The Real Deal Miami

Palm Beach County weighs housing discrimination suit

Commissioners to discuss hiring Atlanta-based law firm to help take on banks

September 27, 2013 04:00PM

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Darren Wade Penn of Harris Penn Lowry

Palm Beach County is considering filing a lawsuit against major banks for allegedly discriminating against minority borrowers during the housing boom.

Commissioners are expected to discuss hiring Atlanta-based law firm Harris Penn Lowry LLP at the meeting next Tuesday. The county has done preliminary research of federal lending data, which could lead to an investigation. Similarly, Harris Penn Lowry has represented three counties outside of Atlanta in a suit claiming that HSBC violated the Fair Housing Act. The firm was the only one to respond to the request for proposals to provide legal services in this matter.

According to data reported by the South Florida Business Journal, nearly 57 percent of black borrowers and half of Hispanic borrowers in South Florida in 2006 received a high interest rate spread loan. Twenty-eight percent of white borrowers received it.

Previous U.S. Department of Justice charges against Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America/Countrywide and SunTrust Mortgage have resulted in settlements. The case alleged the banks violated fair housing rules by making subprime loans to minorities who could have qualified for traditional loans, the South Florida Business Journal reported. [South Florida Business Journal]Mark Maurer

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