Washington, DC (STL.News) The Justice Department Thursday announced a settlement of its race discrimination lawsuit against Guaranteed Auto Sales, a used car dealership in Glen Burnie, Maryland. The agreement also settles the United States’ claims against the dealership’s owner and manager, Kelly Ann West and Robert Chesgreen.
The settlement resolves claims that Guaranteed Auto Sales discriminated against African Americans in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by offering different terms of credit based on race to those seeking to purchase and finance used cars. The agreement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
The settlement requires the dealership to implement a number of specific practices to ensure that loan terms are offered to customers on a nondiscriminatory basis. Specifically, defendants will develop written policies to govern financing decisions, including how down payment amounts are calculated and whether the down payments may be made in more than one installment; post and distribute nondiscrimination notices to potential purchasers; attend training on the requirements of the Equal Opportunity Act; and engage in ongoing record keeping and reporting to the United States.
“When people borrow money to buy a car, a house, or anything else, they have a right to be treated fairly and without regard to their race,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The U.S. Department of Justice will not tolerate anyone who discriminates against people because of their race in deciding whether, and under what conditions, to lend them money. Our common humanity, our nation’s sense of decency, and federal law make this kind of race discrimination both un-American and illegal. Today’s settlement should send a clear message that car dealerships and other lenders must never make credit decisions based on a customer’s race. By entering into this agreement, the defendants have committed to take the steps necessary to ensure that they will provide equal treatment for borrowers of all races.”
This lawsuit, filed in September 2019, was based on the results of testing conducted by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as prospective car buyers to gather information about possible discriminatory practices. The complaint alleged that employees of Guaranteed Auto Sales told African American testers that they needed larger down payments than white testers for the same used cars, and told African American testers that they were required to fund their down payments in one lump sum, while they gave white testers an option of paying in two installments.
The federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lending discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, because an applicant receives income from a public assistance program, or because an applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.