Tate's Auto Group owner settles with FTC for $450,000

In a statement emailed to Automotive News, Berry asserted his group’s innocence against the allegations and accused agency staff of being motivated by political agendas.

“Fortunately, we had an outstanding insurance partner which not only defended us but encouraged early in the process to not allow for the 7-figure ‘settlement’ the FTC sought in lieu of filing the complaint,” Berry wrote. “Even though we had prevailed on every meaningful charge the FTC alleged our carrier agreed to make a payment of gesture just to end the madness.”

He also spoke out against Congress’ efforts to restore the FTC’s powers to disgorge businesses accused of wrongdoing to disperse directly to consumers.

“We are no longer in business, our stores are shuttered and the small communities … are affected,” Berry said. “I would encourage every dealer and small business to contact their congressional and senate representatives to urge them not to grant the FTC the powers they seek. As you can see — in the wrong staff’s hands they can erase a life’s work.”

Meanwhile, Congress is working on returning those powers to the FTC. The Democratic-controlled House voted 221-205 on July 20 to pass the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act, which authorizes the FTC to go to court to seek financial redress from businesses that engage in “unlawful commercial practices such as false advertising, consumer fraud and anticompetitive conduct,” according to the bill’s summary.

In her statement, Slaughter said the charges against Tate were “eerily similar” to consumer mistreatment that occurred during the financial crisis.

“This is exactly the type of pernicious conduct targeting a community that has already suffered generations of economic injustice that the FTC should be pursuing,” Slaughter said. “The consumers targeted with this scheme were from a population that is not only presently but also historically oppressed.”

Audrey LaForest contributed to this report.