Wells Fargo Bank Class Action Alleges Lending Discrimination: Wells Seeks More Time to Respond to Plaintiffs' Experts, According to Ellis George Law Firm

SAN FRANCISCO, March 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., ("Wells Fargo") has filed a legal motion seeking more time to rebut three (3) expert reports submitted by the Plaintiffs in a nationwide class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the bank’s mortgage lending practices against Black, Latino/Hispanic and Asian homebuyers. 

Wells Fargo states in its motion that it needs the additional time to "understand the bases for Plaintiffs’ expert opinions," and that it will "suffer substantial harm and be materially prejudiced" if its request for an enlargement of time to respond is not granted.

The filing made on March 4 before Federal Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California  represents one of the many growing concerns on the part of Wells Fargo regarding the evidence it anticipates the Plaintiffs are likely to advance in support of their claims for as many as 750,000 potential class members.  Wells Fargo’s motion asks Judge Donato to provide it with three (3) additional weeks to respond to the Plaintiffs’ experts.

The lawsuit In Re Wells Fargo Mortgage Discrimination Litigation, Case No. 3:22-CV-00990-JD, alleges "that Black and other minority applicants had their applications intentionally and disproportionately denied, faced unjustified delays in the processing of their applications, and were given less favorable terms, which resulted in Wells Fargo systematically engaging in a new form of redlining that harmed Plaintiffs based on their race and ethnicity," according to Dennis S. Ellis of Ellis George LLP, who was appointed by Judge Donato to lead the suit against Wells Fargo.

The lawsuit follows reporting by Bloomberg on March 10, 2022, that "Wells Fargo Denied More than Half Its Black Applicants in Refinancing Boom."  As shown by the Bloomberg article, relying on data Wells Fargo disclosed as required by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act ("HMDA"), the suit contends that at a time when millions of White Americans were able to take advantage of historically low-interest rates for home loans, Wells Fargo approved just 47% of refinance applications by Black homeowners, 53% for Hispanic and/or Latino refinance applicants, and 67% of Asian-American refinance applicants, compared with 71%, 79%, and 85% respectively for these same ethnic groups across all other lenders.

"Wells Fargo is obviously concerned with the expert evidence the Plaintiffs have submitted in support of their claims in this case, which will support  the Plaintiffs’ motion to certify a class of affected minorities who were subjected to Wells Fargo’s discriminatory lending practices," said Ellis. 

"Wells Fargo had ample opportunity to address the effect of its lending practices and the harm it was causing as a company to hundreds of thousands of minorities, but chose to do nothing to alter its policies that were denying loans to those citizens at record disparities as opposed to White Americans.  Wells Fargo should not be afforded three (3) additional weeks to answer the Plaintiffs’ experts.  The fact that Wells Fargo years after instituting the discriminatory policies that have caused so much damage to its minority mortgage loan applicants still has no answer for its actions is appalling,"  Ellis added.

Wells Fargo, headquartered in San Francisco, is no stranger to allegations regarding its lending practices, including discrimination.  Late last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") issued a notice to Wells Fargo regarding problems with its use of mortgage rates discounts. 

In the CFPB’s review it found "statistically significant disparities" in the rates in which Black borrowers got pricing exceptions compared with other customers.  This follows an order by the CFPB issued late last year requiring Wells Fargo to pay more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines. The CFPB concluded that the bank’s illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes.

In response to the most recent notice from the CFPB, Wells Fargo refused to respond to the allegations specifically, and reiterated it is "proud to be the largest bank lender to minority families," when contacted by CNBC for a response. 

Ellis states that this claim is eerily similar to what Wells Fargo has alleged in the lawsuit before Judge Donato.  "Wells Fargo claims that it is the largest bank lender to the Black community, as though that provides it with some sort of immunity for the unquestionable generational harm it has done to our community and other minorities through its lending practices.  The only thing that Wells Fargo can honestly claim being number one at during the period alleged in our lawsuit from 2018-2022, is denying more Black applicants the American dream of owning their own home by rejecting their loan applications, which we intend to prove was for discriminatory reasons." 

Ellis states that HMDA records show Wells Fargo denied mortgage loans of more than 73,000 Black applicants during the four year period the lawsuit covers.

"Systematic racial discrimination in home ownership and financing is one of the most significant causes for the stark differences in generational wealth between Black Americans and others," stated well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who serves as co-counsel on the matter.

"That Wells Fargo would continue to exhibit this kind of behavior in the 21st century is unconscionable.  This case is about justice, not only for the named plaintiffs in this case but for every Black applicant or homeowner who was turned away by Wells Fargo because of the color of their skin. There should be no further delays in our attempt to hold Wells Fargo accountable for its wrongdoing, and we will thus oppose the request," Crump added.

The complaint can be viewed HERE.

Sam Singer
Singer Associates Public Relations

Additional Legal Contacts:

Trent Copeland, Esq.
Ellis George LLP
Cell/Text: (310) 569-6232

Dennis S. Ellis, Esq.
Ellis George LLP
Cell/Text: (213) 840-5001

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SOURCE Ellis George LLP

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