Wells Fargo Denies Auto Loans To DACA Residents, Suit Says

Law360 - Dave Simpson

An Illinois man hit Wells Fargo Bank NA with a proposed discrimination class action in California federal court Tuesday, claiming the bank denies auto loan applications from U.S. residents who hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status simply based on their immigration status.

Eduardo Peña said the bank committed alienage discrimination against him and a large number of the 800,000 DACA-status individuals who are financially stable by categorically rejecting their car loan applications because they are not U.S. citizens, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Further, he claims, the bank has not provided accurate written statements to DACA-status individuals explaining why their loan applications were rejected, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

"Wells Fargo's discriminatory auto loan policies are of a piece with the bank's broader discriminatory consumer lending policies," the suit claims. "Plaintiff is similarly ineligible for a Wells Fargo student loan, unsecured credit card, personal loan, and small business loan due to his status under DACA. Wells Fargo has a long history of credit discrimination claims against it."

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In November, Peña applied for a loan through the Wells Fargo website, declaring his non-resident alien status and submitting his Social Security card and work permit, the complaint alleges.

"When he provided his work permit, the representative told him he was ineligible for the loan because his DACA status expired within the loan period," according to the complaint. "Mr. Peña explained that his status would be renewed and that work authorization under DACA is for two-year periods. The representative told Mr. Peña that he could not be approved for an auto loan."

The bank ran a hard credit check on Peña, according to the complaint, finding he had a 748 credit score. By running the hard credit check, Wells Fargo caused a derogatory mark on Peña's credit report, the suit says.

The suit aims to represent two nationwide classes of DACA-status residents whose loan applications were rejected after July 2017.

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Peña is represented by Jahan C. Sagafi, Rachel Dempsey, Ossai Miazad and Michael N. Litrownik of Outten & Golden LLP.

Counsel information for Wells Fargo was not immediately known Tuesday.

The case is Eduardo Peña et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, case number 19-cv-04065, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.