The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities can sue banks over predatory mortgage lending to minorities that harms municipal finances, but cast doubt on whether these cases can succeed by throwing out a lower court decision (ruling 8-0) that had allowed litigation brought by the city of Miami to even move forward.
Miami accused Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup into pushing “non-white” borrowers into higher-cost and riskier loans they often could not afford, even if they had decent credit. As a result of these alleged discriminatory lending practices, property values declined due to the high rate of loan defaults, which led to foreclosures. The city of Miami said it lost property tax revenue and was forced to pay to repair and maintain the properties that went into foreclosure.
Justice Stephen Breyer said Miami had the legal standing to sue the banks, but needed to present more evidence that the injuries it claims to have suffered were tied to alleged violations of the federal Fair Housing Act. Miami accused the banks of a decade of lending discrimination in its residential housing market. Los Angeles, Oakland and several other U.S. cities have filed similar lawsuits.
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