Justice Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Reach $35 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Lending Discrimination by National City Bank

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The Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a consent order today to resolve allegations that National City Bank engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination that increased loan prices for African-American and Hispanic borrowers who obtained residential mortgages between 2002 and 2008 from National City Bank’s retail offices and nationwide network of mortgage brokers. 

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed in conjunction with the agencies’ complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  The complaint alleges that National City Bank violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by charging more than 75,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher loan prices not based on borrower risk, but because of their race or national origin.  Specifically, the allegations involve loans made to African-American and Hispanic borrowers through the more than 400 retail offices directly operated by National City Bank nationwide between 2002 and 2008.  The allegations also involve loans made to African-American and Hispanic borrowers between 2003 and 2008 through National City Bank’s national network of mortgage brokers.  National City Bank, which was headquartered in Cleveland , Ohio, was purchased in 2009 by Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, which is the successor in interest to National City Bank. 

“This settlement will provide deserved relief to thousands of African-American and Hispanic borrowers who suffered discrimination at the hands of National City Bank,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “As alleged, the bank charged borrowers higher rates not based on their creditworthiness, but based on their race and national origin.  This alleged conduct resulted in increased loan prices for minority borrowers.  This case marks the Justice Department’s latest step to protect Americans from discriminatory lending practices, and shows we will always fight to hold accountable those who take advantage of consumers for financial gain.”

“With today’s settlement, thousands of African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against by National City Bank will be entitled to compensation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “We look forward to further collaboration with the Bureau in protecting consumers from illegal and discriminatory lending practices.”

“Borrowers should never have to pay more for a mortgage loan because of their race or national origin,” said Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray.  “Today’s enforcement action puts money back in the pockets of harmed consumers and makes clear that we will hold lenders accountable for the effects of their discriminatory practices.”

"It undermines confidence in our banking system when people get different deals not only based on their credit scores, but their skin color,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steve Dettelbach.  “With all the positive things for which National City Bank stood for so many years, this is a troubling epilogue to be entered on the other side of the ledger.  Hopefully, today's settlement will afford some relief to customers who were shortchanged by this conduct."

“Our commitment to assure fair and equal treatment under the law is absolute,” said David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  “This settlement addresses a serious failure by National City to protect potential homebuyers from discriminatory lending practices.”

           National City Bank’s business practices allowed its loan officers and mortgage brokers discretion to vary a loan’s interest rate and fees from the price it set based on the borrower’s objective credit-related factors.  This subjective and unguided pricing discretion resulted in African-American and Hispanic borrowers paying more than similarly qualified non-Hispanic White borrowers.

The allegations in the complaint relate solely to loans originated by National City Bank and do not relate to any mortgage lending practices of PNC Financial Services Group.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, PNC will pay $35 million dollars into a fund for the benefit of victims of National City Bank’s mortgage discrimination.  The proposed settlement provides for an independent administrator to contact and disburse payments to borrowers whom the agencies’ identify as victims of National City Bank’s discrimination, at no cost to the borrowers.  PNC will pay all costs and expenses of the administrator.  Borrowers who are eligible for compensation will be contacted by the administrator.  The department will make a public announcement and post contact information on its website once the administrator begins contacting victims.  Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of lending discrimination by National City Bank and have questions about the settlement may email the department at nationalcitybank@usdoj.gov .

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 31 lending matters under the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  The settlements in these matters provide for over $800 million in monetary relief for impacted communities and 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 and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency 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.

A copy of the complaint and proposed order, as well as additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department, can be obtained from the Justice Department website at www.justive.gov/fairhousing.

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