Advocacy group goes undercover at Bank of America, alleges discrimination

02/18/2014 6:55 PM

02/18/2014 7:16 PM

The nonprofit National Fair Housing Alliance said Tuesday that it conducted an undercover investigation of Bank of America in Charleston – and claimed it found evidence that the Charlotte bank discriminated against potential Latino borrowers.

The organization filed a formal complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It says it conducted a series of tests that showed that Latinos were not given the chance to speak to loan officers or were quoted higher interest rates than whites.

In a press release, the organization said it sent a series of white and Latino potential customers into a Bank of America branch to talk with employees. In one instance, a prospective white borrower was sent into a branch to talk about a mortgage and immediately got a call from a loan officer. A Latina prospective borrower went into the same branch but never got a call, the alliance says.

The organization did not say how many such exercises it conducted, or how it reached its conclusions.

Bank of America spokesman Terry Francisco said the National Fair Housing Alliance had not provided the bank with details of its complaint. He said if HUD pursued an investigation, the bank would cooperate fully.

“Bank of America is committed to fair and responsible lending and has a strong record of supporting all local communities, regardless of demographic makeup,” he said in a statement. “Customers from minority communities account for one in every four home loans we originate.”

In an earlier complaint, the alliance alleged that Bank of America did not keep up foreclosed properties in minority neighborhoods in more than a dozen cities. Wells Fargo settled similar claims brought by the alliance for $42 million.

In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million in a settlement with the Justice Department to resolve claims that Countrywide Financial Corp. discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers who applied for home loans.

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