This week Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million to people across the United States to settle claims of consumer discrimination. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Illinois Attorney General sued Bank of America, alleging that the bank’s recently acquired Countrywide Financial Unit offered mortgages to black consumers on less favorable terms than white consumers. According to the DOJ, this settlement is the largest ever settlement in a residential-fair-lending lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, the DOJ alleged that it found a pattern or practice of discrimination against black consumers, where over 200,000 black consumers were offered higher mortgages rates than their white counterparts. The DOJ also found evidence of sub-prime predatory lending in over 10,000 cases. The bank claims that this lending occurred prior to the bank’s involvement with the Financial Unit.
Federal law prohibits discrimination against consumers in credit transactions. Both the Equal Opportunity Credit Act and the Fair Housing Act applies to mortgage lending. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination of applicants in any credit transaction, including residential real estate lending, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status age, or involvement in a public assistance program. The Fair Housing Act applies more specifically to real estate transactions, including making loans and selling or renting real estate, and prohibits discrimination on similar grounds and also discrimination on the basis of handicap.
A violation of either law exposes a lender to civil liability, including monetary damages. If you or a loved one believes that you were discriminated against in a credit transaction, you should speak with an experienced attorney to learn about your legal rights. For questions, contact Broussard, David & Moroux at 1-888-337-2323 (toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).