Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Ohio-Based Banks to Resolve Allegations of Lending Discrimination
Settlement Provides $9 Million to Ensure Equal Lending Services to African-American Communities in Ohio and Indiana
The Justice Department filed a consent order today to resolve allegations that Union Savings Bank and Guardian Savings Bank engaged in a pattern or practice of “redlining” predominantly African-American neighborhoods in and around Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; and Indianapolis. “Redlining” is the discriminatory practice by banks or other financial institutions of denying or avoiding providing credit services to consumers because of the racial demographics of the neighborhood in which the consumer lives.
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 Southern District of Ohio. The complaint alleges that Union and Guardian violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibit financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race and color in their mortgage lending practices. The lawsuit alleges that, from at least 2010 through 2014, Union and Guardian served the credit needs of the residents of predominantly white neighborhoods to a significantly greater extent than they served the credit needs of majority African-American neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are easily recognized because each of the four metropolitan areas in which the banks operate has long maintained highly-segregated residential housing patterns for African Americans. Both banks are headquartered in Cincinnati and share common ownership and management.
As a result of the settlement, Union will open two full-service branches and Guardian will open one loan production office to serve the residents of African-American neighborhoods. Together, Union and Guardian will invest at least $9 million in majority African-American neighborhoods in the Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Indianapolis metropolitan areas. That investment includes $7 million in a loan subsidy fund to increase the amount of credit that Union and Guardian extend to residents of majority African-American census tracts. In order to make residential mortgage loans available to residents of predominately African-American neighborhoods that were not adequately served by Union and Guardian, the banks will further invest $2 million in advertising, outreach, financial education and community partnership efforts. The settlement also requires both banks to develop robust internal controls to ensure compliance with fair lending obligations and conduct fair lending training for their employees.
“Lenders must treat all potential borrowers equally and fairly,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement embodies a win-win solution for all parties by increasing the volume of mortgage loans, driving economic activity and creating a level playing field for qualified borrowers.”
“Redlining has no place in the Southern District of Ohio,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman of the Southern District of Ohio. “This office is committed to vigorously enforcing the guarantees of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act so that the people in our District can borrow without prejudice based on race and color.”
The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. Since 2010, the division has provided over $1.6 billion in monetary relief for individual borrowers and impacted communities through its enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Attorney General’s annual reports to Congress on ECOA enforcement highlight the department’s accomplishments in fair lending and are available at www.justice.gov/crt/publications/.
The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Ohio 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 www.StopFraud.gov.
Additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department can be found on the Justice Department’s website at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.