VIEWPOINTS: Journal editorials turn the spotlight on CFPB actions in auto financing

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page writers and opinion columnists have never been shy about calling out mistakes of the government, businesses or individuals.

The past several weeks, WSJ’s editorial page writers and Op-Ed columnists have blistered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) “outrageous regulatory campaign in its March 2013 “bulletin” that effectively codified its policy against dealer discretion in setting interest rates. This Beltway directive never went through the normal rule-making process.”

That quote was from the November 17 editorial entitled, “Democrats vs. Bureaucrats: A bipartisan plan to stop the consumer bureau.”

The Journal’s reporting team on its regular news pages has done deep dives into the effects and the results of the CFPB’s rulemaking that resulted in respected and reputable auto lenders having to pay the government well over $100 million in combined fees and fines for alleged discrimination that has never been clearly proven and very likely never existed.

But the true public litmus test came on November 18 when the U.S. House of Representatives voted 332-96 on HR 1737 to rescind CFPB’s rule-making guidance. The final count was 244 Republicans and 88 Democrats, a refreshing display of bipartisanship that rarely has been achieved recently in Washington, DC.

Now the bill is in the Senate where time is running out on this session of Congress. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate. The bill needs 60 votes to go to President Obama’s desk for his signature. A total of 67 votes in the Senate would be needed to override a presidential veto.

The historic vote in the House was not lost on the WSJ’s Editorial Board whose November 23 editorial was headlined:  “Revolt Against Racial Profiling: To Team Obama, if your name is Johnson you must be black.”  The Journal observed: “Going into the vote, 65 Democrats had co-sponsored the measure to rescind the bureau’s auto-loan policy. When it hit the House floor on (Nov. 18), 88 Democrats voted to rein in what is arguably Washington’s least accountable bureaucracy.”

Last weekend, a WSJ bylined Op-Ed by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., reports on the findings of the House Financial Services Committee’s Republican Staff in a report the committee issued two days before Thanksgiving.

The committee’s report cites the AFSA-commissioned survey conducted by Charles River Associates (CRA) and published a year ago.The study examined more than 8.2 million vehicle finance contracts and concluded that the disparity alleged by the CFPB between interest rates charged to minorities and non-minorities is not supported by the data in those millions of contracts.

Today, the WSJ editorial page kept the spotlight trained on the CFPB with this headline: “The Consumer Bureau Cover-up: the feds knew their data showing racial bias was false but sued anyway.”

The editorial offered the following assessment of HR 1737 as it awaits action in the Senate: “What we can’t figure out is why, after the yeoman work of Jeb Hensarling’s House Financial Services Committee in exposing this outrage – and an overwhelming bipartisan vote on the House floor – Senators still don’t seem in any hurry to act. Banking Committee legislators on either side of the aisle aren’t making this a priority.”

With only a few weeks left in the calendar year, U.S. auto sales are heading toward an excess of 17 million NEW vehicles, with some saying sales could inch even higher next year.

The vast majority of those sales are completed with auto lenders buying the finance contracts from auto dealers. The retail financing of cars and light trucks through the dealer remains the most convenient and cost-effective method to purchase a vehicle.

At the end of the day, consumers deserve to be treated fairly by auto dealers and auto lenders. Discrimination by any means cannot be tolerated in automotive industry or anywhere else.

For those of us advocating for fairness and factual evidence and against indiscriminate governmental and regulatory excess, it is good to see the WSJ editorial board flexing its First Amendment muscle as the loyal opposition against excessive, unreasonable and unchecked government regulations.

VIEWPOINTS is a new feature of AFSA’s Newsbriefs that will appear periodically. Member companies are encouraged to submit articles for VIEWPOINTS.