Federal redlining enforcement has waned in recent years, but redlining risk has not disappeared.  On October 4, two consumer advocacy groups, the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, filed a law suit accusing a Connecticut-based bank of unlawful discrimination against minority homebuyers. The suit alleges that Liberty Bank, a state-chartered bank headquartered in Connecticut, violated the Fair Housing Act by engaging in “redlining,” a term that refers to the practice of declining to lend to residents of predominantly minority neighborhoods.

According to the complaint, Liberty Bank avoided making loans in minority communities, denied minority loan applicants at higher rates than white applicants, and discouraged minority applicants from applying for credit. The complaint also accuses the bank of gerrymandering its Community Reinvestment Act assessment areas by carving out minority and low-income communities in order to avoid lending in those areas and to manipulate its lending statistics. Further, the complaint alleges that among top state lenders, “Liberty Bank has the widest racial lending disparities in refinance denials for African-American and Latinx applicants compared with white applicants, and it fails to provide refinance loans to communities of color at a rate that outstrips its peers at a statistically significant level.”

In addition to a lengthy list of statistical allegations, the complaint includes the results of in-person investigations conducted by plaintiffs at several bank branches. Specifically, the complaint alleges that plaintiffs sent six sets of testers to bank branches to inquire about obtaining mortgage loans.  In each test, a minority loan applicant and a white control applicant with similar credit and income characteristics visited a branch to inquire about the possibility of obtaining a loan.  According to the complaint, bank loan officers discouraged the minority testers from seeking loans, provided minority testers with significantly less information than the white control testers, and offered the minority testers less favorable terms than the white testers. The complaint seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and money damages.

While the Trump administration has scaled back on fair lending and other enforcement actions against consumer credit providers, Democratic state attorneys general have promised to vigorously enforce state and federal laws to “ensure fairness and deter fraud.”  The lawsuit against Liberty Bank suggests that consumer advocacy groups may become more active on these issues as well.

 

*Daniel Pearson is not admitted in the District of Columbia and is practicing under the supervision of firm principals.

*Daniel Pearson is not admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia. He is practicing under the supervision of firm principals.

On March 15, 2018, the State of Washington enacted Senate Bill 6029 (“SB 6029”), titled the “Washington Student Education Loan Bill of Rights,” which takes effect June 7, 2018, and amends the state’s Consumer Loan Act (the “CLA”) to expand its scope to include student loan servicers. Whereas the CLA currently regulates and licenses consumer lenders (both mortgage and non-mortgage), and mortgage servicers, when SB 6029 takes effect the CLA will also regulate and license student loan servicers. As a license is needed under the CLA to make any student loans to residents of Washington, it seems reasonable that if state legislators believed student loan servicers should be licensed in Washington, the CLA should be amended to provide for such licensing rather than enact a new and separate licensing law.¹

With that legislation, Washington becomes the latest state to license student loan servicers, joining California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Illinois.² Continue Reading Washington Licenses Student Loan Servicers*

Financial services providers, marketplace lenders and secondary market purchasers doing business in the state of New York can breathe at least a temporary sigh of relief this week.   Controversial changes proposed to the state’s Licensed Lender Law included in a pair of companion budget bills were dropped when these bills were amended on Monday.  Assembly Bill 3008 and Senate Bill 2008, as introduced in the legislature on January 23, 2017 would have expanded the scope of consumer and commercial loans, and types of business activities, subject to licensing by the New York Department of Financial Services (the “Department”) under the Licensed Lender Law. If enacted into law, these proposed amendments would have triggered new licensing obligations for companies doing business in the state, potentially reaching marketplace lenders, other Fintech companies and secondary market purchasers.

Continue Reading Controversial Changes to New York’s Licensed Lender Law Dropped from Latest Version of Budget Bills*

It’s fall, Halloween is over, and the scary clowns (other than those vying for political office) will recede into the forests next to small communities.  Now it’s time to look forward.  Many, we hear tell, cannot do so with joy as they plan for Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays.  Rather, there is a sense of dread and foreboding as mortgage companies, money transmitters, and collection agencies, among others, begin the annual license renewal process through the NMLS.  Before too many deficiencies start haunting your NMLS Account Records, the Consumer Financial Services practice group at Mayer Brown wishes to offer you some cheer to keep your spirits up and 12 terrific tips (indeed, huuuuuge ideas) to help you slog through renewals and minimize deficiencies. Continue Reading A Dozen Tips for Less Stress During the License Renewal Season*