DOJ Enters Into Consent Order with Bank Over Allegedly Discriminatory Vehicle-Secured Loans

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On September 28, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had entered into a consent order with a bank to resolve allegations that the bank discriminated against Hispanic borrowers.  The DOJ’s complaint, filed along with the consent order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleged that the bank violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by charging hundreds of Hispanic consumers higher interest rates on vehicle-secured consumer loans than it charged similarly situated non-Hispanic consumers.  The DOJ used a “proxy methodology that combines geography-based and named-based probabilities, based on public data published by the United States Census Bureau,” to estimate the racial disparities in the bank’s lending practices between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014.  Based on this methodology, the DOJ concluded that interest rates for Hispanic consumers were 1.51% higher than for non-Hispanic consumers.  Under the terms of the consent order, the bank must establish a uniform pricing matrix setting forth “objective, non-discretionary, and non-discriminatory standards for determining interest rates for consumer loans.”  If the bank chooses to deviate from this uniform pricing model to incorporate a discretionary pricing element, the bank must enforce limits on that pricing deviation and include in the loan file factors relied upon in deviating from the default pricing matrix.  The bank also agreed to pay $165,820 in consumer redress.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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