A U.S. appeals court revived three lawsuits filed by the City of Miami against Wells Fargo (WFC), Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C), alleging predatory mortgage lending practices against minority borrowers.
In a unanimous vote, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s dismissal of the city's claims under the federal Fair Housing Act.
Miami’s lawsuit alleges the three banks engaged in a long-term lending discrimination in its residential housing market programs.
"It is clear that the harm the city claims to have suffered has a sufficiently close connection to the conduct the statute prohibits," Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus wrote.
Other cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and Memphis have met with mixed results attempting to bring suits against the lenders for what they call predatory lending targeted at black and Hispanic homebuyers.
The lawsuit in Miami charged that the three banks steered black and Hispanic borrowers toward higher-cost loans.
The city said in its brief that this "reverse redlining" led to a large number of foreclosures, lower property tax collections and increased cost to the city to deal with the resultant property values loss and concomitant blight.
In July 2014, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida dismissed Miami's lawsuits. He said the city lacked standing to sue, and that the alleged harm was too remote from the banks' conduct.
But the appeals court said that standard was too stringent and that banks could have reasonably foreseen the "attendant harm" from their alleged discriminatory lending. The 11th Circuit did not rule on the merits.