Source: CNN

Fifth Third Bank on Tuesday said it agreed to pay $20 million in penalties imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle a CFPB investigation into its auto insurance practices, and a 2020 lawsuit the agency filed pertaining to the bank’s creation of fake customer accounts.

The CFPB said it was imposing penalties on the bank for illegally charging customers for unnecessary auto insurance policies. It estimates the practice harmed more than 35,000 customers and resulted in vehicle repossession for more than 1,000 of them.

“Fifth Third Bank demanded borrowers pay for coverage they did not need or else face delinquency, additional fees and repossessions,” the agency said in a statement. “Fifth Third Bank conducted repossessions of vehicles when the delinquency was caused by the bank charging unnecessary and duplicative coverage.”

The bank, which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, operates branches in 12 states, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast.

For its illegal auto insurance activities, the bank must pay $5 million in redress to affected customers, the CFPB said. And the agency is ordering the bank “to clean up these broken business practices or else face further consequences,” CFPB director Rohit Chopra noted.

In addition, CFPB said Tuesday that it had filed a proposed court order that would require the bank to pay $15 million in penalties pertaining to practices that incentivized employees to create fake customer accounts. The proposed order also bans Fifth Third “from setting employee sales goals that incentivize fraudulently opening accounts,” CFPB said.

“Today’s settlement concludes both the sales practices litigation with the CFPB, and its separate investigation into certain auto finance servicing activities related to a collateral protection insurance program that the Bank shut down in 2019 before the CFPB began its investigation,” said Susan Zaunbrecher, chief legal officer of Fifth Third. “We have already taken significant action to address these legacy matters, including identifying issues and taking the initiative to set things right. We consistently put our customers at the center of everything we do.”

Penalties will be paid into CFPB’s victim relief fund.

Tuesday’s actions are not the first the CFPB has taken against Fifth Third. In 2015, the bank was ordered to pay $18 million to harmed Black and Hispanic borrowers in what CFPB charged was discriminatory auto loan pricing. And it was ordered to pay $3 million to harmed consumers and a $500,000 penalty for illegal credit card practices.

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