Stowell & Friedman files lawsuit against Wintrust Financial alleging discrimination

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Wintrust Financial, a Rosemont, Illinois-based financial firm, has been accused in a lawsuit of systemic discrimination against black homebuyers in its mortgage business.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was filed in federal court in Chicago on May 25. The lawsuit was filed by Stowell & Friedman, a civil rights law firm that has won major employment discrimination settlements from Wall Street firms. The dispute was first reported by Crain’s.

This isn’t the first time Stowell & Friedman has sued mortgage lenders for discrimination. The company is also co-lawyer in a class action lawsuit against San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, the third-largest bank in the United States, where it accused the bank of racial discrimination in its mortgage business.

Unlike Wells Fargo, Wintrust is a regional company and has 15 banks in the Chicago area and southern Wisconsin. It has $50.3 billion in assets and operates a national mortgage business that originated $6.8 billion in loans in 2021.

“Wintrust has created artificial, arbitrary and unnecessary barriers to fair housing opportunities for Black and/or African American borrowers,” the complaint states. “Wintrust’s policies have discriminatoryly extracted an enormous amount of wealth from Black and/or African American households through higher costs, fees and interest rates than those charged to non-Black and non-African Americans. Americans.”

Stowell & Friedman sued on behalf of Kathleen Bankhead, an assistant Cook County attorney and then independent juvenile mediator with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. The suit alleges that Bankhead had to pay more fees and tariffs for the purchase of his home in a “majority-minority” Chicago neighborhood than non-black home buyers had to pay.

This was “consistent with Wintrust’s national policies and practices,” according to the lawsuit.

Wintrust approved nearly 69% of mortgage refinance applications from white borrowers, while it approved only 56% of those applications from black borrowers, according to 2020 home mortgage disclosure statistics cited in the trial.

“While we are unable to discuss the details of the pending litigation, we can say that we believe this lawsuit is without merit and that we will vigorously defend ourselves against the allegations in this matter,” Wintrust said in a statement. . “During our more than 30 year history, Wintrust and its employees have taken great pride and care in treating all of our customers equally and respectfully. It is a core value of who we are and how we do business in the many communities we serve.

The complaint also states that black borrowers receive higher average interest rates than white borrowers, at 3.31% and 3.21%, respectively.

Isabel M. Bourgeois