New Orleans I woke up to headlines indicating that the National Fair Housing Alliance has accused Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank of effectively “red lining” blight into largely African-American and Latino neighborhoods in 35 different cities in 15 metropolitan areas. Recently the alliance added New Orleans, Dallas, New Haven, and Hampton Roads, Virginia to an amended complaint charging that US Bank had not maintained foreclosed properties in minority neighborhoods compared to what it does in white areas. Similar complaints have been filed against Bank of America and Wells Fargo, though reportedly Wells Fargo settled with the group.
So, what says U.S. Bank? Their defense is that they are simply the corporate trustee for a security pool of investors and claim that they have no legal right to maintain the properties. Well, I’ve been there and heard that, so at best U.S. Bank and the rest of these banks are hiding behind half-truths. They are the legal trustee for the properties though and it’s their name on the property titles. In reality at best U.S. Bank is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They get paid to be the holder of the investment pool and the named owner of the mortgage properties, but they are essentially trying to sing a verse with the old rock group, Dire Straits, and “get money for nothing and get their chicks for free.”
ACORN struggled with this problem for years and interestingly in negotiating with Deutsche Bank, which at the time in 2007-2008 was a trustee for a huge number of mortgage security pools, we learned quite a bit about how it really works. The bottom line is that the banks know the owners, and in a wink-and-nod in those days, Deutsche agreed to give us the information on specific properties that were problems in our neighborhoods when they became issues. My point in that U.S. Bank and the other bankers are in effect earning their money by allowing the real owners and their lack of maintenance to hide behind their corporate veil, so they deserve to go down.
And, their problem just gets bigger when the fair housing alliance and others do the ground work around the country and bust them for not lifting a finger to take care of properties that are foreclosed in black and brown neighborhoods, while in fact making sure that properties are maintained in white areas.
Call it redlining or just flat out racial discrimination, U. S. Bank and the boys can keep whining about it, but they are just shucking and jiving for the real owners and it is past time for them to do right and stop ruining our neighborhoods with callous disregard, while they count their money for doing nothing. They can either name out the real owners or take the weight and step up.