Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Evolve Bank & Trust to Resolve Allegations of Discrimination Against Recipients of Disability Income
Settlement Provides Compensation to Victims Identified by the Department of Justice and Establishes Fair Procedures for Treating Borrowers Who Receive Disability Income
The Justice Department announced today that Evolve Bank & Trust has agreed to maintain revised policies, conduct employee training and compensate victims to resolve allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability and receipt of public assistance in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The FHA prohibits lenders from discriminating on the basis of disability, and the ECOA prohibits lenders from discriminating on the basis of receipt of public assistance.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, where Evolve is headquartered. The terms of the settlement require Evolve to establish a settlement fund of $86,000 to compensate eligible mortgage loan applicants who were asked to provide a letter from their doctor to document their disability income. Under the settlement, Evolve will conduct training of its underwriters and loan officers and will monitor loan applications to insure that applicants with disabilities are not asked for a letter from a doctor.
“Loan applicants who rely on disability income should not be treated differently than other applicants,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement will provide relief to victims of a discriminatory practice that illegally and unnecessarily burdens individuals with disabilities in violation the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.”
The lawsuit originated with a referral from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the Civil Rights Division. Evolve is a member of the Federal Reserve System.
“Illegal discrimination on the basis of disability is unacceptable,” said Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard. “This settlement not only provides restitution for mortgage applicants that were harmed by the bank’s discriminatory practices, but ensures that the bank institutes new, fair policies and trains its staff to implement them.”
“Every individual is entitled to equal and fair treatment when applying for a loan,” said U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III of the Western District of Tennessee. “This settlement underscores the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to holding financial institutions accountable when they engage in unlawful discriminatory practices.”
The Civil Rights Division, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Tennessee are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information about the task force, please visit http://www.StopFraud.gov.
The department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section’s Fair Lending Unit in the Civil Rights Division. Since the Fair Lending Unit was established in February 2010, it has filed or resolved 44 lending matters under the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The settlements in these matters provide for a total of over $1.4 billion in monetary relief for impacted communities.