Lenders Didn't Learn The Lesson Last Time, Return To Wooing Risky Clients

You know who definitely shouldn’t be getting back into debt right about now? Those same risky clients who have spent months and even years climbing out of bankruptcy, credit card and auto loan debt. But that isn’t stopping big lenders from starting to woo those troubled customers.

The New York Times says borrowers ran scared during the financial crisis, and shut out many would-be clients. Even those with fantastic credit had a hard time securing any kind of loan. But now that financial institutions are finally bouncing back a bit, they’re digging in and sending out feelers to the less than creditworthy.

Companies including Capital One and GM Financial are actively making efforts to bring in customers again, while HSBC and JPMorgan Chase are dancing awfully close to returning to subprime lending.

Credit card lenders gave out 1.1 million new cards to borrowers with damaged credit in December, up 12.3 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to Equifax’s credit trends report released in March. These borrowers accounted for 23 percent of new auto loans in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 17 percent in the same period of 2009, Experian, a credit scoring firm, said.

This is worrisome to consumer advocates that see it as predatory tactics by banks again, willing to snap up borrowers who are desperate for credit no matter what the costs.

As one woman quoted by the NYT puts it, after going through bankruptcy, having her car repossessed and being jobless, “Even I wouldn’t make a loan to me at this point.” And yet, credit card and auto loan offers have been piling up in her mailbox.

That doesn’t matter to financial institutions who are set on making up the losses they suffered during the financial crisis, when they saw billions in fee income vanish due to new regulations.

However, the banks say they’re not returning to any dastardly deeds. A Chase spokesman says the bank “seeks to be a careful, responsible lender,” and that it “is constantly evaluating the risks and costs of funding loans.”

It might not be cause for alarm just yet, as consumers have been paying down debt while unemployment has stayed high, say experts.

“This is a natural loosening of credit standards because the banks feel they can expand again,” said Michael Binz, a managing director at Standard & Poor’s.

We’re gonna go ahead and remain skeptical, for the time being.

Lenders Again Dealing Credit to Risky Clients [New York Times]