DOJ: Warren Buffett’s Mortgage Company Discriminated Against Black, Latino Homebuyers

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New York (AFP) – A Pennsylvania mortgage company owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway, has discriminated against potential black and Latino homebuyers in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, in what is being called the second largest red line, the Justice Department said on Wednesday. . settlement in history.

Trident Mortgaging Company, a division of America’s premier Berkshire service, deliberately avoided writing mortgages in minority-majority neighborhoods in West Philadelphia such as Malcolm X Park; Camden, NJ; And in Wilmington, Delaware, the Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a settlement with Trident. As part of the agreement with the Department of Justice and the CFPB, Trident will have to allocate $20 million to provide loans in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“Trident’s illegal re-planning activity has deprived communities of equal color from access to residential mortgages, stripped them of opportunity to build wealth, and reduced the property value in their neighborhoods,” said Kristen Clark, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. prepared statement.

Redlining is a term used to describe when banks deliberately avoid making loans to non-white communities. Banks and the US government used to draw on maps in red those neighborhoods deemed undesirable to make loans for home purchases – hence the term “red line”. Neighborhoods have almost always been areas where ethnic minorities live, and even include other historically discriminated communities such as ghettos.

This practice effectively isolates entire communities from the primary pathway of wealth creation in the United States: home ownership. To this day, black and Latino families are less likely to own their own homes than their white counterparts.

Kristen Clark, on podium, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, joins, from left, New Jersey First Assistant Attorney General Lindsay Rotolo, Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rohit Chopra, CFPB Director, State Attorney General Delaware Cathy Jennings and Jacqueline C. Romero, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania during a press conference in Malcolm X Park, Wednesday morning.  July 27, 2022, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Trident Mortgage Co., a division of Warren Buffett Services in Berkshire's home of America, discriminated against potential black and Latino homebuyers in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, the Department of Justice said Wednesday, in what they said is calling the second The largest settlement of the red lines in history.  (Alejandro Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Kristen Clark, on podium, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, joins, from left, New Jersey First Assistant Attorney General Lindsay Rotolo, Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rohit Chopra, CFPB Director, State Attorney General Delaware Cathy Jennings and Jacqueline C. Romero, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania during a press conference in Malcolm X Park, Wednesday morning. July 27, 2022, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Trident Mortgage Co., a division of Warren Buffett Services in Berkshire’s home of America, discriminated against potential black and Latino homebuyers in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, the Department of Justice said Wednesday, in what they said is calling the second The largest settlement of the red lines in history. (Alejandro Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Alejandro Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via Associated Press

redlining activity that the Department of Justice claimed occurred between 2015 and 2019 – Trident stopped writing mortgages in 2020. Besides avoiding mortgages in minority neighborhoods, Trident employees made racist comments about making loans to black homebuyers, describing some neighborhoods as “Jewish Quarters”. One of the trident managers is photographed posing in front of the Confederate flag. The marketing materials used by Trident included exclusively white individuals, and nearly all of the company’s employees were white.

Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general running for governor, described Trident’s behavior as “systemic racism, pure and simple.”

Philadelphia has a long history of racism towards black home buyers. The Philadelphia City Council released a report Wednesday that found that 95% of all Philly home appraisers were white and there remains a racial gap between how black homeowner-owned homes are valued versus white homeowner’s home.

Trident also agreed to hire mortgage loan officers in affected neighborhoods in addition to paying a $4 million fine. The Justice Department said that because Trident no longer operates a lending business, a separate company will be contracted to provide $20 million in loan subsidies.

The Trident settlement also includes the first redlining case against a non-bank mortgage lender. Since the Great Recession, nearly half of all mortgages in the country have been secured by companies that sell mortgages on the spot to investors. These non-bank lenders include companies like Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage, and Loan Depot, among many others.

“Credit discrimination is illegal regardless of whether the offending company is a conventional bank or a non-bank lender,” said Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In a statement, HomeServices of America said it “strongly disagrees” with the Justice Department’s and CFPB’s findings in the settlement, noting that Trident did not have to admit wrongdoing as part of the case. Buffett himself did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he has historically deferred any comment to Berkshire’s subsidiaries.

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