WASHINGTON — Rep. John LaFalce of New York, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, has called for hearings into the alleged discriminatory practices of some automobile lenders, which are the subject of class actions pending in Tennessee and other states.

“The Financial Services Committee cannot ignore … documented evidence of potential discrimination against our fellow citizens by automobile lenders,” Rep. LaFalce wrote in a letter he sent Thursday to House Financial Services Chairman Michael G. Oxley.

Rep. LaFalce asked the Ohio Republican to announce “the prompt scheduling of hearings.”

In the letter, Rep. LaFalce cited a Vanderbilt University study of loans arranged through Nissan dealers and the company’s lending arm, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp., that found black customers paid higher finance charges than whites regardless of their credit record. Only 15.4% of black customers, compared with 32.4% of white customers, in Nissan’s top credit tier were offered special low interest rates.

“Since lending patterns and practices are rarely confined to one specific lender, the committee should … include the entire automobile lending industry” in its inquiry, Rep. LaFalce wrote.

Nissan and General Motors Acceptance Corp. were named in class actions filed last year. The companies have denied the charges.

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