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Wells Fargo to pay $5M over pregnancy discrimination


Wells Fargo will pay a record $5 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against perhaps hundreds of pregnant women by denying or delaying their mortgages, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday.

This is the largest single settlement ever over pregnancy discrimination, and comes as HUD has measured a marked increase in lenders allegedly denying or delaying mortgages to pregnant women and couples. A senior HUD official recently told Scotsman Guide News that there have been close to 200 cases since 2010, 16 in 2014 alone.

Wells Fargo settled with HUD to resolve allegations that it discriminated against pregnant women, women on maternity leave, or women who recently gave birth by “making loans unavailable based on sex and familial status; or by forcing women applicants to sacrifice their maternity leave and return to work prior to closing on their loans; and by making discriminatory statements to and against women who were pregnant or who had recently given birth.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits mortgage lenders from denying or delaying loans based on a host of attributes, including gender and maternity status.

Six families from Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, and California will receive payments from the settlement, but there could be hundreds more.

Wells Fargo will pay $165,000 to those six families. Wells Fargo will also create a $3.5 million fund to compensate other potential victims. Wells Fargo will add another $1.5 million to that fund if more than 175 victims come forward.

HUD has tracked between 40 and 50 cases of mortgage pregnancy discrimination per year in the U.S. since 2010. While many alleged instances of unfair lending allegations match up with tightening mortgage credits standards, HUD officials, activists and industry professionals say lenders are simply discriminating based on gender.  

“The discrimination we’ve seen in these cases underscores some of the stereotypes lenders make about women on temporary [maternity] leave,” HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Bryan Green told Scotsman Guide News recently. “In most of the cases, lenders just stopped processing the loans [when they found out about the pregnancy]. In many instances, had the lender inquired further, they’d discover the woman was well qualified.”


 

Questions? Contact Neal McNamara at (425) 984-6017 or nealm@scotsmanguide.com.

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