Class action lawsuit claims Wells Fargo discriminates against Black borrowers

ATLANTA — A class action lawsuit alleges that banking giant Wells Fargo discriminates against African American borrowers at all stages of the home loan process.

Henry Umeana is an IT professional with a sterling credit score, and he had down payment money ready to purchase a home, but he said there was no explanation for why his mortgage with Wells Fargo, where he’s banked for two decades, was never approved.

“I keep waiting, and I push the closing date from April to May and from May to June, and meanwhile I was still renting,” Umeana said.

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Umeana finally went elsewhere for the loan.

He’s one of the named plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo.

Attorneys behind the lawsuit gathered with clients at the Mount Zion Second Baptist church in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward to discuss the case.

“They’re discriminating against Black people, and it’s systematic,” attorney Ben Crump said.

The lawsuit alleges Wells Fargo denies mortgages for Black borrowers more often, charges higher interest rates for Black borrowers, charges them higher costs and fees, and offers African Americans fewer refinancing opportunities.

Atlanta resident Christopher Williams worked in finance himself, and says the real estate loan Wells Fargo offered him came with a much higher rate than it should have, and higher than he found elsewhere.

“My credit score was just under 800 before I applied. They told me my credit score was 100 points less.” Williams said.

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Wells Fargo characterizes the lawsuit as “unfounded attacks,” telling Channel 2 in a statement:

“We are deeply disturbed by allegations of discrimination that we believe do not stand up to scrutiny. We are confident that we follow relevant government-sponsored enterprise guidelines in our decision making and that our underwriting practices are consistently applied regardless of a customer’s race or ethnicity.”

Attorneys said they have no way of knowing how many African American borrowers could be included in the class action until they get discovery documents from Wells Fargo, but they estimate it could be tens of thousands of customers.

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“Wells Fargo’s discrimination was indiscriminate in discriminating. Seems like the only common denominator was the color of the applicant’s skin,” Crump said.

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