This is part of what discrimination looks like today: Wells Fargo has just agreed to a big settlement for offering minorities worse terms on mortgages.
At least 34,000 African-American, Hispanic and other minority borrowers paid more for their mortgages or were steered into subprime loans when they could have qualified for better rates, according to the Department of Justice. The DOJ settled a fair-lending lawsuit with Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, on Thursday…
The complaint also says that between 2004 and 2008, “highly qualified prime retail and wholesale applicants for Wells Fargo residential mortgage loans were more than four times as likely to receive a subprime loan if they were African-American and more than three times as likely if they were Hispanic than if they were white.”
During the same period, the complaint says, “borrowers with less favorable credit qualifications were more likely to receive prime loans if they were white than borrowers who were African-American or Hispanic.”
Wells will pay at least $175 million to settle the case; it denies any wrongdoing in settling. Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million in settling similar charges in December.
This is not unusual: audit studies have shown that minorities tend to have more difficulty renting, securing a car loan, getting a job, and getting mortgages compared to whites.
Even though I have looked at several news reports on this, here is what I really want to know: is this a large enough settlement for Wells Fargo to really care? In other words, is this a light fine or a heavy fine? And perhaps more importantly, how do we know that they and other banks won’t pursue similar tactics in the future?