Auto lender fined $48 million for deceiving customers

Friday, October 2, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 40

WASHINGTON (AP) — Los Angeles-based auto lender Westlake Services faces $48.35 million in cash relief and penalties for deceiving customers and falsely threatening criminal prosecution, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says.

The CFPB found that Westlake and its subsidiary Wilshire Consumer Credit masked their identities when phoning borrowers, faking calls from pizza delivery shops, florists and family members. Beginning in 2010 through the middle of last year, the companies falsely told borrowers they faced criminal charges, pressuring them into making urgent payments to avoid an investigation.

The companies also contacted borrowers' employers, friends and family members without permission, implying to them that the borrowers were behind on loan payments and that their vehicles would be repossessed in addition to the risk of criminal charges.

The CFPB has ordered Westlake and its subsidiary to provide customers with $44.1 million in cash relief and balance reductions. The federal agency also announced a $4.25 million civil penalty against the companies.