The Justice Department announced today that Southport Bank of Kenosha, Wis., will pay $687,000 to African-American and Hispanic wholesale mortgage borrowers as part of a settlement to resolve allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed in conjunction with the Department’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The complaint alleges that Southport charged hundreds of African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees than white borrowers on wholesale mortgage loans in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). Southport cooperated fully with the Department’s investigation into its lending practices and agreed to settle this matter without contested litigation.
The lawsuit originated from a 2012 referral by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Southport is regulated by the FDIC.
The proceeds of the settlement will be used to compensate the African-American and Hispanic victims of Southport’s alleged discrimination. Under the proposed settlement, a list of individual victims will be identified by the United States. The settlement requires borrowers who are eligible for compensation to be notified by the bank and provides for monitoring of the compensation process by the department.
Southport is not currently engaged in the business of wholesale home mortgage lending, but the settlement provides that if it re-enters that business, the bank will implement policies, practices and monitoring designed to prevent and detect potential fair lending violations.
“Discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in the extension of credit, including by wholesale lenders, must be eliminated,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend Southport for working cooperatively with the Justice Department in reaching an appropriate resolution of this case.”
“The United States Department of Justice, through both the Civil Rights Division and my office, remains steadfast in its commitment to identifying, investigating, and addressing patterns and practices of racial and national origin bias in the extension and management of mortgage loans” said James L. Santelle, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. “ As reflected by today’s settlement, we are animated not only by the all-important mandates of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act but also by our much-related interest in ensuring that all Americans are afforded economic opportunities and financial options in this most basic aspect of life—housing. I join the Assistant Attorney General in recognizing the leadership of the Southport Bank of Kenosha for their cooperation in accomplishing this settlement that compensates members of our African-American and Hispanic communities for the discrimination that they suffered.”
The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Fair Lending Unit of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in the Civil Rights Division. Since the Fair Lending Unit was established in February 2010, it has filed or resolved 26 lending matters under the FHA, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The settlements in these matters provide for a minimum of $660 million in monetary relief for impacted communities and more than 300,000 individual borrowers. The Attorney General’s annual reports to Congress subject to ECOA highlight the department’s accomplishments in fair lending and are available at www.justice.gov/crt/publications/ .
The Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and the FDIC are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit http://www.stopfraud.gov/ .
A copy of the complaint, as well as additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department, can be obtained from the Justice Department’s website at http://www.justice.gov/fairhousing.