NY AG: Mortgage Brokers Admit to Fee Gouging, Discrimination
An investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into alleged predatory lending practices at GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. has led the crusading AG to take the state's first law enforcement action against mortgage brokers for predatory and discriminatory lending practices. The two brokers in question -- HCI Mortgage and Consumer One Mortgage -- admitted they charged higher fees to 455 black and Latino borrowers relative to their white counterparts, and agreed to pay $665,000 collectively in restitution to affected borrowers. Both brokerages operate more than 20 branch location in the state. “The blatant discrimination in this case is as illegal as it is inexcusable,” said Cuomo in a press statement. “These customers were charged significantly higher fees for no reason other than being a minority." Cuomo's office said in a statement that the AG's staff, in conjunction with the New York State Banking Department and unnamed fair lending experts, conducted statistical analyses of loans arranged by HCI Mortgage and Consumer One; the research found evidence Black and Latino borrowers were charged several thousand dollars more in up-front fees than White borrowers. Latino borrowers who received a single home mortgage loan through HCI Mortgage paid on average 55 percent more in fees, or about $2680, than white customers, while African-American borrowers who received a single home mortgage loan were charged about 46 percent more in fees than white customers, or $2260 -- disparities Cuomo's office said could not be explained by borrower, property, or loan characteristics, including credit score or loan amount. Both companies did "substantial business with GreenPoint," Cuomo's office said. Representatives from both mortgage brokerage firms did not respond to a request for comment by the time this story was published. A third company, U.S. Capital Funding, is also the subject of a Cuomo lawsuit after it did not agree to similar settlement terms; the company brokered roughly 300 loans in New York state during 2006 and 2007, the New York AG said. Write to Paul Jackson at email@example.com.