The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement agreement with Washington Trust Company, of Westerly (WTC) to resolve claims that WTC redlined majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Rhode Island.

In its complaint against WTC, DOJ alleged that the following practices were used to discriminate against Black and Hispanic borrowers from 2016 to at least 2021:

  • WTC located and maintained all of its Rhode Island branches and loan officers outside of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods (WTC designated all five counties in Rhode Island as its Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) assessment area);
  • WTC never had a branch in a majority-Black and Hispanic census tract despite the significant presence of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and census tracts throughout Rhode Island;
  • WTC did not assign a single mortgage loan officer to conduct outreach, market, advertise, or generate loans from majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods;
  • WTC failed to conduct outreach, marketing, and advertising of mortgage services in majority-Black and Hispanic areas;
  • WTC received only 2.4% of its mortgage loan applications from residents of, or for properties located in, majority-Black and Hispanic areas in its CRA assessment area, compared to 9.5% for its peer lenders, and on average 46.5% of the applications generated by WTC in those areas were from White applicants, compared to 25% for its peers.
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As discussed in our prior post, the Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a settlement with Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook Inc. (Meta), to resolve allegations that Meta engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). A key part of that settlement was Facebook’s agreement to build a new Variance Reduction System (VRS) to address disparities for race, ethnicity, and sex between the housing advertisers’ targeted audiences and the group of Facebook users to whom Facebook’s internal personalization algorithms actually deliver the ads. … Continue Reading

Two leaders of the CFPB’s Fair Lending Office – Patrice Ficklin, Fair Lending Director, and Charles Nier, Senior Fair Lending Counsel – recently published an article advocating for broader use of special purpose credit programs (“SPCPs”) by creditors.  The article, entitled “The Use of Special Purpose Credit Programs to Promote Racial and Economic Equity” and framed as an essay, can be found in the Poverty & Race Research Action Council’s (“PRRAC”) May 2021 edition of its series on new directions in racial justice in housing finance and is available here. … Continue Reading

On May 21, 2021, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) announced that it had reached a settlement with California-based Cascade Village Apartments II, LP (“Cascade Village”), its management company, FPI Management, Inc. (“FPI”), and FPI’s portfolio manager to resolve allegations that the companies violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of limited English proficiency (“LEP”) and national origin. … Continue Reading

In a memorandum issued on January 26, 2021, President Biden has ordered the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) to “as soon as practicable, take all steps necessary to examine the effects of” the final rule issued by HUD in September 2020 (“2020 Rule”) revising its 2013 Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) disparate impact standards (“2013 Rule”).… Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayer and Kagan joined.  Justice Alito wrote a dissenting opinion, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Scalia joined. … Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.— the case presenting the issue of whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  Two prior cases presenting this issue were settled after merits briefing but before oral argument was heard in the Supreme Court.… Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument tomorrow, January 21st, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., the case presenting the issue whether disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.

Ballard Spahr attorneys have written an amicus brief submitted by the Houston Housing Authority (HHA). … Continue Reading

Because of their potential impact on the CFPB’s conclusion that the ECOA and Regulation B encompass disparate impact claims, we have been following two insurance industry lawsuits involving a challenge to HUD’s Federal Housing Act (FHA) disparate impact rule, with one lawsuit filed in federal district court in D.C. and the other filed in an Illinois federal district court.… Continue Reading

The FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act (H.R. 4660) passed by the House of Representatives includes an amendment (H. Amdt. 768) that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from using any of the funding provided by the Act to enforce the Fair Housing Act using a disparate impact theory. … Continue Reading