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K-Town auto dealers playing favorites?

October 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The federal government accuses a local bank and six auto dealers of racial discrimination on car loans, giving special preference to Asian Americans.The bank targeted by the justice department has agreed to a settlement but the car dealers are fighting the accusations.

A spokesman for the justice department says there's never been a case like this.

Nara Bank and six automobile dealers are accused of a pattern and practice of racial discrimination when it comes to auto loans. They're accused of setting the interest rates higher on loans for non Asian Americans.

Hangook Enterprises, which owns several dealers including Union Auto Sales, Inc., haven't settled yet with the Justice Department. But along with the Nara Bank, they're charged with forcing non-Asian car buyers to pay higher interest rate markups on car loans.

The dealers would then allegedly split the overage with the bank.

The justice department released a complaint; "The differences in overages in the automobile loans made to non-Asian, including Hispanic borrowers, as compared to those made to Asian borrowers, cannot be explained by factors unrelated to race or national origin."

Some of the dealers like Union Auto Sales have moved. This series of stores used to house a lot for Union.

A Union Auto Sales spokesman in Garden Grove says his dealer no longer does business with Nara Bank.

All the dealers and the banks are located in areas heavily populated by Korean Americans. The dealers were or are Korean owned.

Nara Bank has settled without admitting any guilt. It no longer makes car loans. Nara denies any wrongdoing but has agreed to pay up to $410,000 to non-Asian American customers who got higher interest markups.

The period involved is between 2004 and 2006. It's believed most of the non-Asian customers were Hispanic.

There were five Hangook Enterprises and one from Union. The feds will now put all the suspected victims into a computer base to determine who gets a refund.

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