In 2010, the Civil Rights Division worked to create the necessary infrastructure to expand and sustain our fair lending work, establishing a fair Lending Unit in the Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in order to devote more resources to fair lending enforcement. The unit is staffed with attorneys, economists and a mathematical statistician. In addition, the Division’s Special Counsel for Fair Lending, a new senior career position in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, has worked to ensure that fair lending issues receive immediate attention and high priority.
With this new infrastructure in place, the Division worked in 2010 to strengthen its partnerships with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and bank regulatory agencies – partnerships that are critical to efficient and effective enforcement of federal fair lending laws, and have proven indispensible in the Department’s ramped up efforts to combat lending discrimination.
In 2010, the Division received more referrals, 49, from regulatory agencies of matters involving a possible pattern or practice of discrimination, than it received in at least the last 20 years. Twenty-six of these referrals involved discrimination based on race or national origin. In contrast, from 2001 through 2008 the Division received only a combined total of 30 referrals involving discrimination based on race or national origin. In addition, our strengthened relationships with the regulatory agencies included several parallel reviews that have resulted in authorized lawsuits. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force has also provided an additional forum for enhanced collaboration between the Department and its sister agencies.
The Fair Lending Unit is focusing its efforts on the entire range of abuses seen in the market, from traditional access to credit issues — such as red-lining — to pricing, steering, reverse red-lining and other areas. While the housing and foreclosure crisis necessitates that much of our focus is on mortgage lending, the unit addresses discrimination in all areas of lending, including unsecured consumer lending, auto lending, and credit cards.
In 2011, the Department will continue to build its capacity for fair lending work and strengthen its relationships with partners across the government so that we can ensure continued effective enforcement.
Read the full ECOA annual report HERE