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George Floyd’s attorney: Wells Fargo ‘kills opportunities for black homeowners’

Wells Fargo & Co. is again facing scrutiny and lawsuits over lending practices involving black borrowers.

Wells Fargo – the largest mortgage lender among US banks – is now considering a possible class action lawsuit as well as criticism from Capitol Hill over allegations that it denied black people a chance at home ownership.

In recent days, civil rights attorney Ben Crump joined an amended lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco.

“We are suing Wells Faro to demand they change their opportunity-killing practices for black homeowners!” Crump, the top attorney for the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, tweeted Thursday.

A lawsuit filed in February involves claims by Georgia resident Chris Williams that the bank attempted to charge him a higher rate than his credit rating warranted when he sought to refinance his residential mortgage in 2019. Other plaintiffs have also signed, with attorneys now seeking to make it a class action.

The bank rejected requests from more than half of black Americans seeking refinance in 2020, and just under 50% the following year, according to an amended lawsuit filed by attorney Dennis Ellis. “No other major lending institution has refused to refinance the homes of black Americans at such astonishing rates,” he noted.

“Our lawsuit follows a Bloomberg report in late March,” Ellis said of the news service’s report, which showed Wells Fargo only approved 47% of black homeowners who filed mortgage refinance applications. in 2020, compared to 72% of White candidates.

“The idea that we’re still talking about redlining in 2022 by a major financial institution is shocking,” Ellis told CBS MoneyWatch, a reference to a practice that in the past included the Federal Housing Administration’s refusal to insure mortgages. in and around black neighborhoods. .

Adding insult to injury, black applicants were disproportionately turned down or delayed by Wells Fargo at a time when record high interest rates caused borrowers to rush to refinance and cut their monthly payments, said Ellis.

“It is very unfair and damaging to our society as a whole that black Americans have not been able to take advantage of low rates that will probably never be seen again, which occurred at the height of the pandemic,” he said. . “It affects white Americans who live next door – their children are not able to experience the diversity of a more mosaic environment.”

Wells Fargo denied the allegations in an emailed statement.

“In 2020, Wells Fargo was the largest bank lender for home loans to Black families. This is consistent with the company’s performance over the past decade (2011 – 2020) in which it has helped so many black families to buy homes than the next three largest lenders combined. Any suggestion that our home lending practices are discriminatory is without merit.”

Wells Fargo is also being called out by Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon, with Democrats noting the bank’s “history of scamming and consumer abuse”.

That includes a 2012 $184 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that Wells Fargo referred qualified African American and Hispanic borrowers to subprime mortgages.

Four years later, Wells Fargo discovers herself at the center of a scandal which cost him CEO his job, along with 5,000 other employees. In 2016, the bank was fined nearly $200 million for illegally opening millions of fake deposit and credit card accounts.

Two years later, in 2018, Wells Fargo is fined over $1 billion to settle federal charges for consumer abuse related to its auto and mortgage lending business.