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City of Miami sues JPMorgan, claims mortgage discrimination

The offices of JP Morgan in the Canary Wharf district of London, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Simon Newman

By Dena Aubin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The city of Miami has sued JPMorgan Chase & Co, accusing the bank of predatory mortgage lending in minority neighborhoods that allegedly caused a wave of foreclosures during the last decade's housing crisis.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in federal court in Florida, said the country's largest bank engaged in a continuous practice of discriminatory mortgage lending since at least 2004, violating the U.S. Fair Housing Act.

After issuing high-cost loans to minorities in the years before the housing crisis, JPMorgan later refused to refinance the loans on the same terms as it extended to whites, leading to defaults and foreclosures, the complaint said.

The lawsuit came just weeks after the city of Los Angeles filed similar claims against JPMorgan, seeking to recoup damages for lost tax revenue and increased city services needed in blighted neighborhoods.

"The Miami City Attorney's claims are baseless and stand contrary to our long record of providing affordable housing to low- to moderate-income families across the region," JPMorgan spokesman Jason Lobo said. The bank will defend itself against the claims, he said.

Wells Fargo & Co, Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp also face lawsuits by Los Angeles and Miami for allegedly giving minorities home loans they could not afford, resulting in massive defaults.

The banks have contested the claims, saying they have records as responsible lenders.

Among major cities, Miami has led the country in foreclosures, and JPMorgan's practices contributed to its problems, Friday's lawsuit alleged.

Loans in predominantly minority neighborhoods in Miami were about 4.6 times more likely to result in foreclosure than loans in neighborhoods with a majority of white residents, the lawsuit said.

Miami is still being damaged because of the services needed to combat unsafe and dangerous conditions, crime and even gang activity at foreclosed properties, the lawsuit said.

Wells Fargo and Citigroup recently lost bids to have their lawsuits tossed.

A spokesman for the city of Miami did not immediately return a request for comment.

JPMorgan shares fell 0.2 percent to $56.91.

The case is City of Miami v JPMorgan Chase & Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No 14-cv-22205


(Editing by Will Dunham and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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