$210,000 Settlement In Lending Discrimination Case Against First Virginia Bank-Maryland

The First Virginia Bank-Maryland has agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a race discrimination case filed in Federal Court in Maryland. Lawyers for Spencer Boyer, an African-American Professor of Law at Howard University, and the Fair Housing Council of Gre ater Washington reported the settlement in December. The bank agreed to take affirmative steps to ensure fair lending practices as part of a comprehensive settlement.

The suit alleged that First Virginia Bank-Maryland denied a home equity loan to Professor Boyer because he is African-American.

The settlement is the largest ever in an individual lending discrimination case brought on the East Coast, and one of the two largest anywhere in the nation.

The settlement, as submitted to the Court in Maryland for approval, requires First Virginia Bank-Maryland to provide anti-discrimination training for its employees. It must take steps to solicit home equity loan applications from minority-owned real esta te companies and brokerage firms, and retain loan records to permit monitoring and inspection by the Fair Housing Council, as appropriate.

The Rev. Dr. James G. Macdonell, President of the Board of Directors of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, said the settlement "sends a clear message that lending discrimination will not be tolerated."

Rev. Macdonell also noted that First Virginia Bank-Maryland is taking positive steps through the settlement to promote fair lending across the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: "This bank is undertaking to face the problems we raised head-on, and has ag reed to commit the resources needed to ensure that all qualified loan applicants have equal access to its loan products. We hope that all banks in this community take careful note of the steps First Virginia Bank-Maryland has taken."

The executive director of the Montgomery County office of the Human Relations Commission had found no reasonable grounds for discrimination in September 1992. Professor Boyer filed the suit rather than pursue further local administrative action.

Fifty thousand dollars of the settlement went for general support of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington. The money was for education and outreach in historically underserved census tracts in the Washington metro area. It would go to advise r esidents of the area census tracts about the availability of loan programs and services designed and tailored by the bank for low and moderate income applicants.

The Fair Housing Council and Professor Boyer were represented by John P. Relman, Director of the Fair Housing Project at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and George D. Ruttinger, a partner with the D.C. law firm of Cro well & Moring.

The consent order was approved by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte on January 10, 1995.