CHICAGO (CN) – Wells Fargo targeted African-Americans and Latinos for risky, subprime mortgage loans with “reverse redlining” practices, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says in Cook County Court. The 62-page complaint accuses the bank of a litany of biased and fraudulent practices during the “heyday” of subprime lending.
Madigan says Wells Fargo charged blacks and Latinos much more for mortgages than white borrowers with the same income – and even with lower incomes.
Madigan cites a 2007 story from the “Chicago Reporter” that reported 34 percent of African-American borrowers who earned more than $120,000 received high-cost loans from Wells Fargo, compared to only 22 percent of white borrowers who earned less than $40,000.
Madigan says that a white person living in a minority neighborhood was twice as likely to be sold a high cost mortgage from Wells Fargo.
She claims Wells Fargo lured African-American and Latino borrowers by offering “wealth building” seminars in cities, where it promoted subprime mortgages. At one Chicago seminar in a black neighborhood, only black employees were allowed to speak, Madigan says.
The attorney general says Wells Fargo offered incentives to all its brokers to sell riskier, more expensive loans, even if consumers qualified for a prime mortgage. She says Wells Fargo targeted African-American borrowers for these mortgages and charged them higher interest rates than white borrowers with similar loans.
Madigan claims Wells Fargo misled consumers about mortgage terms and used marketing tools to “confuse borrowers as to which division of Wells Fargo and Company they were doing business with – prime or subprime.”
She says Wells Fargo engaged in “loan flipping,” persuading borrowers to repeatedly refinance their mortgages without any benefit to the borrower and without disclosing the costs.
Madigan says that since Wells Fargo became the “eighth largest subprime lender” between 2005 and 2007, it has significantly contributed to the nation’s foreclosure crisis and the rapid decline of neighborhoods, “especially those already struggling.”
Madigan alleges violations of Illinois’ Human Rights Act, Fairness in Lending Act, and the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. She demands rescission of discriminatory contracts and restitution, plus $50,000 in civil penalties for each violation, and an additional $10,000 for each elderly victim.