A California federal court ruled that a lawsuit alleging Wells Fargo illegally denied qualified college students and other applicants loans because of their citizenship or immigration status can go forward, Outten & Golden LLP and co-counsel said today.
U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney of Northern District of California ruled that the plaintiffs can pursue claims against Wells Fargo under a federal law that prohibits alienage discrimination and under a California law that prohibits discrimination based on immigration status. Wells Fargo had argued that federal law permits the bank to discriminate against certain immigrants.
The plaintiffs – who were granted status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, which allows immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the U.S. lawfully – are represented by Outten & Golden LLP and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).
David Lopez, a partner in Outten & Golden’s Washington, D.C. office, said, “This decision affirms that private banks like Wells Fargo cannot ignore their legal obligations to loan applicants not to discriminate based on citizenship or immigration status. Non-citizens who qualify for loans should be evaluated on the same terms and conditions as U.S. citizens when accessing credit for education or living expenses.”
The plaintiffs include Mitzie Perez, an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside, who obtained a Social Security number and work permit through DACA. In August 2016, she applied for a student loan through Wells Fargo’s website. According to the lawsuit, Wells Fargo’s application required disclosure of citizenship status and Ms. Perez was denied a loan based on her response that she is a not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status to include all persons in the United States since 2013 who were denied the right to contract for credit by Wells Fargo because they were not U.S. citizens despite satisfying federal compliance measures.
Wells Fargo’s practices violate Section 1981, Sections 51(b) and 51.5 of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and Section 17200 et seq. of California’s Unfair Competition Law, according to the complaint. Judge Chesney rejected the bank’s primary argument that a separate federal statute that regulates lending governs the civil rights statutes that are the basis of the plaintiffs’ suit.
The case is Mitzie Perez, et al., v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Case No. 17-cv-00454 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. More information about the case is available at: http://www.wellsfargolendingdiscrimination.com/.
Contact: David Lopez, Outten & Golden LLP, 202.847.4400.