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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOJ, national bank settle Fair Housing Act discrimination claims

Courts Fair Lending DOJ Fair Housing Act Settlement

Courts

On July 23, the DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York filed a complaint and proposed settlement agreement with a national bank to settle charges that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act. According to the complaint, policies put in place by the bank beginning in January 2010 allegedly denied mortgage and home equity loans to adults with disabilities living under guardianships or conservatorships. The complaint further claims that the bank, in certain circumstances, denied mortgage loans to applicants who “made explicit requests” for the bank to “reconsider its denial” and accept court orders specifically permitting the guardian or conservator to act on behalf of the disabled individual. These policies were changed in 2016 for mortgage loans and in 2017 for home equity loans, the DOJ noted. The bank, however, denied the allegations, asserting that it did not, and does not, unlawfully discriminate on any prohibited basis, and that during the time period in question, it made “mortgage loans to persons with handicaps and disabilities without restrictions, including some adult applicants who had legal guardians or conservatorships.” Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the bank has agreed to pay $4,000 to each affected loan applicant, with a total expected payout of approximately $300,000. The bank is also required to (i) maintain the revised loan underwriting policies; (ii) train employees on the new policies; and (iii) monitor loan processing and underwriting activities to ensure Fair Housing Act compliance.

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