Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. on Wednesday criticized subprime lenders for withholding positive payment information from credit bureaus.
In a speech to more than 300 lenders and regulators in New York, Mr. Hawke praised subprime lenders for bringing credit to previously undeserved communities and borrowers with no or poor credit.
But he chastised some for failure to report positive loan information that would enable borrowers to reduce their costs. Mr. Hawke said these lenders do not want competitors to know about customers who repay high- interest loans on time because they fear being underbid.
"A credit history can't be built or repaired if lenders refuse to let anyone else know about it," Mr. Hawke said. "The failure to report is unfair to customers, unfair to competition, and ultimately inconsistent with the values of our national economy."
Moreover, he said, the nonreporting of positive payment histories poses a safety-and-soundness threat because lenders who fail to report such histories often fail to report even the loan itself.
That practice renders credit bureau information obtained by other lenders incomplete and can wreak havoc on credit scoring and risk management efforts.
Mr. Hawke said banking regulators and the Federal Trade Commission plan joint guidelines to call attention to the nonreporting issue. The advisory would not require reporting, however. At the same event, acting New York State Banking Superintendent Elizabeth McCaul said she would consider proposing legislation to stem subprime mortgage abuses.
Mr. Hawke also said inexperienced subprime borrowers are "easy targets for unscrupulous lenders," including banks.
He pointed to studies that suggest 30% or more of subprime mortgage borrowers could have qualified for prime rates. He also cited "heartbreaking stories" of cash-poor, equity-rich borrowers-many of them elderly-who agree to take out loans they "cannot possibly repay" and end up losing their homes.
"I know of no financial product with greater potential for good-or for abuse-than subprime loans," he said.
Mr. Hawke's host, the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, tries to rebuild urban housing by making and brokering mortgage and rehabilitation loans to residents and by offering homeowner education classes.