Cities sue lenders over foreclosures
Cleveland is suing 21 banks and mortgage companies over the effects that the recent high numbers of home foreclosures have had on the city’s economy. Also, Baltimore is suing Wells Fargo Bank, alleging that the bank targeted blacks over whites in issuing high-interest loans.
Cleveland’s lawsuit is based on Ohio’s public nuisance law and accuses the defendants, which also include Wells Fargo along with several other major financial institutions, of practicing “unscrupulous lending” that interferes with the public’s “rights and interests,” Mayor Frank Jackson said in a press conference last week. Jackson says the foreclosures have devastated the city’s neighborhoods. “Cities can rebound, however, it is extremely costly to do so given that declining tax revenues are part of the fallout of foreclosures,” Jackson said.
Baltimore’s lawsuit claims that Wells Fargo has intentionally targeted Baltimore’s minority communities with bad loans since at least 2000, and the city is suing under the Federal Fair Housing Act. “Foreclosures caused by reverse redlining create a very real and very dramatic ripple effect in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Sheila Dixon said in a statement. “By driving down the value of nearby homes, foreclosures also drive down city revenues and place additional financial burdens on the city and its residents.”
Both cities are seeking millions of dollars in damages. Wells Fargo does not tolerate illegal discrimination, a spokesman for the company, Kevin Waetke, told The New York Times last week in connection with the Baltimore suit. “Our loan pricing is based on credit risk. We are committed to serving all customers fairly — our continued growth depends on it,” Waetke said.