GAO finds bureau bulletin on indirect auto lending ‘guidance’ is subject to congressional review

A 2013 bulletin about auto lending and compliance with federal credit reporting laws issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a general statement of policy and a rule subject the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a letter from a congressional oversight agency stated Tuesday.

In a letter responding to a request from Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) General Counsel Thomas H. Armstrong said that the bureau’s March 2013 bulletin “Indirect Auto Lending and Compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act” meets the requirements of being subject to the congressional review law.

“The Bulletin is of general and not particular applicability, does not relate to agency management or personnel, and is not a rule of agency organization, procedure or practice,” Armstrong wrote, outlining the three exceptions to rules from being subject to the CRA.

“CFPB did not raise any claims that the Bulletin would not be a rule under CRA pursuant to any of the three exceptions, and we can readily conclude that the Bulletin does not fall within any of the those exceptions,” Armstrong noted.

Rather, he stated, the Bulletin is a general statement of policy “designed to assist indirect auto lenders to ensure that they are operating in compliance with ECOA and Regulation B, as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies,” he wrote.

The bulletin, the GAO counsel stated, is a nonbinding general statement of policy providing guidance about indirect auto lenders’ compliance with the fair lending requirements of the ECOA and its implementing regulation, Regulation B. According to Armstrong, CFPB did not submit a report about the bulletin to Congress or the GAO’s Comptroller General because “in their opinion the Bulletin is not a rule under CRA.”

GAO said the issue with the bulletin had been whether a nonbinding general statement of policy, which provides guidance on how CFPB will exercise its discretionary enforcement powers, is a rule under CRA.

GAO letter to Sen. Patrick Toomey re: CFPB bulletin/guidance on indirect lending and CRA coverage