put consumer lenders on notice that it “will use all available legal avenues, including disparate impact, to pursue lenders whose practices discriminate against consumers.” The CFPB intends to employ disparate impact when examining auto lenders, credit card issuers , student lenders, mortgage lenders, and other providers of consumer credit, allowing the CFPB to claim an institution has engaged in discriminatory lending based on the effects and not the intent of the lending practices. In remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition today, CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated that “[t]he consequences of ‘disparate impact’ discrimination are very real and they affect consumers just as significantly as other forms of discrimination.” To help consumers identify and avoid credit discrimination, the CFPB also compiled and released new lending discrimination “tips and warning signs.”

Concurrent with the announcement, the CFPB published Bulletin 2012-04 to specifically reaffirm its commitment to applying disparate impact when conducting supervision and examination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B. In support of this application, the CFPB cites what it refers to as the “consensus approach” outlined by a 1994 interagency Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending, which notes court findings that discriminatory lending in violation of ECOA can be established through (i) overt evidence of discrimination, (ii) evidence of disparate treatment, and (iii) evidence of disparate impact. The CFPB also argues that the ECOA legislative history, as characterized in the original Regulation B adopted by the Federal Reserve Board, supports application of the disparate impact doctrine.