They say all publicity is good publicity. But I’m not sure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is going to think that’s true if mainstream publications start publishing a lot of articles about the agency’s attempts to regulate the auto finance industry.
The onslaught could be coming. Following the $98 million settlement with Ally Financial in December 2013, a number of outlets have started to write about the CFPB and the auto industry. The latest is American Banker, which included quotes from Ally CEO Michael Carpenter’s email to Automotive News declaring that the lender won’t be a “Trojan horse” and that the CFPB “thought we were going to cave” and go to a flat-fee model.
Automotive News also recently wrote a story saying that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has requested a “compliance handbook” from the CFPB for lenders.
As of now, the average American ― and the average car buyer ― probably know little to nothing about the war between CFPB and auto lenders. If the issue continues to get mainstream press ― if, for instance, Bill O’Reilly or a Fox Business Channel anchor were to take up the industry talking points that a flat-fee model will drive up prices for most consumers ― you can bet public consciousness will go up quickly.
One article in American Banker likely won’t do it, but the CFPB should probably be worried that a brighter spotlight could be unflattering.