DOJ Begins Bank Witch Hunt
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Settlements include setting aside prime-rate mortgages for low-income blacks and Hispanics with blemished credit and even counting "public assistance" as valid income in mortgage applications.
In several cases, the government has ordered bank defendants to post in all their branches and marketing materials a notice informing minority customers that they cannot be turned down for credit because they receive public aid, such as unemployment benefits, welfare payments or food stamps.
Among other remedies: favorable interest rates and down-payment assistance for minority borrowers with weak credit.
For example, the government has ordered Midwest BankCentre to set aside almost $1 million in "special financing" for residents living in predominantly black areas of St. Louis. The program includes originating conventional home loans at fixed prime rates for African-American borrowers "who would ordinarily not qualify for such rates for reasons including the lack of required credit quality, income or down payment."
"As part of settlement deals, prosecutors have required banks to sign "nondisclosure agreements" barring them from talking about the methods used to allege discrimination. Bank lawyers contend the prosecutors are trying to hide the shaky legal grounds on which the cases are built. "It's horrible what they're doing at the civil rights division," said Reginald Brown, a partner at Wilmer Hale in Washington, who has represented banks in connection to recent race-bias investigations. "They don't have any proof, just theories."
He added, "They want you to sign something saying you agree, under the condition of any settlement with them, that you won't disclose what their theories were. That's because their theories are loopy and wouldn't stand the light of day."
One such theory — "disparate impact" — holds that merely a difference in loan application outcomes is enough to prove racial discrimination — even if no intent exists on the part of loan officers to contrast based on the color of applicants, and even legitimate business factors — such as credit scores and down payments — help explain disparities in loan outcomes between white and black applicants."
"In announcing a recent $2 million settlement with Dallas-based PrimeLending, Civil Rights Division chief Tom Perez said, "We will require lenders to invest in the community that they've harmed."
Another Reno protege, Perez has compared bankers to Klansmen. Only difference is, he said, bankers discriminate "with a smile" and "fine print." He said this kind of racism, though more subtle, is "every bit as destructive as the cross burned in a neighborhood."
Perez has put in place an infrastructure to enforce "fair lending" — including a first-of-its-kind Fair Lending Unit staffed with more than 20 lawyers, economists and statisticians."
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DOJ Begins Bank Witch Hunt - Yahoo! News
Last edited by ManofthPeephole; 07-11-11 at 09:08 AM.