Attorneys with Ballard Spahr noted Wednesday that a recent settlement between the Department of Justice and the Community Bank of St. Charles in Michigan highlights the fact that fair lending claims are just as much about equal access to credit.

Attorneys with the firm wrote the following in Ballard Spahr's Mortgage Banking Update:

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement with Community Bank of St. Charles, Mich., in a federal lending discrimination lawsuit filed by DOJ against the bank. The settlement, announced on January 15, 2013, serves as a reminder that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators view the concept of "fair lending" as not only prohibiting discrimination, but also ensuring equal access to credit.

Although the settlement is not the first of its kind, it is significant because it reflects a regulatory view that effectively blends fair lending protections with those provided by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in such a way that lenders should evaluate whether they are taking any actions that may result in their products not being equally available to consumers from diverse backgrounds. Accordingly, when assessing fair lending compliance, lenders must examine the markets they serve, how they define and serve those markets, and how they may increase diversity in the loan applications they receive.