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Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending in Chicago Area
Monday, December 01, 2014 Bloomberg News by Andrew Harris and Erik Larson
Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) targets black and Latino borrowers for more costly home loans than their white counterparts in the Chicago area, helping to prolong a local and national foreclosure crisis, the biggest county in Illinois said.
Cook County, which has a population of more than 5 million and includes the third-biggest U.S. city, accused the bank of engaging in predatory lending in a complaint filed yesterday in Chicago federal court, following similar efforts by municipal governments in Los Angeles and Miami.
The bank’s tactics start at home-loan origination and continue through refinancing and foreclosure, the country said, a process its lawyers summarized in the complaint as “equity stripping.” The process may have involved as many as 26,000 loans, the county said.
“Equity stripping is an abusive form of ‘asset based lending’ that maximizes lender profits based on the value of the underlying asset and onerous loan terms, while in disregard for a borrower’s ability to repay,” according to the complaint.
Aimed also at minority women, the bank’s fee structure and its practice of bundling mortgages to sell as securities allowed the lender to make money off loans even in the event of a foreclosure, the county said.