Added on December 19, 2013
The Justice Department announced today that Fort Davis State Bank, based in Fort Davis, Texas, will implement uniform pricing policies, conduct employee training and pay $159,000 as part of a settlement to resolve allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of national origin.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed in conjunction with the department's complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The complaint alleges that Fort Davis State Bank violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by charging higher prices for unsecured consumer loans to Hispanic borrowers than to similarly qualified non-Hispanic borrowers.
Fort Davis State Bank is a community bank with three branches that for many years has been a significant presence in the local Hispanic community.
"This settlement ensures that Hispanic borrowers who paid more for their loans will be properly compensated," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the department's Civil Rights Division. "We commend Fort Davis State Bank's commitment to meeting the special lending needs of all individuals within its community on an equal basis and to working cooperatively with the Justice Department in reaching an appropriate resolution of this case."
The lawsuit originated from a 2011 referral to the Department by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Fort Davis State Bank is regulated by the FDIC.
The proceeds of the settlement will be used to compensate Hispanic victims of Fort Davis State Bank's alleged discrimination. Under the proposed settlement, a list of individual victims will be identified by the United States and receive notification of eligibility from the bank, and the department will monitor the compensation process.
Prior to the settlement, Fort Davis State Bank implemented uniform pricing policies that substantially reduced the discretion of its loan officers to vary a loan's interest rate from the price it set based on borrower's objective credit-related factors. Today's settlement requires Fort Davis State Bank to keep its improved policies in place for at least the next three years, as well as to continue to monitor its lending for signs of discrimination and provide monitoring reports to the United States.
The department's enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Fair Lending Unit of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in the Civil Rights Division. Since the Fair Lending Unit was established in February 2010, it has filed or resolved 29 lending matters under the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The settlements in these matters provide for nearly $700 million in monetary relief for impacted communities and individual borrowers. The Attorney General's annual reports to Congress subject to ECOA highlight the department's accomplishments in fair lending and are available at www.justice.gov/crt/publications.
The Civil Rights Division and the FDIC are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency task force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, along with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit www.StopFraud.gov.
A copy of the complaint and proposed order, as well as additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department, can be obtained from the Justice Department website at www.justive.gov/fairhousing.
Source: US Department of Justice