Sen. Tina Smith, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation Outlawing Discrimination From Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Tina Smith (D-MN) – a member of the Senate Banking Committee –  joined a group of Senators in reintroducing legislation to prohibit discrimination by banks and other financial institutions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. 

The Fair Access to Financial Services Act would close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the law outlawed discrimination in certain places of public accommodations, it does not cover banks and other financial institutions. This legislation, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would ensure that all people receive equal treatment when trying to access services at financial institutions, and hold these institutions accountable for discriminatory practices.

“Too often, Black, Brown and Indigenous people in Minnesota and across the country experience discrimination or mistreatment when interacting with financial institutions,” said Senator Smith. “We need to root out systemic racism anywhere it occurs, and our legislation would make it clear that discrimination has no place in our financial system. It’s long past time for Congress to take serious action to support people of color’s economic freedom and opportunity. This legislation will help move America forward on the path towards racial justice.”

“Too many Black and brown Americans experience racial profiling and unequal treatment when trying to access services at banks and other financial institutions, and don’t have anywhere to turn to hold financial institutions accountable,” said Senator Brown. “Our legislation explicitly outlaws discrimination in our nation’s financial system so that everyone can access financial services free from harassment and abuse.”

Senators Smith and Brown are joined by Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

The bill has been endorsed by the National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, UnidosUS, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“The purpose of this bill could not be more straightforward. In the same way that discrimination in restaurants, hotels, and other public accommodations has long been unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this bill would make discrimination in banks and other financial services unlawful as well. We welcome its introduction,” said Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The Fair Access to Financial Services Act is a direct response to the numerous incidents of discrimination experienced by Black and brown people when trying to access the financial system. Many of the nation’s largest banks have come under fire recently for racial profiling and other discriminatory practices. JP Morgan Chase Bank is being sued for refusing to open a bank account for a Black customer late last year. Bank of America recently apologized to film director Ryan Coogler after wrongfully assuming he was a bank robber. Wells Fargo came under scrutiny earlier this year for denying more than half of all Black refinancing applicants in 2020.