New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has charged Evans Bancorp in Hamburg, N.Y., with deliberately failing to provide mortgages in minority neighborhoods in Buffalo.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Schneiderman accused the $822 million-asset bank of redlining on the eastern side of the city — home to a majority of the city's African-American population — in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
"Redlining is illegal, discriminatory, and must be made a thing of the past, once and for all," Schneiderman said in a press release Tuesday. "It is crucial that all New Yorkers, regardless of the color of their skin or the racial composition of their neighborhood, be afforded an equal opportunity to obtain credit."
The suit charges Evans with creating a map of its service area in Buffalo that intentionally excluded certain African-American neighborhoods. It also alleges that the bank refused to market to minority customers, and designed loan products to automatically disqualify residents on the city's east side.
Between 2009 and 2012, only four of the 1,114 residential mortgage applications received by Evans were from African-American applicants, according to the release. Eight of the applications were from residents of Buffalo's east side.
"Evans Bank is disappointed to learn that the attorney general has filed a formal complaint against our company regarding residential lending practices," David Nasca, president and chief executive, said in a press release. "We continue to believe these allegations are without any merit, and we intend to vigorously challenge them."
Legal action over the bank's lending practices has been expected for months. The bank revealed in its 2013 annual report that it was under investigation by the state attorney general's office, according to a March report from the Buffalo News.
The bank also said in its second-quarter earnings release that it had set aside $1 million for litigation expenses associated with the investigation.
The lawsuit is part of an ongoing investigation by Schneiderman's office into mortgage redlining across the state, according to his release.