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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks Announcing a New Initiative to Combat Redlining


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good morning. I am joined today by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Clarke; Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys Wilkinson; Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chopra; and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Hsu. 

Welcome to the Justice Department’s Great Hall.  This space and the building that we are in were constructed at the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. At the same time that the federal government was constructing this monument to justice, it was instituting a profoundly unjust nationwide real estate practice known as redlining.

Redlining is a process by which lenders deny services to individuals in a neighborhood because of the race or national origin of the people who live in those communities. Redlining has its roots programs that were designed to make homeownership widely available for the American people, but that purposefully excluded minority neighborhoods from accessing those benefits.  

Much has changed since the federal government engaged in Depression-era redlining, but discriminatory lending practices by financial institutions still exist. Unfortunately, redlining remains a persistent form of discrimination that harms minority communities.

Lending discrimination runs counter to fundamental promises of our economic system. When a person is denied credit simply because of their race or national origin, their ability to share in our nation’s prosperity is all but eliminated.

We are here today to announce that the Justice Department has launched an Initiative to combat modern-day redlining. Along with our partners at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, we are also announcing our first settlement under the Initiative and our second redlining settlement in the last two months.

Redlining contributed to the large racial wealth gap that exists in this country.  The practice made it extremely difficult for people of color to accumulate wealth through the purchase, refinancing, or repair of their homes. That discrepancy in wealth is clearly reflected in current homeownership rates.

Today, a white family is thirty percent more likely to own a home than a Black family. This present-day gap in homeownership rates is larger than it was in 1960. 

When lending institutions deny or avoid providing loans to minority communities because of the racial or ethnic demographics of the relevant neighborhoods, they contribute to these inequities. Such lending practices also violate federal law.  

The Justice Department has authority to investigate and file fair lending lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. These laws prohibit lenders from discriminating against customers on the basis of certain protected characteristics like race, religion, age, and sex, and others.

Today, we are committing ourselves to addressing modern-day redlining by making far more robust use of our fair lending authorities.

Through the Justice Department’s Combating Redlining Initiative, the Civil Rights Division will partner with U.S. Attorney’s Offices. They will mobilize resources focused on making fair access to credit a reality in underserved neighborhoods across our country.

The Initiative represents the department’s most aggressive and coordinated effort to address redlining. It will seek to address fair lending concerns on a broader geographic scale than the Justice Department has ever done before.

The Initiative will draw on and strengthen the department’s existing partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and financial regulatory agencies like the OCC.  

Our work will be informed by strong outreach to consumer advocates, industry stakeholders, state Attorneys General, and other agencies. Together, we will proactively seek to determine if lending institutions are engaged in redlining – and when fair lending violations are discovered, the Justice Department will act.

We are wasting no time getting to work. The Civil Rights Division currently has several open redlining investigations. And through partnerships with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the department expects to open more in the months ahead. And our efforts are already producing results.  

Today, we are pleased to announce our first settlement under the Initiative – and our second redlining settlement in less than two months.

The Civil Rights Division, working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has reached a settlement with Trustmark National Bank. The agreement resolves allegations that Trustmark engaged in lending discrimination by redlining predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee.

We commend Trustmark for its cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter. Through this settlement, Trustmark has shown an interest in remedying past practices and in promoting equal access to credit. We recognize that our Initiative alone will not erase the full legacy of discrimination. But we will spare no resource to ensure that federal fair lending laws are vigorously enforced and that financial institutions provide equal opportunity for every American to obtain credit. To that end, you can expect more cases like the one we are announcing today.

I will now turn the podium over to Assistant Attorney General Clarke to provide more information about the settlement with Trustmark. 

Civil Rights
Updated October 22, 2021