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  • District Court rules city failed to prove bank engaged in discriminatory lending practices

    Courts

    On June 29, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a national bank’s Motion for Summary Judgment against the City of Miami Gardens (City) on the City’s claims that the bank allegedly made loans to minority borrowers that were more expensive than those given to non-minority borrowers, resulting in greater rates of default and foreclosure, which led to reduced property values in the City and decreased the City’s property tax revenue. (See previous Buckley Sandler Special Alert on a 2017 Supreme Court ruling addressing whether cities have standing to bring discriminatory lending claims under the FHA to recover lost tax revenue and upkeep costs). The court, siding with the bank, found the City had failed to present sufficient evidence to support a claim of discriminatory lending. According to the order, the parties agreed that the bank had not made any predatory loans during the limitations period. Because the City only identified two types of loans from a total of 153 loans issued by the bank during the limitations period as having been made at a higher cost to minorities, the record was insufficient to show the bank’s policies produced “statistically imbalanced lending patterns” and failed to support a claim for disparate impact. The judge further determined that the bank established that there were “legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons that motivated the different pricing,” and that “the City ultimately cannot carry its burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that [the bank’s] reasons for the price differentials were a mere pretext for discrimination.” On these bases, the court granted the motion.

    Courts Fair Lending Disparate Impact

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  • HUD publishes ANPR on Disparate Impact Regulation

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 20, HUD published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register seeking comment on potential amendments to its the 2013 Disparate Impact Regulation, which implements the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact standard, as well as the 2016 Application of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard to Insurance (supplement). The notice requests comments on whether the 2013 regulation and the 2016 supplement are consistent with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  (Covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert.) While HUD is seeking feedback on any potential changes to the regulation, the agency is particularly interested in, among other things, (i) whether the burden-shifting framework appropriately assigns burdens of production and persuasion; and (ii) whether the regulation should provide defenses or safe harbors to claims of liability. Comments on the notice are due by August 20. 

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues HUD FHA Disparate Impact Fair Lending U.S. Supreme Court

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  • HUD announces plan to seek public comment on Disparate Impact Regulation

    Federal Issues

    On May 10, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced its intention to seek public comment on whether the 2013 Disparate Impact Regulation (Regulation), which provides a framework for establishing legal liability for facially neutral practices that have a discriminatory effect under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), is consistent with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  (Covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert.) The Supreme Court upheld the use of a disparate impact theory to establish liability under the Fair Housing Act, but according to HUD’s announcement, the Court only referenced the Regulation in its ruling but did not directly rule upon it.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2017, the Treasury Department called on HUD to reconsider the Regulation as it relates to the insurance industry – specifically, to homeowner’s insurance.

     

    Federal Issues HUD FHA Disparate Impact Fair Lending U.S. Supreme Court Mortgages Mortgage Insurance

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  • City of Philadelphia’s discriminatory lending lawsuit moves forward

    Lending

    On January 16, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied a national bank’s motion to dismiss the City of Philadelphia’s (City) claims that the bank engaged in alleged discriminatory lending practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the City filed a complaint in May of last year against the bank alleging discrimination under both the disparate treatment and disparate impact theories. The City asserted that the bank’s practice of offering better terms to similarly-situated, non-minority borrowers or refusing to make loans in minority neighborhoods has led to foreclosures and vacant homes, which in turn, has resulted in a suppression of property tax revenue and increased cost of providing services such as police, fire fighting, and other municipal services. In support of its motion to dismiss, the bank argued, among other things, that the City’s claim (i) is time barred; (ii) improperly alleges the disparate impact theory; and (iii) fails to allege proximate cause as required by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (see previous Special Alert here).

    While the court expressed “serious concerns about the viability of the economic injury aspect of the City’s claim with regard to proximate cause,” the court found that the bank “has not met its burden to show why the City’s entire FHA claim should be dismissed.” Consequently, the court held that the case may proceed to discovery beyond the two-year statute of limitations period for FHA violations in order to provide the City an opportunity to prove whether the bank’s policy caused a racial disparity that constituted a violation continuing into the limitations period.

    Lending State Issues Fair Lending Redlining FHA U.S. Supreme Court Disparate Impact Mortgages

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  • Third Treasury Report Calls on HUD to Reconsider Application of Disparate Impact Rule to the Insurance Industry

    Federal Issues

    On October 26, the U.S. Treasury Department published a report outlining a number of recommendations for ways to manage systemic risk primarily within the asset management and insurance industry.  A section of the report, however, also discusses HUD’s potential application of the disparate impact rule to the insurance industry—specifically related to homeowner’s insurance. The report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities—Asset Management and Insurance,” is the third in a series of four the Treasury plans to issue in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13772 (EO), which mandated a review of financial regulations for inconsistencies with promoted “Core Principles.” (See Buckley Sandler Special Alert on the EO here and InfoBytes coverage on the first two reports here.)

    HUD is authorized to adjudicate housing discrimination claims and issue rules relating to the Fair Housing Act. According to the report, Treasury recommends that HUD reconsider the use of the disparate impact theory to the insurance industry. The report notes a number of problems and challenges that would arise from applying disparate impact to the insurance industry. In particular, the report identifies potential challenges because (i) “state insurance regulations ordinarily prohibit the consideration of protected characteristics in the evaluation and pooling of risk” and at least one state expressly prohibits the collection of this data; (ii) the rule could impose unnecessary burdens on insurers and lead to actions that are not actuarially sound in an effort to avoid underwriting practices that may result in disparate outcomes; and (iii) it may be inconsistent with the McCarran-Ferguson Act and other existing state laws.

    The report also recommends, among other things, that Congress clarify the “business of insurance” exception that generally excludes these services from the CFPB’s jurisdiction. The report recommends clarification to this exception to eliminate uncertainty about the CFPB’s jurisdiction and the potential overlap between the Bureau and state insurance regulators. A fact sheet accompanying the report further highlights Treasury’s recommendations to evaluate systemic risk, streamline regulations, rationalize international engagement, and promote economic growth.

    Federal Issues Department of Treasury FHA Asset Management HUD Disparate Impact CFPB Systemic Risk Insurance

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  • ABA, State Bankers Associations Respond to HUD’s Request for Comment; Discuss Need to Clarify Disparate Impact

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 15, HUD issued a request for comment on its review of regulations as required by Executive Order 13777, which compels each agency to review and carry out regulatory reform. According to the request for comment, the self-assessment will address suggestions for “specific current regulations that may be outdated, ineffective, or excessively burdensome, and therefore, warranting repeal, replacement, or modification.” The request, which closed for public comment on June 14, received 100 comments from state bankers associations, financial institutions, and individuals.

    American Bankers Association (ABA) and State Bankers Associations. On June 14, a joint comment letter was sent on behalf of the ABA and state bankers associations representing all 50 states. A key issue raised by the letter was that HUD adopted an incorrect and improper standard for disparate impact liability in its rule implementing the Fair Housing Act’s discriminatory effects standard—a rule the groups calls “outdated and legally wrong.” Under the terms of the rule, HUD provided that “[l]iability may be established under the Fair Housing Act based on a practice’s discriminatory effect . . . even if the practice was not motivated by a discriminatory intent” and then articulated a burden shifting framework for such claims in which a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case using statistics alone. However, the groups claim that the burden shifting framework conflicts with a Supreme Court decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, and assert that “a case premised on statistics alone is a prime example of an abuse of disparate impact.” The groups further wonder if HUD will “maintain the supervisory view that statistics alone can establish a prima facie case, as stated in the [r]ule[.]” It is the opinion of the groups that the Supreme Court enforced strict limitations of the use of disparate impact—“in stark contrast to the Rule’s approach”—in order to “avoid injecting the consideration of race into decision making and . . . address important constitutional concerns.” Thus, “[a] rule that creates, rather than eliminates, confusion undermines its own purpose and is entirely ineffective.” Furthermore, the letter (i) indicates that the groups are willing to engage in discussions with HUD on the topic of disparate impact, and (ii) raises the issue of whether a revised rule or a reopening of comments on the existing rule are in order.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance ABA HUD Fair Housing Disparate Impact

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  • District Court Dismisses Disparate Impact Claim under the Fair Housing Act

    Consumer Finance

    In The Inclusive Cmtys. Project, Inc. v. The Tex. Dep’t of Hous. and Cmty., No. 3:08-cv-00546-D (N.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2016), on remand from the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, the district court dismissed claims of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) where the plaintiff alleged that the defendant allocated two different types of tax credits in a manner that perpetuated racial segregation. The district court applied the Supreme Court’s previously explained three-part burden-shifting framework to analyze the plaintiff’s claim, and determined that, among other things, the plaintiff’s claim failed to show a “specific, facially neutral policy” causing a racially disparate impact. The court reasoned that “[b]y relying simply on [the defendant’s] exercise of discretion in awarding tax credits, [the plaintiff] has not isolated and identified the specific practice that caused the disparity in the location of low-income housing…. [The plaintiff] cannot rely on this generalized policy of discretion to prove disparate impact.” The district court further reasoned that because the plaintiff had not “sufficiently identified a specific, facially-neutral policy that has caused a statistically disparity,” the court could not “fashion a remedy that removes that policy.”  The district court concluded that the plaintiff “failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that a challenged practice caused a discriminatory effect” and entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

    U.S. Supreme Court Disparate Impact FHA Discrimination

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  • HUD Issues Guidance Regarding the Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records

    Lending

    On April 4, HUD issued guidance deploying a disparate impact analysis with respect to the Fair Housing Act’s application to the use of criminal history by those who come under the Fair Housing Act, and in particular by providers or operators of housing and real-estate related transactions. The guidance indicates that, because African Americans and Hispanics are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population, criminal records-based barriers to housing are likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority home seekers. HUD then walks through the three step burden-shifting disparate impact analysis to support its argument. To determine whether the use of criminal history has, on its face, a discriminatory effect, HUD looks at national statistics to demonstrate that incarceration rates are disproportionate for African Americans and Hispanics. HUD also notes that, while state or local statistics should be presented when available, national statistics may be used where state or local statistics are not readily available and there is no reason to believe they would differ markedly from the national statistics. HUD then moves to a discussion of whether the practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest. HUD warns that, while ensuring resident safety and protecting property may be considered substantial and legitimate interests, bald assertions based on generalizations or stereotypes that any individual with an arrest or conviction record poses a greater risk than any individual without such a record would be insufficient to satisfy the burden set by the second prong. For the final prong, regarding the availability of a less discriminatory alternative, HUD notes that the inquiry is fact specific, but suggests that individualized assessment of relevant mitigating information beyond that contained in an individual’s criminal record is likely to have a less discriminatory effect than a categorical exclusion that does not take additional information into account. The guidance also discusses the potential for intentional discrimination, and notes that a disparate treatment violation may be proven based on evidence that exceptions to a general disqualification based on criminal record are provided to white applicants, but not African American applicants.

    HUD Fair Housing Disparate Impact

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  • House Financial Services Committee: CFPB Removed Safeguards to Achieve Political Goals

    Consumer Finance

    On January 20, Republicans on the House Committee on Financial Services issued a report alleging that the CFPB removed a number of safeguards from the claims process after it secured its first settlement with an auto finance company and the company’s subsidiary bank in 2013. The Committee’s most recent report follows a November 2015 report in which the Republican staff (i) criticized the CFPB’s approach for determining discrimination in the auto lending industry; and (ii) questioned the CFPB’s authority to bring claims against banks involved in indirect auto lending under ECOA on a disparate impact theory. According to the more recently published report, the CFPB failed to confirm that funds from the 2013 settlement would be distributed to eligible recipients. Specifically, the report states that when CFPB Director Cordray announced that $80 million would be paid to consumers affected by the auto finance company’s practices, he “did not know the race of a single borrower in any vehicle finance contract purchased by [the company].” The report further comments that, “Bureau officials knew that in order to generate a sufficient number of check recipients, they would have to remove a number of safeguards from the claims process, including confirming the race of claimants alleged to have been discriminated against, thus making it more likely that non-minority consumers would receive remuneration.”

    CFPB Auto Finance ECOA Disparate Impact

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  • House Report Examines the CFPB's Methodology in Auto Finance Investigations

    Consumer Finance

    On November 24, Republicans on the House Committee on Financial Services issued a report regarding the CFPB’s approach for determining discrimination in the auto lending industry. The report questions the CFPB’s proxy methodology and its authority to bring claims against banks involved in indirect auto lending under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s (ECOA) disparate impact theory. According to the report, disparate impact “is a controversial legal theory of liability in discrimination cases.” The report further states that, even if it assumes that the ECOA permits disparate impact claims, the CFPB is nonetheless required to identify the following to establish a prima facie case: (i) a specific policy or practice adopted by the creditor; (ii) disparate impact on a prohibited basis; and (iii) a causal relationship between the challenged practice and the alleged disparate impact. The report states, “[d]ocuments obtained by the Committee show that the Bureau will likely have difficulty proving any one of these requirements, much less all three.” Notably, the report criticizes the CFPB’s adoption of the Bayesian Improved Surname Geocoding proxy method, which “combines surname- and geography-based information into a single proxy probability for race and ethnicity,” labeling it as “faulty and unreliable.” The report further suggests that the CFPB observed the method to be “less accurate . . . than some proprietary proxy methods that use nonpublic data.” In closing, the report comments on the CFPB’s “ambition to eliminate dealer markup” by summarizing (i) a December 2013 settlement in which the CFPB used its leverage over a bank holding company to negotiate the settlement terms; (ii) the agency’s plans to increase the number of individual enforcement actions on dealer markup and compensation policies; and (iii) potential ECOA rulemaking to “promulgate a regulation prohibiting lenders from compensating dealers based on the terms of a loan.”

    CFPB Auto Finance ECOA Disparate Impact U.S. House

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