The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in conjunction with the department’s complaint which alleges that Countrywide discriminated by charging more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers in both its retail and wholesale lending. The complaint alleges that these borrowers were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin, and not because of the borrowers’ creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk.
The United States also alleges that Countrywide discriminated by steering thousands of African-American and Hispanic borrowers into subprime mortgages when non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans...
“Countrywide’s actions contributed to the housing crisis, hurt entire communities, and denied families access to the American dream,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are using every tool in our law enforcement arsenal, including some that were dormant for years, to go after institutions of all sizes that discriminated against families solely because of their race or national origin.”...
The proposed settlement provides for an independent administrator to contact and distribute payments of compensation at no cost to borrowers whom the Justice Department identifies as victims of Countrywide’s discrimination.
There are those who are once again complaining about this...assuming that criminal charges and prison time are the only ways to hold people accountable. I suspect those folks have either forgotten or never learned their civil rights history, which demonstrates that criminal charges are a state matter and the federal government's role is in protecting people's civil rights.
But equally compelling would be a survey of the victims of these crimes. I wonder what they would say if they were asked whether or not they'd prefer that the people responsible go to jail or pay them back for the fraud. Actually, I'm not sure there's much doubt about what their answer might be. That, my friends, is a pretty good calibration of what justice means in a case like this.
Adding this one to the list of accomplishments over the last 3 years, I'd suggest that if we wanted to go in search of the civil rights heros of today, these two should be at the top of the list of candidates.