The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Thursday it had ordered billionaire Don Hankey’s auto finance company to refund $44.1 million to customers it alleges the company wronged through illegal debt collection tactics.
In its statement announcing the enforcement action, the bureau said that it found that agents working for Mid-Wilshire’s Westlake Services and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Wilshire Consumer Credit, which focus on the subprime lending market, committed violations including calling customers under false pretenses, threatening to have them prosecuted for nonpayment and disclosing debts to friends, family and employers.
Among other tactics, the bureau said Westlake used a third-party service called Skip Tracy to generate phony caller ID numbers that identified its collection agents as calling from a flower shop or pizza restaurant.
“There’s no excuse for lying to your customers, and today’s action will provide millions of dollars in relief for borrowers caught up in Westlake and Wilshire’s deception,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in the statement. “Consumers struggling to pay their bills deserve to be treated with respect, not subjected to illegal threats and deceptive phone calls.”
In addition to the money it has been ordered to repay its customers, of which $25.8 million is to be in cash and the rest in balance reductions, the Westlake companies will also pay a $4.3 million civil penalty.
Westlake executives declined to comment at this time.