The recent Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) decision applying disparate impact theory in finding that a group of white borrowers had been discriminated against adds a further layer of confusion to the interplay of various laws to encourage community lending and discourage discrimination. At first blush, the case would seem insignificant in view of the small size of the community bank involved (only $7 million in total assets), the limited number of borrowers entitled to restitution (around 65), and the low overall amount to be refunded (less than $100,000). As compared with the eight- and nine-figure settlements of fair lending and other cases involving mortgages that have been occurring with increased frequency, this matter shouldn't even be on the radar screen. But if it becomes a precedent that is followed in other cases involving the already complex and overlapping myriad fair lending laws and their enforcement by regulators, it could further add confusion to an area that is already too complex and confused.
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