Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan During the Countrywide Settlement Press Conference

Department of Justice
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank you. I want to thank my colleagues from the Department of Justice, particularly Attorney General Holder, for their leadership.

Today, we are taking an important step to protect families across the nation, as the Department of Justice reaches a settlement with Bank of America on behalf of families in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

In so doing, we right a wrong. Countrywide, now part of Bank of America, charged more than 200,000 African American and Latino families more for their loans because of their race or ethnicity. Further, Countrywide put more than 10,000 of those families who had qualified for safe loans in the prime market into risky, subprime mortgages -- at the same time white borrowers with similar credit histories were steered into safer, prime loans.

Every family has paid a very steep price for the irresponsibility and recklessness on Wall Street over the last decade.

But no group has experienced the pain of this crisis more than African American and Latino families.

Consider this: between 2005 and 2009, fully two-thirds of median household wealth in Hispanic families was wiped out. 

From Jamaica, Queens, New York, to Oakland, California, strong, middle class African American neighborhoods saw nearly two decades of gains reversed in a matter of not years -- but months.

Any way you look at it, that's an absolute tragedy -- one this Administration refuses to accept.

That's why we have pushed the banks hard to keep responsible families in their homes -- and because we have, foreclosure notices are down 45 percent since early 2009.

That's why, at the Federal Housing Administration, part of HUD, we have withdrawn the approval of over 1,600 lenders to participate in FHA programs -- more than four times the number during the entire tenure of the previous Administration.

And that's why we created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the sole mission of which is to protect ordinary Americans from abuses like these.

Today's announcement builds on these efforts -- as would the so-called "disparate impact" rule HUD recently proposed.

The purpose of this proposed rule is simple:

To strengthen the tools we have to pursue housing discrimination based not just on intent to discriminate but also on whether the facts show that discrimination occurred.

Of course, as historic as this settlement regarding the actions of Countrywide is--indeed, it is the largest fair housing discrimination settlement in history--it won't solve all the problems this housing crisis has inflicted on our economy. 

But it reflects this Administration's belief, as President Obama said earlier this month in Kansas, that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules.

That is what all these efforts are about. That is what this settlement is about -- and it's why I'm proud to stand with my colleagues today. Thank you.


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