October 21, 2020

Brown, Senate Democrats Introduce New Legislation to Combat Discrimination in Our Nation’s Financial Services Industry

Legislation Would Help Protect Customers From Experiencing Discrimination When Accessing Financial Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Fair Access to Financial Services Act, a bill that would 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. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in certain places of public accommodations, it does not cover banks and other financial institutions. This new legislation would ensure that all people receive equal treatment when trying to access services at financial institutions and hold them accountable when they engage in discriminatory acts.

“Too many Black and brown Americans experience racial profiling and unequal treatment when trying to access services at banks and other financial institutions. Victims of discrimination are not even able to hold financial institutions accountable-it is shameful,” said Senator  Brown.“It is past time we pass legislation that explicitly outlaws discrimination in our nation’s financial system so that Black and brown people can have complete access to financial services free from harassment.”

“Too often, Black, Brown and Indigenous people in Minnesota and across the country experience discrimination or mistreatment when interacting with financial institutions,” said Senator Smith. “We need to root out systemic racism anywhere it occurs, and our legislation would be a clear and comprehensive statement that discrimination has no place in our financial system. It’s long past time for Congress to take serious action to support people of color's economic freedom and opportunity. This legislation will help move America forward on the path towards racial justice.”

“For many Americans, access to financial institutions-- opening a bank account, getting a loan or planning for retirement-- is a fundamental building block for economic security. But persistent, unchecked racial discrimination has unjustly blocked many Black and brown Americans from accessing financial services,” said Senator Booker. “Equal access to these critical services must be a right guaranteed by federal law and financial institutions must be held accountable for putting an end to systemic discrimination and harassment of any kind.”

“When we talk about ending systemic racism and other institutionalized forms of discrimination in our society, we can’t ignore the economic inequalities that hold certain communities back,” said Senator  Menendez. “It is harder for communities of color and other minority groups to access our banking systems, open an account, secure credit, a small business loan or a mortgage—barriers that cut people off from our financial system and make it nearly impossible to accumulate wealth.  Our bill levels the playing field by making it illegal for financial institutions to discriminate simply on the basis of race, gender, orientation or religion.”

“For far too long, big banks and financial institutions have discriminated against Black and Brown families -- denying communities of color the chance to build real economic security. Everyone deserves equal access to our banking system and this bill is a step in the right direction to help root out the systemic racism that has pervaded our financial institutions for decades,” said Senator Warren.

“To ensure equal opportunity for all Americans we must abolish systemic racism, including the discrimination people of color face in accessing financial services – from cashing a check to opening a bank account. This legislation includes key measures to prevent this institutional discrimination. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, and I will continue to work to root out inequality in our banking system and all other institutions,” said Senator Van Hollen.

This bill is a direct response to the numerous incidents of discrimination experienced by Black and brown people when trying to access the financial system. It has been endorsed by several civil rights organizations including  Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, The National Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), UnidosUS, Americans for Financial Reform, Public Citizen, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Association of Real Estate Brokers, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, National Action Network, and the Center for Responsible Lending. More information about the bill can be found here, and the bill text can be found here.

The House version of the bill will be introduced by Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA-4) and Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3).

Brown recently raised the alarm on racial discrimination at some financial services institutions.