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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 BrownCutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal MORE (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate to vote on elections bill Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Progressives fear nightmare scenario over voting rights assault MORE (Mass.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (N.J.), Cory BookerCory BookerHarris casts tiebreaking vote to confirm OPM nominee White House says Biden crime address won't undercut police reform bill Racial reparations at the USDA MORE (N.J), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithUsher attends Juneteenth bill signing at White House Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' Top union unveils national town hall strategy to push Biden's jobs plan MORE (Minn.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes 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. JohnsonBlack Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month Bottom line Schumer waiting for recommendation on Supreme Court expansion MORE (Ga.) and Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyBlack lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Usher attends Juneteenth bill signing at White House Advocates warn against complacency after Chauvin verdict 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 WatersMaxine Waters: Trump, campaign should be investigated for any Jan. 6 role The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Tulsa marks race massacre centennial as US grapples with racial injustice 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.