The Washington Independent reports that Wells Fargo & Co. allegedly targeted African American borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages. The bank attracted attendees to a series of day-long "Wealth Building" seminars held in black neighborhoods in eight cities across the country by featuring trusted black speakers.
The seminars, promoted heavily in black media, featured prominent African American commentator and PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley as well as Kelvin Boston, the host of "Moneywise," a multicultural financial affairs show.
Smiley commended Wells Fargo and encouraged the attendees to seriously consider real estate investments. In seminars held after Hurricane Katrina, Smiley also emphasized the importance of building assets and wealth, saying those who had had done so were able to leave New Orleans, while those with nothing had to stay behind.
The seminars sometimes drew standing-room-only crowds with numerous Wells Fargo representatives on hand, seated at carrels to meet one-on-one with potential borrowers who lined up after the motivational speeches. Reportedly, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage encouraged its employees to promote subprime mortgages under the pretense of "alternative lending."
This is not the first charge of Wells Fargo targeting minorities for subprime mortgages. The Washington Independent reported last week that, in a suit filed by the city of Baltimore, former employees claimed Wells Fargo loan officers referred to minority borrowers as "mud people" and called subprime mortgages as "ghetto loans."
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