The Justice Department announced today a $9 million agreement to resolve allegations that Park National Bank (Park National), headquartered in Newark, Ohio, engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination by “redlining” in the Columbus metropolitan area.

The agreement is part of the Justice Department’s nationwide Combating Redlining Initiative that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland launched in October 2021.

“For far too long the doors to home ownership have been shut for Black families and many other people of color because of unlawful redlining by banks and other financial institutions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When banks fail to provide equal access to lending services in neighborhoods of color, they engage in modern-day redlining and exacerbate the racial wealth gap in our country. The Justice Department will continue to fight to fulfill the promise of our nation’s fair lending laws while tearing down the discriminatory barriers that deny Black people and other people of color access to economic opportunity and homeownership.”

“Let today’s settlement send a very clear message to banks: we will not tolerate discriminatory lending practices and we will hold you accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “We are committed to enforcing fair lending laws, which require financial institutions to provide equal opportunity for every American to obtain home loans and credit. We take very seriously our duty and honor to uphold those laws.”

Redlining is an illegal practice in which lenders avoid providing credit services to individuals living in communities of color because of the race, color or national origin of the residents in those communities. The complaint filed in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio today alleges that, from at least 2015 to 2021, Park National failed to provide mortgage lending services by redlining majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Columbus area. Specifically, the complaint alleges that all of Park National’s branches and mortgage lenders in the Columbus area were concentrated in majority-white neighborhoods and that the bank failed to take any meaningful measures to compensate for its lack of physical presence in majority-Black and Hispanic communities.

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Under the proposed consent order, which was also filed today in federal court and is subject to court approval, Park National has agreed, among other things, to do the following:

  • Invest at least $7.75 million in a loan subsidy fund to increase access to credit for home mortgage, improvement, and refinance loans, as well as home equity loans and lines of credit, in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Columbus area; $750,000 in outreach, advertising, consumer financial education, and credit counseling initiatives; and $500,000 in developing community partnerships to provide services to residents of majority-Black and Hispanic areas that expand access to residential mortgage credit;
  • Open one new branch and one new mortgage loan production office in majority Black-and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Columbus area; ensure that a minimum of four mortgage lenders, at least one of whom is Spanish-speaking, are assigned to serve these neighborhoods; and maintain the full-time position of Director of Community Home Lending and Development, who is responsible for overseeing lending in majority-Black and Hispanic areas; and
  • Conduct a Community Credit Needs Assessment, a research-based market study, to help identify the needs for financial services in majority-Black and Hispanic census tracts in the Columbus area.

Park National worked cooperatively with the department to remedy the redlining concerns that were identified and has agreed to settle this matter without contested litigation.

The Justice Department’s Combating Redlining Initiative is a coordinated enforcement effort to address this persistent form of discrimination against communities of color. Since the Initiative was launched, the department has announced six redlining cases and settlements and secured $84 million in relief for communities of color that have been victims of lending discrimination across the country. This includes a $31 million settlement with City National Bank, the largest in Justice Department history.