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Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry

Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry
© Greg Nash

Six Democratic senators introduced a bill Wednesday meant to prevent financial services companies from discriminating against customers.

The Fair Access to Financial Services Act would make it illegal for any U.S. bank, credit union, investment firm, broker or dealer, insurance company, or lender to reject a customer or limit their access to services based on their race, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The measure is spearheaded by Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (Mass.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (N.J.), Cory BookerCory BookerDangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs MORE (N.J), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Democrats expand Senate map, putting GOP on defense MORE (Minn.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Md.). All but Booker are members of the Banking panel.

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The bill’s sponsors say it is intended to bolster the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark law banned discrimination from public accommodations and businesses engaged in interstate commerce but did not specifically mention the financial services industry. 

“Too many Black and brown Americans experience racial profiling and unequal treatment when trying to access services at banks and other financial institutions. Victims of discrimination are not even able to hold financial institutions accountable—it is shameful,” Brown said in a statement.

“It is past time we pass legislation that explicitly outlaws discrimination in our nation’s financial system so that Black and brown people can have complete access to financial services free from harassment.”

The senators leading the bill highlighted several articles from The New York Times, CNN, and The Detroit News that documented alleged cases of racial discrimination by and within banks.

“For far too long, big banks and financial institutions have discriminated against Black and Brown families — denying communities of color the chance to build real economic security. Everyone deserves equal access to our banking system and this bill is a step in the right direction to help root out the systemic racism that has pervaded our financial institutions for decades,” Warren said.

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The House version of the bill will be introduced by Democratic Reps. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis MORE (Ga.) and Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyTrump's controversial diversity order expected to see swift reversal under Biden Companies start responding to pressure to bolster minority representation Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (Ohio), who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion. 

The measure faces uncertain prospects in the GOP-controlled Senate with less than two weeks until Election Day, but it could become an early priority for Democrats in 2021 if they take control of the White House and flip the Senate.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Maxine Waters says Biden win is 'dawn of a new progressive America' MORE (D-Calif.), the first Black lawmaker and woman to hold that position, has focused much of the committee’s work around improving diversity within the financial services industry and bolstering protections against redlining and other forms of discrimination. Waters is closely aligned ideologically with Brown, who would lead the Senate Banking Committee in 2021 if Democrats capture a majority of seats in the upper chamber in November.