Countrywide's lending practices discriminatory, Ill. AG says

Keith Loria Jun. 30, 2010, 3:39pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced on Tuesday that she has filed charges against a mortgage lender over alleged discrimination practices.

Countrywide Financial Corporation, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., and Full Spectrum Lending, Inc., an arm of Countrywide, are accused of unlawfully discriminating against African American and Latino mortgage borrowers, which is a violation of both the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Fairness in Lending Act.

Countrywide, a subsidiary of Bank of America, was once the largest mortgage lender in both the U.S and the state of Illinois.

Madigan's lawsuit alleges that the company led both race groups into risky subprime mortgages at a much larger percentage than they did its white borrowers. These minority borrowers also were allegedly charged more for mortgages across the company's product line.

Data from more than 83,000 Countrywide mortgages originated in Illinois from 2005 through 2007 was examined and Madigan's office also spoke with many former Countrywide employees, mortgage brokers and borrowers. Countrywide's lending policies and practices that were in place at the time proceeding the collapse of the housing bubble were also examined.

"Countrywide's illegal discriminatory lending practices destroyed the wealth and dreams of thousands of African American and Latino homeowners," Madigan said. "Bank of America needs to be held accountable by taking financial responsibility for cleaning up the devastation of the predatory company that it chose to take over."

Madigan is asking the court to find that Countrywide engaged in illegal discrimination and is seeking an injunction that will permanently prohibit the company from discriminatory acts in the future. She is also seeking restitution for all victims and civil penalties of $25,000 for each violation.

In July 2009, Madigan filed a similar lawsuit against Wells Fargo for violating the state's fair lending and civil rights laws. That litigation is still ongoing.

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