Unfair Mortgage Lending Practices

In a statement presented today to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Federal Trade Commission described its efforts to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, and discriminatory practices in the mortgage lending market.

As noted in the statement, since the late 1990s the Commission has focused on the most egregious illegal lending practices of nonbank lenders, particularly in the subprime market, bringing 26 law enforcement actions that resulted in almost $345 million being returned to consumers. The agency also has brought dozens of cases alleging discriminatory lending practices, including the unfair pricing of mortgage loans to minority borrowers.

To help consumers protect themselves, the statement noted, the FTC engages in extensive consumer education, in English and Spanish, about deceptive mortgage advertising, buying a home, mortgage discrimination, and steps for avoiding foreclosure and foreclosure rescue scams. The Commission also engages in research and policy development to enhance its consumer protection abilities. Based on research on mortgage disclosures, for example, the agency has recommended reforming federal mortgage disclosure documents to make them clearer and more useful for consumers.

Noting consumers’ particular vulnerability to unfair and deceptive marketing during a mortgage crisis and economic downturn, the statement expressed the FTC’s commitment to continuing its efforts to identify, prosecute, and prevent unlawful mortgage lending practices, including predatory practices that target minority consumers.

The Commission vote to approve the statement was 4-0.