The Department of Housing and Urban Development has charged Bank of America with discriminating against prospective Hispanic mortgage borrowers at a branch in Charleston, S.C.
The charges announced Friday came about as a result of a complaint filed in 2014 by the National Fair Housing Alliance. The case will now move to federal court.
“Today’s charge reflects our nation’s promise of fair housing and equal access to credit for qualified families, regardless of their national origin,” Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a news release. “HUD will continue working to ensure that lenders fulfill their obligation under the law to treat all applicants equally.”
NFHA claimed in its complaint that Bank of America and two of its employees in South Carolina discriminated against would-be Hispanic mortgage borrowers by not providing them with information about loan products or by offering them products with less attractive terms as compared with non-Hispanic consumers. Before the complaint, NFHA conducted tests with Hispanic and non-Hispanic testers posing as prospective borrowers at a Bank of America branch in Charleston, S.C., allegedly indicating that non-Hispanic consumers were treated more favorably than Hispanic ones.
If found guilty, Bank of America could face a fine or be ordered to provide relief to prevent future discrimination.
A spokesman for Bank of America said the company “rejects the charges in the HUD complaint.”
“We are committed to fair lending principles and are proud to be one of the country’s largest mortgage lenders to Hispanic borrowers,” the spokesman said.
NFHA has previously accused Bank of America and other large banks of discrimination based on their arguably poor maintenance of foreclosures in predominately minority neighborhoods. A two-part series from National Mortgage News called those claims into question; HUD rejected those claims against U.S. Bank last year.