August 03, 2022

Van Hollen, Brown, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Fight Discrimination from Financial Institutions

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, has joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Committee, in introducing the Fair Access to Financial Services Act, a bill to prohibit banks and other financial institutions from discrimination in providing goods or services on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The legislation, originally introduced in 2020, would ensure that all people receive equal treatment when trying to access services at financial institutions, and hold these institutions accountable for discriminatory practices. The bill text can be found here

“Whether you’re trying to open a bank account or apply for a mortgage or loan, all Americans should have equal access to the financing they need to purchase a home, start their own business, and pursue their dreams. But many face barriers when trying to access financial services and participate in our economy. This legislation would finally outlaw this discrimination, hold banks and other financial institutions accountable for violations of the law, and ensure no one is treated unjustly because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Too many Black and brown Americans experience racial profiling and unequal treatment when trying to access services at banks and other financial institutions, and don’t have anywhere to turn to hold financial institutions accountable,” said Senator Brown. “Our legislation explicitly outlaws discrimination in our nation’s financial system so that everyone can access financial services free from harassment and abuse.”

“In 2022, no American should ever have to worry about being discriminated against when trying to open a bank account, getting a mortgage, or starting a small business. I am proud to sponsor this legislation that will ensure banks and other financial institutions never discriminate Americans from participating in our economy,” said Senator Warnock.

“My home state of Nevada is incredibly diverse, which is why it’s so important to make sure people in all of Nevada’s communities can get access to the financial tools they need,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bill would stop banks and other financial institutions from discriminating against people when it comes to opening a bank account or applying for a small business loan or mortgage. I’ll keep working to make sure our hardworking families and businesses are treated fairly.”  

“It is unacceptable that financial institutions can get away with discriminating against Americans on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or for any other reason,” said Senator Menendez. “As our economy continues to recover from the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we ensure as many people as possible can participate in our economy through broad access to financial services such as bank accounts, loans, and mortgages, while also holding financial institutions accountable for any discriminatory practices.”

“For far too long, Black and Brown people have faced significant barriers to access to financial services at banks and other financial institutions, including racial profiling, harassment, and abuse,” said Senator Booker. “It is time to right these wrongs. I am pleased to join my colleagues on this crucial legislation to hold financial institutions accountable for their unjust practices and ensure that all Americans have equal access to financial services without fear of discrimination.” 

The Senators were joined by Senators Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

The bill has been endorsed by the National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, UnidosUS, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“The purpose of this bill could not be more straightforward. In the same way that discrimination in restaurants, hotels, and other public accommodations has long been unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this bill would make discrimination in banks and other financial services unlawful as well. We welcome its introduction,” said Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Many of the nation’s largest banks have come under fire recently for racial profiling and other discriminatory practices. JP Morgan Chase Bank is being sued for refusing to open a bank account for a Black customer late last year. Bank of America recently apologized to film director Ryan Coogler after wrongfully assuming he was a bank robber. Wells Fargo came under scrutiny earlier this year for denying more than half of all Black refinancing applicants in 2020.