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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Bank of America to Resolve Claims of Disability Discrimination and Compensate Victims

Complaint Alleges That Bank Refused to Issue Mortgages to Individuals Who are Under Guardianships

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York today filed a civil complaint and proposed settlement agreement to resolve claims that Bank of America, N.A. (Bank) engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.  The settlement agreement is subject to approval by the federal district court.

The department alleges in its complaint that for several years beginning in January 2010, the Bank maintained a policy of denying mortgage and home equity loans to adults with disabilities who were under legal guardianships or conservatorships. The Bank changed this policy in 2016 for mortgage loans and in 2017 for home equity loans.

“No one in this free country should be denied access to the American dream merely because of a disability. The unalienable right to pursue happiness extends to all people, including those with disabilities, and purchasing a home is one way many people exercise this right,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Fair Housing Act prohibits banks from denying mortgage loans and other housing-related credit to people because of their disabilities, and this department will hold accountable those lenders who engage in such illegal conduct. Today’s settlement provides compensation to victims of unlawful discrimination and requires Bank of America to apply non-discriminatory policies in deciding which applicants will receive loans.”

“This settlement ensures that Bank of America will no longer discriminate against people with disabilities when issuing mortgage and home equity loans, and compensates the victims for their losses,” said Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Our Office is committed to standing up for the rights of individuals with disabilities and taking action when necessary to vindicate those rights.”

The Bank has ended its practice of denying mortgage and home equity loans to adults with disabilities under guardianships or conservatorships. The terms of the settlement require the Bank to pay $4,000 per loan to eligible loan applicants who were affected by the Bank’s prior discriminatory policies, and we anticipate that the payments will total approximately $300,000. The settlement also requires the Bank to maintain the new, non-discriminatory loan underwriting policies and train its employees on the new policies. In addition, the Bank must monitor its loan processing and underwriting activities to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act.  

The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. Additional information about the Section’s fair lending enforcement can be found at www.justice.gov/fairhousing. Lending discrimination can be reported to the Civil Rights Division at https://civilrights.justice.gov.

Updated July 23, 2020