Though public records have existed – in one form or another – since the creation of written words, not all records are made available to the public. We live in a time when it is possible to find information on just about every private citizen and public corporation. From birth certificates to financial records, there are lots of databases available that allow us to search for data to our hearts’ content. The ability to access so information can be a blessing and a curse. It’s nice to be able to look up information on a company you are researching, but it is no good when an identity thief is able to access your personal information.
Regardless of how much information is available to us, we all expect a certain amount of privacy when it comes to the release of our personal information and documents. Lawyers that represent a large title loan company, called Loan Max, argued before state corporation commissioners in Michigan about having the right to prevent their company financial records from being viewed by the public. This company owns the three largest auto title loan companies in the country, and believe that their business entities deserve the same protection that private citizens get.
There are three lenders total that are involved in this case: Anderson Financial Services LLC, which does business as Loan Max, Fast Auto Loans and TitleMax of Virginia Inc. All three have filed official legal pleadings to request that Virginia officials stop disclosure to the Center for Public Integrity of financial reports that the lenders submitted to the state.
These yearly reports include how many loans were processed, sales numbers, interest rate data, how many cars got repossessed when the borrowers defaulted on loans, and how often the lenders got into hot water with state/federal regulators. Fast Auto Loan, Loan Max and TitleMax handed over redacted reports the previous month upon request from the commission prior to this hearing.
In defense of their redacted reports, the companies stated in their most current filings that the reports should be considered “personal financial information” and that it should be exempt from being available to the public, just as it would be for any private citizen.
The company put together its filing recently. In it, the company stated, “Fast Auto’s personal financial information should be treated as confidential just as an individual’s personal financial information would be treated.”
A hearing took place in Richmond back in January. During the hearing, the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which looks over financial providers in the state, requested additional legal statements. The issue at hand is whether the reports ought to be made public, as the commissioner’s office indicated they should in 2015, or if this data should be kept from the public. The ongoing debate at this hearing was focused on the question of whether lenders should be privy to the same types of financial record privacy rights as private citizens are under the current laws.
This is a touchy subject that many experts are divided on. To be sure, it is important for the public to know some information about a company, in order to decide if they are trustworthy and worth doing business with. On the other hand, many business owners have argued that their companies deserve to be treated on a level playing field with private citizens and smaller businesses. This is just one case that represents this ongoing issue, and will likely lead to further debate down the road. In the meantime, though, one can hardly blame those who run these title lending companies from wanting to keep their financial data secure from the general public, even if these records don’t wind up staying protected from public view in the future.