The Justice Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today announced coordinated actions to address allegations of lending discrimination by Cadence Bank N.A.
The department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced an agreement to resolve allegations that Cadence Bank, which is headquartered in Atlanta, engaged in lending discrimination by “redlining” predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Houston, metro area. Under the department’s settlement, Cadence will invest over $5.5 million to increase credit opportunities for residents of those neighborhoods. “Redlining” is an illegal practice in which lenders avoid providing services to individuals living in communities of color because of the race, color or national origin of the people who live in those communities.
Additionally, Cadence’s prudential regulator, the OCC, announced today that it has assessed penalties against the bank in the amount of $3 million related to the violations alleged in the department’s complaint. The department opened its investigation after the OCC referred the matter.
The Justice Department’s settlement will resolve a lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. In its complaint, the department alleges that Cadence Bank violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibit financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin in their mortgage lending services. Specifically, the complaint alleges that, from 2013 to 2017, Cadence engaged in unlawful redlining in the Houston area by avoiding predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods because of the race, color and national origin of the people living in those neighborhoods. The department also alleges that Cadence’s branches were concentrated in majority-white neighborhoods, that the bank’s loan officers did not serve the credit needs of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and that the bank’s outreach and marketing avoided those neighborhoods.
“When banks fail to provide equal access to credit in communities of color, they violate our civil rights laws and they deprive people in those communities of the opportunity to build wealth,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Redlining is an illegal practice that has far-reaching consequences for people of color, their families and for the neighborhoods where they live. The Civil Rights Division will continue to enforce our nation’s fair lending laws to ensure that qualified applicants and borrowers can access credit and invest in their financial futures without facing unlawful barriers.”
“There is no place for discrimination in the federal banking system,” said Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu. “The OCC will use the full force of our authority to correct fair lending violations with our supervisory and enforcement tools, including civil money penalties, cease and desist orders, and requiring restitution for customers harmed as a result of any discriminatory practices.”
“The Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act are intended to provide equal treatment for all people in their pursuit of home ownership and financing,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia. “This case highlights the need for vigilance in addressing practices which treat certain communities unfairly and has led to an agreement with Cadence Bank intended to improve the fairness of its business practices and to make remedial financial investments in the negatively impacted communities. This office will continue in its efforts to eliminate housing and credit discrimination.”
Under the department’s settlement, which is subject to approval by the District Court, Cadence will invest $4.17 million in a loan subsidy fund for residents of predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Houston area, $750,000 for development of community partnerships to provide services that increase access to residential mortgage credit in those neighborhoods, and at least $625,000 for advertising, outreach, consumer financial education, and credit repair initiatives. The bank will dedicate at least four mortgage loan officers to majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Houston and open a new branch in one of those neighborhoods. Cadence will employ a director of community lending and development who will oversee these efforts and work in close consultation with the bank’s leadership. The bank will take these steps in addition to other fair lending measures it has already put in place.
Cadence Bank’s assets total over $18 billion. In addition to Texas, the bank has branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. Its mortgage lending in the Houston area accounts for approximately 40 percent of its total home mortgage business.
The department’s Civil Rights Division and the OCC have long been engaged in work that seeks to make mortgage credit and homeownership accessible to all Americans on the same terms, regardless of race or national origin, and regardless of the neighborhood where they live. In January 2021, President Biden reaffirmed the critical role of the federal government in addressing legacies of housing segregation and discrimination, declaring that it is the policy of this Administration to eliminate “racial bias and other forms of discrimination in all stages of home-buying and renting.” See Memorandum on Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies, The White House (Jan. 26, 2021).
The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. Additional information about the Section’s fair lending enforcement can be found at www.justice.gov/fairhousing. Individuals may report lending discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online.