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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • FDIC releases bank report on its past discriminatory lending practices

    On April 3, the FDIC made public for the first time its Community Reinvestment Act Performance Evaluation for a bank from September 2022. The bank focused on residential and commercial lending and had $1.15 billion in assets at the time of the review. During its supervision window from 2019 to 2022, the FDIC rated the bank’s CRA rating as “Needs to Improve,” which was a downgrade from its previous rating of “Satisfactory.” Although the FDIC found that the bank “demonstrated satisfactory performance” under the Lending and Community Development Tests, it was found to have violated ECOA and FHFA. Specifically, the FDIC found that the bank engaged in discriminatory lending through alleged redlining practices, the FDIC deemed. The FDIC noted that these violations occurred due to a lack of sufficient oversight and appropriate policies and procedures. 

    Bank Regulatory Discrimination Fair Lending Supervision ECOA FHFA CRA

  • Complaint filed against the USDA alleging discriminatory loan practices


    On March 29, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia received a complaint by two Black farmers, among others as part of a class action, alleging that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) disproportionately denied them federal farm loans. The plaintiffs alleged the USDA admitted to having a pattern and practice of discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities. The complaint delved into a complex story and long-standing claims from the two primary plaintiffs, with one farmer sharing that a loan manager stated, “I don’t lend to your kind” (italics omitted).

    The plaintiffs asserted six causes of action. The first cause of action was under ECOA, where the plaintiffs alleged the USDA violated the ECOA by discriminating based on race. Second, the plaintiffs asserted a cause of action for discrimination under the APA. Third, the plaintiffs asserted a due process claim under the Fifth Amendment, alleging that the USDA allocated funds disproportionally in favor of White farmers. Fourth, the plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus barring USDA Committeemen from intervening in the loan process. Fifth, the plaintiffs asserted a claim for declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the USDA violated their rights. Finally, the plaintiffs asserted a claim to compel the production of requested documents under FOIA. 

    Courts USDA Loans Agribusiness Department of Agriculture Fair Lending ECOA

  • OCC’s Hsu discusses bank fairness and effective compliance risk management

    On March 25, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Michael J. Hsu, released a transcript of a speech on fairness and effective compliance risk management in banking, delivered at a banking association meeting. The speech focused on how bank fairness can be used as a “guide and input to effective compliance risk management,” and how Hsu believed banks could develop more fairness in banking. Hsu noted that deploying more resources and adopting modern technologies will be only part of the challenge in improving a bank’s compliance risk programs; the other part of the challenge is “adapting and anticipating” where compliance risks could arise.

    While speaking on the challenges of bank consumer compliance, Hsu discussed rapid changes in product offerings, such as the growth of credit cards, BNPL products, and Earned Wage Access. Hsu discussed how the increase in the digitalization of banking has aligned with third-party arrangements, fraud, and cyber risks in finance. On fairness, Hsu discussed the increased prevalence of overdraft charges and how a “well developed sense of fairness” can guide banks in connection with such areas. Hsu stated that fairness is not unidimensional, and when a bank develops an internal sense of fairness, it should be aware of how multiple notions of fairness interact. For example, he noted that “disparate treatment and disparate impact” provide the foundations for fair lending laws, and to comply with fair lending laws, a bank must mitigate both disparities.

    Bank Regulatory OCC Fair Lending Compliance Risk Management

  • Bank to pay $1.9 million to resolve redlining suit

    Federal Issues

    On January 17, the DOJ announced a $1.9 million settlement with a national bank resolving allegations that the bank engaged in unlawful redlining in Memphis, Tennessee by intentionally not providing home loans and mortgage services to majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, thereby violating the Fair Housing Act, ECOA, and Regulation B. In the complaint, the DOJ alleged that from 2015 through at least 2020, the bank (i) concentrated marketing and maintained nearly all its branches in majority-white neighborhoods; (ii) was aware of its redlining risk and failed to address said risk; (iii) generated disproportionately low numbers of loan applications and home loans during the relevant period from majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Memphis, compared to similarly-situated lenders; (iv) maintained practices that denied equal access to home loans for those in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and otherwise “discouraged” those individuals from applying; and others.

    Under the consent order, which is subject to court approval, the bank will, among other things, invest $1.3 million in a loan subsidy fund to enhance home mortgage, home improvement, and home refinancing access in the specified neighborhoods. The bank will also allocate $375,000 in advertising, outreach, and financial counseling to specified neighborhoods, and allocate $225,000 to community partnerships for services boosting residential mortgage credit access in the specified areas. Additionally, the bank will assign at least two mortgage loan officers to serve majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the bank’s service area and appoint a Director of Community Lending who will oversee the continued development of lending in communities of color. 

    Federal Issues DOJ Consumer Finance Mortgages Redlining Discrimination Consent Order ECOA Regulation B Fair Housing Act Tennessee Fair Lending

  • CFPB releases its spring 2023 semi-annual report

    Federal Issues

    The CFPB recently issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work for the period beginning October 1, 2022 and ending March 31, 2023. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, includes, (i) a list of significant rules and orders (including final rules, proposed rules, pre-rule materials, and upcoming plans and initiatives); (ii) an analysis of consumer complaints, (iii) lists of public supervisory and enforcement actions, (iv) assessments of actions by state regulators and attorneys generals related to consumer financial law; (v) assessment of fair lending enforcement and rulemaking; and (vi) an analysis of efforts to increase workforce and contracting diversity.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Dodd-Frank Supervision ECOA HMDA Fair Lending

  • NY AG report reveals racial disparities in homeownership and offers proposed solutions

    State Issues

    On October 31, New York AG Letitia James released a report detailing racial disparities in homeownership and access to home financing in New York. The report states that Black and Latino New Yorkers are “underrepresented” among mortgage applicants, and white households are overall more likely to own homes than Black, Latino, or Asian households. The report also found that regardless of credit score, income, size of the loan and other factors, all applicants of color are denied mortgages at a higher rate than white applicants. In addition, the report found that disparities between white borrowers and borrowers of color persist in the context of refinance transactions and are also present in loans made by “[n]ew private-sector, non-depository lenders.”

    The report identified policy solutions that could reduce these disparities, including (i) subsidizing down payments and interest rates for first-generation homebuyers; (ii) increasing state funding for nonprofit financial institutions that support underserved communities of color; (iii) passing the New York Public Banking Act, which would create a regulatory framework for the establishment of public banks, thereby expanding access to affordable financial services in underserved areas; (iv) bolstering resources for government agencies to conduct fair lending investigations and enhancing New York’s Human Rights Law to explicitly prohibit discriminatory lending practices; and (v) exploring options for offering state-provided banking services in accessible locations to increase access to traditional banking services.

    State Issues New York State Attorney General Fair Lending Consumer Finance Lending FHA Refinance Racial Bias

  • CFPB, DOJ issue guidance on immigration status and fair lending

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 12, the CFPB and DOJ issued a joint statement on fair lending and credit opportunities for noncitizen borrowers. The statement warned that, under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulations, it is unlawful for lenders to discriminate against credit applicants based on their national origin or race, regardless of their immigration status. In its press release announcing the joint statement, DOJ explained that the statement was prompted by reports of consumers being rejected for credit cards as well as auto, student, and personal loans because of their immigration status, even when they were otherwise qualified to receive the loans. The joint statement explained that, although a creditor may consider an applicant’s immigration status when necessary to ascertain the creditor’s rights regarding repayment, “unnecessary or overbroad reliance on immigration status in the credit decision process, including when that reliance is based on bias, may run afoul of ECOA’s antidiscrimination provisions and could also violate other laws.” Among other things, the agencies cautioned against the overbroad consideration of criteria that may “serve as a proxy for citizenship of immigration status,” such as how long a consumer has had a social security number. Likewise, requiring only certain groups of noncitizens to provide documentation, identification, or in-person applications may also violate ECOA by “harming applicants on the basis of national origin or race.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues CFPB DOJ ECOA Consumer Finance Consumer Protection Credit Cards Fair Lending

  • DOJ and RI-based bank settlement agreement regarding redlining claims

    Federal Issues

    On September 27, the DOJ announced a $9 million settlement agreement with a Rhode Island-based community bank to resolve allegations that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination by engaging in “redlining” in Rhode Island. The DOJ’s complaint claimed that from  2016 to at least 2021, the bank failed to provide mortgage lending services in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Rhode Island. The DOJ also alleged that all of the bank’s branches were concentrated in majority-white neighborhoods, and that the bank did not take meaningful measures to compensate for not having a physical presence in majority-Black and Hispanic communities.

    Under the proposed consent order, the bank will, among other things, (i) invest at least $7 million in a loan subsidy fund for majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Rhode Island to increase access to credit for home mortgage, improvement, and refinance loans, and home equity loans and lines of credit; (ii) invest $1 million towards outreach, advertising, consumer financial education, and credit counseling initiatives; (iii) invest $1 million in developing community partnerships to expand access to residential mortgage credit for Black and Hispanic consumers; (iv) establish two new branches, ensure at least two mortgage loan officers, and employ a “Director of Community Lending” in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Rhode Island; (v) conduct a community credit needs assessment; and (vi) produce a fair lending status report and compliance plan and conduct fair lending training. The announcement cited the bank’s cooperation with the DOJ to remedy the identified redlining concerns.

    Federal Issues Redlining Enforcement Discrimination Fair Lending Settlement Consumer Finance DOJ

  • OCC releases bank supervision operating plan for FY 2024

    On September 28, the OCC’s Committee on Bank Supervision released its bank supervision operating plan for fiscal year 2024. The plan outlines the agency’s supervision priorities and highlights several supervisory focus areas including: (i) asset and liability management; (ii) credit; (iii) allowances for credit losses; (iv) cybersecurity; (v) operations; (vi) digital ledger technology activities; (vii) change in management; (viii) payments; (ix) Bank Secrecy Act/AML compliance; (x) consumer compliance; (xi) Community Reinvestment Act; (xii) fair lending; and (xiii) climate-related financial risks.

    Two of the top areas of focus are asset and liability management and credit risk. In its operating plan the OCC says that “Examiners should determine whether banks are managing interest rate and liquidity risks through use of effective asset and liability risk management policies and practices, including stress testing across a sufficient range of scenarios, sensitivity analyses of key model assumptions and liquidity sources, and appropriate contingency planning.” With respect to credit risk, the OCC says that “Examiners should evaluate banks’ stress testing of adverse economic scenarios and potential implications to capital” and “focus on concentrations risk management, including for vulnerable commercial real estate and other higher-risk portfolios, risk rating accuracy, portfolios of highest growth, and new products.”

    The plan will be used by OCC staff to guide the development of supervisory strategies for individual national banks, federal savings associations, federal branches and agencies of foreign banking organizations, and certain identified third-party service providers subject to OCC examination.

    The OCC will provide updates about these priorities in its Semiannual Risk Perspective, as InfoBytes has previously covered here.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Supervision Digital Assets Fintech Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security UDAP UDAAP Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Climate-Related Financial Risks Fair Lending Third-Party Risk Management Risk Management

  • Fed’s Barr raises concerns about AI redlining

    Federal Issues

    On July 18, Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr delivered a speech on adjusting the Fair Housing Act and ECOA in response to the increasing relevance of artificial intelligence. Barr explained how the digital economy offers many great utilizations, such as accessing the creditworthiness of individuals without credit history and facilitating wider access to credit for those who may otherwise be excluded. Along with a digital economy, Barr cautioned, comes negative implications where technologies can potentially violate the fair lending laws and may perpetuate existing disparities and inaccuracies, among other things. Barr highlighted Special Purpose Credit Programs as a tool to address discrimination and bias in mortgage credit transactions. In addition, Barr highlighted two recent initiatives taken by the Fed to tackle appraisal discrimination and bias in housing mortgage credit transactions—one involved inviting public feedback on a proposed rule to uphold credibility and integrity in automated valuation models, and the other sought input on guidance addressing risks related to deficient home appraisals, emphasizing "reconsiderations of value" in the process. (Covered by InfoBytes here and here.) Barr also commented that through the Fed’s supervisory process, it is evaluating whether firms have proper risk management and controls, including with respect to these new technologies.

    Federal Issues Fintech Federal Reserve Fair Housing Act ECOA Artificial Intelligence Fair Lending Redlining Consumer Finance


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