Three months after a judge tossed Baltimore City’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo, City Solicitor George Nilson announced the filing of a second complaint.
The city maintains its initial claim – that African-American borrowers pay more in fees and interest rates for refinances and home loans and alleges Wells Fargo’s lending practices prompted harmful foreclosures in Baltimore. But Nilson said the amended complaint gives more specifics than the first lawsuit, which was filed in January 2008 at the request of Maryland District Judge J. Frederick Motz.
“Our purpose in bringing this lawsuit remains the same as it always has been,” City Solicitor George Nilson said in a statement. “We intend to expose Wells Fargo’s illegal, discriminatory practices to the light of day in a court of law. We want to make sure Wells Fargo reforms its lending practices, and takes specific, constructive steps to assist the City in repairing the damage caused by the many unnecessary foreclosures its irresponsible practices caused.”
To Wells Fargo’s denial, the lawsuit claims the $1.2 trillion company knew or should have known its lending practices would lead to foreclosure, but went through with the transactions in order to profit on Wall Street. The complaint details 30 African-American neighborhoods that have incurred damages, such as vacancies, allegedly as a result of Wells Fargo’s discriminatory lending practices.
"From the beginning, we have consistently maintained that Baltimore's economic problems could not be attributed to the small number of foreclosures Wells Fargo has done in Baltimore," Wells Fargo co-president Cara Heiden said in a statement in January. Wells Fargo officials declined to speak to AFRO.
By relying on testimony from former Wells Fargo employees and statistical data outlining the disproportionate number of foreclosures in Black neighborhoods, the complaint intends to show the city has suffered from property tax revenue loss.
“Wells Fargo provided loans on subprime terms to borrowers who would have qualified for prime loans and made the price higher,” Nilson told the AFRO. “The end result was to produce significantly higher for rates for Blacks than others.”
City officials began their investigation into Wells Fargo’s practices in 2007. If the city wins, Nilson said he would like to see some of the families who he said suffered receive financial compensation. But at the very least, he said the lawsuit has forced the company to change their discriminatory behavior. However, Heiden said her company has always treated all of its borrowers fairly.
"Wells Fargo's long-standing vision is to help all of our customers succeed financially,” she stated. “That includes lending fairly and responsibly to people across the credit spectrum who want to achieve the dream of homeownership and have the ability to repay their loans."