Car Title Lenders & Secret Documents

May 12, 2016

Credit stock photo

Regulators at the State Corporation Commission are siding with car-title lenders against open government, denying a request for information from the Center for Public Integrity. But  open government advocates are taking their case all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Back in November, the Center for Public Integrity filed a public-records request to get information about three of the state’s biggest car-title lenders. The companies objected and appeared at a hearing of the State Corporation Commission in January to fight against disclosing the documents. Ken Schrad is a spokesman for the commission.

“The licensees argued that certain information contained in those annual reports should be treated confidentially either for proprietary reasons or what they consider personal financial information."

Personal financial information, in other words the argument was that corporations are people too. It worked. In March the Commission denied the request. But Fred Schulte at the Center for Public Integrity says they he wasn’t looking for personal information. He wanted things like … 

“How often they’ve repossessed cars from people. How often they’ve sued people who borrowed money from them. How often they’ve sued by states attorneys general for problems in their operations."

The Center for Public Integrity is appealing the State Corporation Commission’s decision, which means that the Supreme Court of Virginia could end up deciding where regulators should draw the line on how much the public should know about car-title lenders.