Legislation from the Golden State is on its way to the Governor's desk that would require fingerprinting for new lenders. But the bill doesn't stop licensed lenders from hiring convicted criminals.
Bill 502 would require fingerprints and a criminal background check before granting lending licenses. It's a practice already required for mortgage brokers.
The bill is on a fast-track calendar to get to the governor's desk and is supported by the California Financial Services Association.
The Department of Corporations can already deny a license if applicants, within the past decade, have been convicted, pleaded no contest to a crime or committed any act involving "dishonesty, fraud or deceit" related to the industry.
But the screening is limited to a three-page questionnaire. Principal officers and directors, or partners with a 10% stake, are required to complete the form, which asks for details about past crimes, bankruptcies and lawsuits.
"It would help with enforcement," added Norma Garcia, an attorney with the Consumers Union, which has backed reforms in the lending industry.
The 2,994 lenders currently licensed would be grand-fathered in.
"Quite honestly, it doesn't go far enough," said Jon Eberhardt, president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, an industry group.
Eberhardt supports extending the fingerprinting requirement to lenders but said the bigger problem is that once a business obtains a license any employee can originate.
"You could be a felon, you could be someone who embezzled money," he said.