Wells Fargo denies discrimination allegations [Florence Morning News, S.C.]By John Sweeney, Florence Morning News, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Dec. 13--FLORENCE, S.C. -- Wells Fargo & Co. has issued a statement regarding recent allegations of discriminatory lending practices by banks in the Florence area and said it had done nothing wrong.
The statement came Wednesday afternoon after a request for comment was made by the Morning News following a report presented to the Florence City Council on Monday that showed area minorities were less likely to receive loans than whites.
While the report did not mention Wells Fargo specifically, Florence counts the organization as its main banking agent and, following the report, two members of council called attention to the fact the bank had settled a discrimination lawsuit for $175 million earlier this year.
"As a fair and responsible lender, Wells Fargo strictly prohibits discrimination based on race, age or other demographic factors, and also prohibits abusive, misleading, or fraudulent lending practices," said Josh Dunn, a spokesman for the bank in the Carolinas region, in a statement emailed to the Morning News. "Our fair and responsible lending practices have been critically important in helping Wells Fargo establish itself as the country's leading mortgage lender to African-Americans and Hispanics."
Wells Fargo, who is the number one home lender in the country, settled a suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department in July after allegations the bank overcharged minorities on subprime mortgage rates during the housing boom of the early 2000s. Councilwoman Octavia Williams-Blake and Mayor Stephen J. Wukela referenced the lawsuit in interviews Tuesday.
Williams-Blake has suggested the city no longer do business with financial institutions with a history of discriminatory behavior.
Dunn did not address the lawsuit specifically or comments from Williams-Blake or Wukela, though they were referenced in the Morning News inquiry, but reiterated Wells Fargo had been consistent in "fair and responsible lending practices."
"We demonstrated fair and responsible lending practices before the housing crisis and we continue to uphold and enhance these practices today," Dunn said. "We want to deliver on our commitment to fair and responsible lending on every mortgage that we make."
Monday's report said blacks in the Florence area generally pay twice as much as whites for loans and showed a disproportionate number of whites apply and are accepted for loans than blacks when compared to the area's demographic breakdown.
The report focused on possible discrimination only in broad terms, but the city's director of community services, Scotty Davis, and his staff are currently gathering additional information on specific institutions to better understand why such disparities are taking place.
That report is expected to be delivered to council no later than February.
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