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Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP, Ben Crump, Willie L. Brown Jr. Announce that Nearly 70-years after Brown v. Board of Education, Equality Remains Elusive for Blacks and Other Minorities in Mortgage Lending

Attorneys Leading the Consolidated Action In Re Wells Fargo Mortgage Discrimination Litigation Seek to Hold Wells Fargo Accountable for its Unprecedented Denial of Mortgage Loans to Minority Applicants

The May 17, 2023, 11:30 AM PT PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE STREAM can be viewed HERE.

The complaint can be viewed HERE.

Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP, Ben Crump, Willie L. Brown Jr. state that May 17, 2023 marks the sixty-ninth anniversary of the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, which did away with the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education. However, in the nearly seven decades since that decision, through documented redlining, predatory lending practices, and blatant discrimination, many urban neighborhoods remain largely unchanged in their racial demographics. Banks and other financial institutions have refused to lend to certain minorities in specific areas, thus keeping the attainment of home ownership out of their grasp and further undermining minorities pursuit of the American dream. Record low-interest rates at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were thought to have presented a unique opportunity for these minorities to achieve new home ownership and secure their existing homes for the next generation, but an ongoing lawsuit against the country’s largest mortgage lender, Wells Fargo Bank, alleges the opposite occurred.

The consolidated complaint filed before federal Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California Court alleges “that Black and other minority applicants had their applications intentionally and disproportionately denied, faced unjustified delays in the processing of their applications, and were given less favorable terms, which resulted in Wells Fargo systematically engaging in a new form of redlining that harmed Plaintiffs based on their race and ethnicity,” according to Dennis S. Ellis of Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP (EGC), who was appointed by Judge Donato to lead the suit against Wells Fargo and estimates that these practices could have affected as many as 750,000 individuals.

The suit further alleges that at a time when millions of white Americans were able to take advantage of historically low-interest rates for home loans, Wells Fargo approved just 47% of refinance applications by Black homeowners, 53% for Hispanic and/or Latino refinance applicants, and 67% of Asian-American refinance applicants, compared with 71%, 79%, and 85% respectively for these same ethnic groups across all other lenders.

Aaron Braxton, a Los Angeles homeowner, was one of the first to file a complaint in 2020, alleging that Wells Fargo systematically discriminated against him and potentially thousands of other Black homeowners in its evaluation of refinancing applications. Danville resident Dr. Gia Gray also serves as a representative plaintiff in the class action, claiming that despite her 800 FICO Wells Fargo denied her request to refinance properties in Stockton, California and Chicago, Illinois, historically diverse neighborhoods that Wells Fargo characterized as “high risk.”

“Systematic racial discrimination in home ownership and financing is one of the most significant causes for the stark differences in generational wealth between Black Americans and others,” stated well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who serves as co-counsel on the matter. “That Wells Fargo would continue to exhibit this kind of behavior in the 21st century is unconscionable. This case is about justice, not only for the named plaintiffs in this case but for every Black applicant or homeowner who was turned away by Wells Fargo because of the color of their skin.”

Wells Fargo, headquartered in San Francisco at 420 Montgomery Street, is no stranger to allegations regarding its lending practices, including discrimination. Late last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ordered Wells Fargo to pay more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines. The CFPB concluded that the bank’s illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes.

In 2012, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $184 million to settle claims with the U.S. Department of Justice that the bank pushed Black and Hispanic homeowners to obtain subprime mortgages and then charged them higher fees and interest rates.

In 2015, the City of Oakland sued Wells Fargo over its racially discriminatory banking practices, and the current Oakland City Attorney, Barbara J. Parker, remains concerned about Wells Fargo’s ongoing practices. “It is outrageous, but sadly not surprising, that Wells Fargo continues to engage in predatory and racially discriminatory lending practices in 2023,” said Parker. “Home ownership is a fundamental tool to redress this nation’s legacy of slavery and the federal government's history of racially discriminatory housing laws, practices, and policies. I and the City of Oakland stand united with the plaintiffs and applaud them and their attorneys for holding Wells Fargo’s feet to the fire to stop this unconscionable behavior.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., who was once a victim of housing discrimination, will join Ben Crump at the press conference to his voice in support of the action. Brown Jr. states, “In 1961, as a young lawyer, I led a sit-in to protest housing discrimination in San Francisco and met a young Dianne Feinstein who had brought her daughter in a stroller to my demonstration. Being from the totally segregated Mineola, Texas, I was angered but not surprised to find that housing discrimination existed in San Francisco. Now some 62 years later and exactly 69 years since Brown vs The Board of Education, I again find myself angered but not surprised at Wells Fargo's blatantly discriminatory lending policies pertaining to qualified minorities still exist.”

The May 17, 2023, 11:30 AM PT PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE STREAM can be viewed HERE.

WHAT: Press Conference supporting court action alleging that Wells Fargo systematically discriminated against minorities in home loan lending practices.

WHO: Attorney Trent Copeland of Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP, legendary civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr.

The complaint can be viewed HERE.


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