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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks Announcing Actions Regarding Lending Discrimination in Columbus Area


Columbus, OH
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good afternoon. I am Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. It is my honor to be joined today by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. And it is a pleasure to be here at the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Every year during the month of February, the nation pauses to reflect on the impact of the multitude of contributions and sacrifices that Black Americans have made to this country. Those impacts can be felt right here in Columbus. The transformative work of Aminah Robinson, who used art to tell the stories of the African experience and to critique the roles that racism and discrimination have played in American society; the contributions of the Second Baptist Church in the King-Lincoln District, which is the oldest Black church here in Columbus, has served as a cultural and social force for nearly 200 years; and the legacy of Hansford Village, which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has served for decades as a community and safe haven for Black residents of this city, including veterans who served as Tuskegee airmen – these are all just a few examples of the ways that Black residents of Columbus have not only shaped the legacy of this great city, but of the entire country.

Black History Month also serves as an opportunity to reflect on the barriers that have prevented Black people from enjoying full citizenship and equal opportunity. Redlining, the discriminatory and unlawful practice of systematically denying financial services to residents in certain communities simply because of their race or ethnicity, is one blatant example of such a barrier. Redlining not only harms Black people and people of color who are denied equal access to credit and the opportunity to build wealth. It also spans generations, as communities have been deprived of investment, which in turn, contributes to the widening racial wealth gap in the United States. Unfortunately, redlining has not yet been relegated to the dustbin of history. That redlining persists to this day in the form of lenders who avoid providing mortgage lending services in communities of color is unacceptable and unlawful.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we have secured a $9 million agreement with Park National Bank. Park National, headquartered just 40 miles away in Newark, Ohio, offers a range of businesses and consumer products and services, including home mortgage lending. It also has 92 full-service branches across four different states, including 20 in the Columbus metropolitan area. This settlement resolves allegations that Park National, from 2015 to 2021, engaged in a pattern or practice of redlining predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Columbus metropolitan area. As set forth in our complaint, filed in federal court today, for many years Park National failed to operate any branches in majority-Black and Hispanic census tracts in the Columbus area. They did not assign mortgage lenders to serve these neighborhoods and significantly lagged behind its peer lenders in terms of mortgage lending activity in majority-Black and Hispanic communities. Specifically, Park National’s peer banks generated mortgage applications at a rate at least five times and sometimes as much as over ten times as Park National’s rate. While 19% of census tracts in Park National’s lending area here in the Columbus region are majority Black and Hispanic, the bank did not maintain a single branch in these communities.

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Park National will invest over $7 million in a loan subsidy fund that will help borrowers of color access credit, and they’ll open new offices to service the needs of the Black and Hispanic communities in Columbus. U.S. Attorney Parker, our partner in this matter, will discuss the terms of the settlement in greater detail shortly.

This announcement is part of the Justice Department’s Combatting Redlining Initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland in October of 2021. This initiative is the Justice Department’s most aggressive and coordinated effort ever to address redlining. It demonstrates our firm commitment to combating modern-day redlining and our commitment to holding banks and other lenders accountable when they deny people of color equal access to lending opportunities. Since 2021, the department has resolved six redlining cases, and collectively, these settlements provide over $84 million in relief to borrowers, including $75 million in funds for loan assistance, and this is relief that stretches from Houston to Memphis, Philadelphia, Newark, Los Angeles, and today, right here in Columbus. Never before has the department resolved so many redlining cases in such a timeframe, and with this extent of financial relief for impacted borrowers.

Our colleagues in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country are critical partners in this work, including the Southern District of Ohio. And we’re grateful to U.S. Attorney Parker and his team in the Southern District of Ohio for their continued collaboration and partnership with us in this matter.

Through our redlining compliance work, we have observed that the provisions in our settlements yield substantial benefits for impacted borrowers and their communities. Our settlements are creating new home ownership opportunities for borrowers, particularly borrowers of color. The down payment, interest rate reduction and other forms of financial assistance provided through the subsidy funds mandated by our settlement are literally opening the doors of homeownership to qualified borrowers. We’ve also developed and strengthened partnerships between lenders and community organizations. And these partnerships have not only helped lenders gain credibility in communities where they have not had a historical presence, but they are often vital in assisting lenders in assessing the credit needs of a community and in focusing their efforts on increasing access to credit in underserved communities.

We recognize Park National for cooperating with our investigation and committing to remedying – to providing a remedy – to the redlining concerns that we have identified. We are confident that the actions that are required by our agreement will expand credit opportunities in communities of color here in the Columbus area. And we encourage other lenders to take initiative in evaluating their fair lending risks and embrace opportunities to better serve all communities. And for those banks that fail to take these steps, know that the Justice Department stands vigilant and ready to hold them accountable.

In closing, while today may mark the last day of Black History Month, know that the Justice Department will continue to fight to fulfill the promise of our nation’s fair lending laws while striking down unlawful barriers to access to credit across the country. We must eliminate modern day redlining root and branch. This is about ensuring racial justice, economic justice and equal access to opportunity for all communities in our country.

I’ll now turn the floor over to U.S. Attorney Parker.

Civil Rights
Fair Housing
Updated March 1, 2023