SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump joins the fight against San Francisco-based Wells Fargo as allegations against the nation's largest mortgage lender grow.
A class action lawsuit is accusing Wells Fargo of racism for denying mortgage loans to non-white applicants.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown also joined the fight Wednesday.
"I told him 'I am going to sue you. I don't know how I am going to do it,'" said choked up plaintiff Aaron Braxton, remembering what he told a Wells Fargo representative, "'I am going to sue you because I know I'm not the only one.'"
Braxton is one of the named plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo.
Braxton says he's one of many who wanted to refinance their homes during the early stages of the pandemic. But, instead, Braxton was given the run-around.
Braxton, the other plaintiffs and attorneys say they were discriminated against, citing a Bloomberg news report as evidence.
"Black people, in particular, were trying to refinance their home, and they were being approved at a rate of 47%. Other banks were approving Black Americans for refinance during the early stages of the pandemic and 2020 at a rate of 71%," said lead attorney Dennis Elllis, "White Americans at Wells Fargo were being approved for loans at a rate of 72%. And so, there was this dynamic where Black Americans who are attempting to refinance their homes to lower interest rates were being denied at record rates. And that was concerning."
Ellis says more than 750,000 customers may have similar experiences.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump announced their support in front of the San Francisco Federal Courthouse where the lawsuit is filed.
"The first demonstration on the issue of housing in San Francisco, I conducted -- that was more than six decades ago," Brown said, "You would think that things would have been learned by one of the premier institutions in San Francisco."
In a statement to ABC7 News, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said:
"We are confident that we follow relevant government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) guidelines in our decision-making and that our underwriting practices are consistently applied regardless of a customer's race or ethnicity. These allegations against Wells Fargo stand in stark contrast to the company's significant and long-term commitment to closing the minority homeownership gap."
Ellis and the other big-named attorneys say the statement is empty and that they will continue to demand that Wells Fargo takes responsibility.
"We are here on this day, the 69th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education, the seminal civil rights case in the 20th century," Crump said, "Now we're fighting the 21st-century civil rights struggle."
Ellis says a case management conference before a judge is set for May 25.
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