American Bank of Oklahoma has agreed to invest $1.5 million in credit opportunities for neighborhoods of color in the Tulsa metropolitan area as a settlement with the Department of Justice in an alleged redlining case. The bank denies the allegations.
The DOJ complaint, filed in federal court, claims that the bank failed to provide mortgage lending services from 2017 through at least 2021 in neighborhoods in and around Tulsa, including those that were the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
According to the complaint, all branches and loan production officers were in majority-white neighborhoods and bank employees, including executives and LOs, sent and received emails containing racial slurs and racist content.
The DOJ claims that the bank excluded a majority of Black and Hispanic clients from its service area and ultimately reinforced and perpetuated segregated housing patterns because of race, color or national origin. The investigation followed a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) referral.
“Providing equal access to credit is essential in every community, but the painful history of Tulsa makes this agreement particularly poignant because the redlined areas include historically Black neighborhoods that have endured the legacy of racial violence and the continuing effects of segregation and discrimination,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.
“American Bank of Oklahoma engaged in the illegal practice of redlining and failed to serve the diverse members of our Tulsa community as they attempted to purchase homes,” Clinton Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said in a statement.
The American Bank of Oklahoma denied the allegations in a statement but said it “has agreed to resolve the matter to avoid the cost and distraction of protracted litigation.”
As part of the settlement, the bank will invest at least $950,000 in a loan subsidy fund for residents of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Tulsa area; $100,000 for advertising, outreach and consumer education; and $100,000 for community partnerships.
In addition, the bank will open a new community-oriented loan production office in the historically Black area of Tulsa and ensure at least two mortgage LOs are dedicated to servicing majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Founded in 1998 by chairman and CEO Joe Landon, along with others, the bank has $383 million in assets and full-service branches in Collinsville, Disney, Muskogee, Ramona and Skiatook.
American Bank of Oklahoma originated $97 million in mortgages in the last 12 months, per the mortgage tech platform Modex. The lender has seven branches and 23 active LOs. Purchases were 49.8% of its volume in the last 12 months, compared to 38.1% in refis.
“As Oklahomans, we carry a profound sense of sorrow for the tragic events of the Tulsa Race Massacre over a century ago. It is with deep concern that we note the Justice Department’s decision to reference this distressing historical event in its complaint against our bank, established a mere 25 years ago,” the bank said in a statement.
U.S. regulators are active in investigating redlining cases.
In June, the DOJ announced a $3 million redlining settlement with ESSA Bank & Trust, which followed a $31 million settlement with City National Bank in January. In 2022, settlements were made with Trident Mortgage Co., Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, and Lakeland Bank.