CHICAGO (CN) - Cook County is the latest governmental body to sue Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, Merrill Lynch, et al., claiming their unethical and discriminatory mortgage lending disparately affected Chicagoland properties and communities.
Cook County claims the defendants' predatory and discriminatory mortgage lending and servicing contributed to the U.S. financial crisis. Among other things, they targeted minorities for subprime and high-cost lending, created equity stripping schemes, lowered underwriting standards and inflated property appraisals, according to the fair housing complaint in Federal Court.
Cook County claims the schemes disparately affected and injured the county, and caused "unprecedented numbers of mortgage loan delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures and/or home vacancies in [its] communities and neighborhoods, particularly those communities with high percentages of FHA protected minority residents."
Bank of America bought Countrywide Financial in 2008. Countrywide, the poster boy for the nationwide mortgage meltdown, financed 20 percent of new U.S. mortgages in 2006, according to publicly available information.
Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch in 2009.
Cook County seeks an injunction and punitive damages in the 142-page complaint.