SACRAMENTO — Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will be joined by Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump Wednesday morning at 11:30 at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco to publicly announce their support for a class-action lawsuit against Wells Fargo.
The suit accuses the nation’s largest mortgage lender of denying loans to minority applicants at an “unprecedented rate” during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time during which rates dropped to historic lows, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of Black and brown individuals in California and across the country.
The consolidated complaint filed before federal Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California Court 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 Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP.
Ellis was appointed by Judge Donato to lead the suit against Wells Fargo. He estimates these practices could have affected 750,000 people.
Mayor Brown is no stranger to housing discrimination, as he has been very vocal about his own personal story as a young, Black lawyer in San Francisco in the 1960s.
“In 1961, as a young lawyer, I led a sit-in to protest housing discrimination in San Francisco and met a young Dianne Feinstein who had brought her daughter in a stroller to my demonstration,” Brown said in a statement.
“Being from the totally segregated Mineola, Texas, I was angered but not surprised to find that housing discrimination existed in San Francisco. Now some 62 years later and exactly 69 years since Brown vs The Board of Education, I again find myself angered but not surprised at Wells Fargo’s blatantly discriminatory lending policies pertaining to qualified minorities still exist,” the statement continues.
The announcement from Brown and Crump about their support for the lawsuit comes during the same week that Wells Fargo agreed to pay $1 billion to settle another class-action lawsuit surrounding the clean-up of its fake account scandal in 2016.
Wells Fargo issued a statement regarding the new lawsuit, saying, “We are deeply disturbed by allegations of discrimination that we believe do not stand up to scrutiny. We are confident that we follow relevant government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) guidelines in our decision making and that our underwriting practices are consistently applied regardless of a customer’s race or ethnicity. These allegations against Wells Fargo stand in stark contrast to the company’s significant and long-term commitment to closing the minority homeownership gap.”