14 AGs implore CFPB to enforce Equal Credit Opportunity Act

NEW YORK - 

Attorneys general are continuing to implore the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be an aggressive regulator.

Through a letter delivered on Wednesday, New York attorney general Barbara Underwood — part of a coalition of 14 AGs — called on the CFPB and acting director Mick Mulvaney to continue protecting the rights of consumers against credit discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The attorneys general share authority with the CFPB to enforce regulations regarding the ECOA and lead antidiscrimination efforts in their own states. As such, they are calling on the CFPB to continue enforcing the ECOA, including its provision for disparate impact liability.

The letter was signed by the attorneys general of North Carolina, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“The Equal Credit Opportunity Act was enacted because of our country’s sordid history of credit discrimination — and it’s unbelievable that the CFPB is considering refusing to use it to protect consumers,” Underwood said. “As we’ve shown, my office won’t hesitate to uphold the law and protect those we serve, even if the CFPB won’t.”

The ECOA is the principal federal antidiscrimination law for all forms of credit except home mortgage lending. It prohibits creditors from discriminating against consumers on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status and age.

The ECOA also protects people from discriminatory intent and unconscious prejudices that do not mention race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age, but still have a discriminatory effect that prevents equality of opportunity; this is called disparate impact liability.

The state officials added the CFPB is charged with oversight and enforcement of federal laws relevant to nondiscriminatory lending and credit practices, which includes interpreting the ECOA.  

In their letter, the attorneys general say they “will not hesitate to uphold the law if CFPB acts in a manner contrary to law with respect to interpreting ECOA.”

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