New Department of Justice Unit Investigating Reverse Redlining Allegations
A new unit in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division is already investigating 38 allegations of reverse redlining, according to Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general. In a speech at the 13th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit yesterday, sponsored by the RainbowPUSH Coalition, Perez announced that a fair lending unit within the Civil Right Division’s housing section at the DOJ was not only recently launched, but also active. The unit is working to “root out lending discrimination in all forms,” according to Perez. In cases of reverse redlining, lenders are alleged to target minority borrowers and saturate lower-income areas with higher-fee loans. Getting the charges to stick, however, is proving to be a challenge. In a recent suit filed by the City of Baltimore, Wells Fargo (WFC) was thrown-out last week. In his speech, Perez pointed to Maryland’s foreclosure disbursement as evidence of the practice. “In Maryland, for example we found that while only 18 percent of white homeowners had subprime loans, 54 percent of African-Americans and 47 percent of Hispanics had subprime loans,” Perez said. During the dismissal of the Wells Fargo case, however, the City found that only 401 properties with Wells Fargo loans foreclosed between 2005 and 2008, and163 were located in African American neighborhoods. The judge’s order also pointed out that Baltimore found only eight of the properties to be vacant. Perez said that the unit will investigate unfair practices in both origination and in servicing. In addition to pursuing brokers and loan officers who “originated toxic, discriminatory loans,” the unit will also begin breaking down modification data from the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by race and ethnicity. Write to Jon Prior.