Wednesday, January 18, 2017

U.S. Accuses JPMorgan of Mortgage Discrimination in Lawsuit
Nathan Bomey , USA TODAY
8:50 a.m. ET Jan. 18, 2017

The U.S. government filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing JPMorgan Chase of discriminating against "thousands" of black, Hispanic mortgage borrowers from 2006 through 2009.

The bank charged minority borrowers higher mortgage interest rates and fees during that period, compared to "similarly situated white borrowers," according to the government's lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, alleges that the average black or Hispanic home buyer paid about $1,000 more than white borrowers with the same risk profile.

Altogether, the alleged discrimination cost at least 53,000 borrowers "tens of millions of dollars in damages," the government said.

A JPMorgan Chase spokesperson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning. But JPMorgan Chase attorneys denied the allegations in a response filed in court Wednesday morning. The company demanded that a federal judge dismiss the lawsuit and award attorneys fees and other relief to Chase.

The U.S. government is seeking damages for borrowers, civil penalties and an order preventing further discrimination.

The bank gave its mortgage brokers the discretion to adjust pricing based on factors not related to borrower risk without documentation or justification, the government alleged. The lawsuit also accuses Chase of rewarding brokers with bonuses for charging interest rates above those based on standard credit criteria.

The average black borrower paid about $1,126 more over the first five years on an average loan of $191,100, according to the government, while the average Hispanic borrower paid about $968 more on an average loan of $236,800.

"Even when Chase had reason to know there were disparities, however, Chase did not act to determine the full scope of these wholesale pricing disparities, nor did it take prompt and effective action to eliminate those disparities, nor did it engage in adequate efforts to remedy the impact of those disparities upon the borrowers," the plaintiffs charged in the lawsuit.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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