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UPDATE 2-Miami mortgage lawsuits vs BofA, Citigroup, Wells Fargo are revived
September 1, 2015 / 7:27 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Miami mortgage lawsuits vs BofA, Citigroup, Wells Fargo are revived

(New throughout, adds details from decisions, bank comments, case citations, byline)

By Jonathan Stempel

Sept 1 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived three lawsuits in which the City of Miami accused Wells Fargo & Co, Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc of predatory mortgage lending to black and Hispanic borrowers.

By a 3-0 vote, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court erred in dismissing the city’s claims under the federal Fair Housing Act, over what Miami called a decade of lending discrimination in its residential housing market.

“It is clear that the harm the city claims to have suffered has a sufficiently close connection to the conduct the statute prohibits,” Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus wrote.

U.S. cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Memphis have with mixed success accused banks of biased mortgage lending that prolonged the nation’s housing crisis.

Miami alleged that Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup steered non-white borrowers into higher-cost loans they often could not afford, even if they had good credit.

The city said this “reverse redlining” led to a large number of foreclosures, lower property tax collections and increased spending to combat urban blight.

In July 2014, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida dismissed Miami’s lawsuits. He said the city lacked standing to sue, and that the alleged harm was too remote from the banks’ conduct.

But the appeals court said that standard was too stringent and that banks could have reasonably foreseen the “attendant harm” from their alleged discriminatory lending. The 11th Circuit did not rule on the merits.

Wells Fargo is the largest U.S. mortgage lender and includes the former Wachovia, while Bank of America includes the former Countrywide Financial.

Tom Goyda, a Wells Fargo spokesman, said the San Francisco-based bank is disappointed in the outcome and “prepared to present strong arguments in support of our long history of fair and responsible lending in Miami and across the country.”

Bank of America spokesman Rick Simon said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank is considering its options. “Our record demonstrates a firm commitment and strong record for fair and responsible lending and community revitalization,” he said.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for New York-based Citigroup, declined to comment.

The Miami city attorney’s office had no immediate comment.

In July, federal judges in Chicago and Los Angeles dismissed lawsuit accusing Wells Fargo of predatory lending in those cities. Los Angeles’ similar lawsuit against Bank of America was dismissed in May.

The cases in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are Miami v. Bank of America Corp et al, No. 14-14543; Miami v. Wells Fargo & Co, et al, No. 14-14544; and Miami v. Citigroup Inc et al, No. 14-14706. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr, David Gregorio and Alan Crosby)

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