Wells Fargo says discrimination suit plaintiffs lack standing

Wells Fargo is denying claims of discriminatory lending practices in new federal case filings, alleging some plaintiffs in one of the suits lack standing because they never sought the refinances in question with the bank.

The lender is facing two class action complaints in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court over accusations of redlining in hindering purchase and refinance applications for Black customers. Wells responded to both lawsuits within the past week, rejecting all accusations of discrimination.

“The claims in these cases are meritless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them,” Wells said in a statement Tuesday. “We are confident that we follow relevant government-sponsored enterprise guidelines in our decision-making regarding home lending and our underwriting practices are consistently applied regardless of a customer’s race or ethnicity.”

Attorneys for the lead plaintiffs in their respective suits, Aaron Braxton and Christopher Williams, didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The bank’s response to Williams’ lawsuit was less detailed than its response to Braxton, with repeated denials to each allegation.

Wells in a 42-page response to Braxton filed Monday challenged the standing of Braxton and two other plaintiffs who claim to have sought refinances with the lender in 2019 and 2020, alleging they hadn’t actually tried to get refis with the bank. 

Braxton, in an amended complaint filed in April, claims he submitted four refi applications to Wells after the bank repeatedly told him his paperwork was lost. He said he ultimately received an approval from the lender after he .ed the Department of Housing and Urban Development about the issues.

In this week’s filing, Wells said Braxton did not begin the process of applying to refinance his loans with Wells Fargo in August 2019. The bank claims it did not originate his home loan, but is the loan’s servicer and argues that his loan was permanently modified in October 2020, resulting in an interest rate reduction from 6% to 3.375%.

Wells denied that another plaintiff, a Sony Pictures executive, unsuccessfully sought a refi in 2020 and claimed he instead was approved for a home equity line of credit loan before he withdrew his request. The bank disputed accusations from another owner of three homes, alleging she was approved for a refi on one of the properties but said she never sought refis on the two other properties.

The lender also repeated its claim that it helped as many Black families purchase homes as the next three largest bank lenders combined over the past decade. A spokesperson shared the statement Tuesday and attorneys repeated the same statement 15 times in the Braxton response.

Attorneys for Wells in a separate filing said they will argue in court next month to dismiss or stay the Braxton lawsuit pending the outcome of the earlier Williams complaint because the cases are similar. Williams’ initial lawsuit accused Wells of discrimination in originations, while Braxton’s initial suit specifically targeted the bank’s refi practices.

The lender is facing heat on multiple fronts, including from a Bloomberg News report in March detailing discrepancies in Wells’ refis between Black and white homeowners. That report prompted officials in New York City to bar new depository accounts with the bank. It also resulted in senators on Capitol Hill calling out “weaknesses that have plagued the bank for almost a decade.” In addition, federal prosecutors are investigating Wells after a New York Times report about “fake interviews” the company held for nonwhite and female job applicants.