Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy that targeted racial bias

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE has repealed auto-lending guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), revoking a rule that was put in place to protect minority customers from predatory practices.

Trump’s signature on a congressional resolution erases the CFPB’s 2013 guidance targeting “dealer markups,” the additional interest that is added to a customer’s third-party auto loan as compensation for the dealer. 

The president signed the resolution in a private White House signing ceremony.

Auto dealers, banks and their allies in Congress said the CFPB policy was an unfair and unfounded attack on an essential and harmless financing tool. 

The move caps off an unprecedented use of congressional power, as lawmakers had never before passed such a resolution to revoke informal guidance from a federal agency.

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Republicans and a small group of Democrats voted to repeal the CFPB guidance under what is known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That law allows a simple majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate to vote to repeal a federal rule; it also bans the agency from replacing a rule with a similar measure in the future.

The resolution cleared the House earlier this month after clearing the Senate in April.

While Congress has used the CRA to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era federal rules since 2017, this is the first time that lawmakers have successfully overturned guidance from a federal agency that had not been finalized as a formal regulation.

The CFPB took aim at dealer markups in 2013. Under former Director Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayPoll: Majority of likely voters support consumer bureau mission Election Countdown: Takeaways from too-close-to-call Ohio special election | Trump endorsements cement power but come with risks | GOP leader's race now rated as 'toss-up' | Record numbers of women nominated | Latino candidates get prominent role in 2020 Michigan race shows two parties on different trajectories MORE (D), the CFPB warned auto dealers that the use of markups on third-party loans could lead to a lawsuit from the agency under anti-lending discrimination laws.

The CFPB and fair lending advocates have pointed to several studies, including one that was conducted by the bureau, that found racial disparities in dealer markups. Those studies found that minority customers often paid higher dealer markups than white customers with similar credit profiles.

While the 2013 guidance was not a formal rule, the CFPB used the policy to launch a slew of lawsuits against automakers and lenders it said violated fair credit laws with discriminatory markups. The CFPB and Justice Department sued Ally Financial in December 2013 for close to $100 million in fines and damages, and also sued Honda and Toyota for tens of millions of dollars over similar charges.

Opponents of the rule questioned the methodology behind the studies that showed discriminatory markups and accused the CFPB of exploiting a loophole to circumvent its lack of jurisdiction over the auto industry.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingThe data is mightier than the sword, Mr. President It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy California wildfires prompt deficit debate in Congress MORE (R-Texas), who attended the signing ceremony, praised "the hard work of Republicans in Congress" to stop "a rogue Bureau using its unchecked powers to sidestep due process and harm the very consumers it is charged with protecting."

The CFPB policy seemed immune from repeal until last December, when the Government Accountability Office ruled that informal agency guidance could be repealed under the review law as if it were a formal rule. Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.), who requested the analysis, introduced a resolution to repeal the auto lending guidance soon after.

Acting CFPB Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOvernight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances On The Money: Trump 'not thrilled' at Fed chief's interest rate hikes | Trump says no concessions on Turkey tariffs | Why time is running out for NAFTA talks Mulvaney asking Trump officials to help company under pressure due to tariffs MORE in a statement praised Trump and lawmakers for repealing the auto guidance and said the bureau would consider submitting other similar policies for congressional review.

The repeal of the guidance is the second Republican reversal of a key Cordray-era CFPB policy under the CRA. Trump signed a resolution last November that repealed the bureau’s rule on forced arbitration, issued in July 2017.

The rule had banned banks and credit card companies from forcing their customers into arbitration agreements that prevent those customers from joining class-action lawsuits.  

Updated at 3:09 p.m.