Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) led 16 other Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), pressing the agency for information on how it pursues violations of civil rights laws by financial institutions. The senators cited press reports that show the OCC undermined its examiners’ efforts to investigate and pursue violations of fair housing and fair lending laws. The report describes how over the last three years, when OCC examiners found evidence of systemic violations of fair mortgage lending that resulted in Black, Latinx, and female borrowers being charged more or being required to meet higher standards than their white or male counterparts, agency leadership refused to take public action. The senators called for the OCC to provide Congress with information about its enforcement activity and reaffirm the agency’s commitment to enforcing fair mortgage lending as required by law.
“The OCC’s reported decision not to take action in these cases is even more alarming because systemic discrimination is, by nature, difficult or impossible for an individual borrower to identify. Without intervention by the OCC, countless consumers could be subject to discrimination with no way to know or seek redress,” wrote the senators. “The OCC’s reported failure to pursue evidence suggesting fair lending violations today not only harms borrowers and their communities but also undermines meaningful bank evaluations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which take into account a bank’s fair lending record.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Senator Cortez Masto has pushed to eliminate discriminatory lending in housing and other areas. She has demanded that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) continue to provide crucial mortgage data to ensure that lenders comply with fair lending laws. She has also called on the administration to ensure equal access for borrowers of color to small business and other loans during the coronavirus pandemic.