Supreme Court hears case on states' right to enforce laws against banks

Original source: Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case regarding whether states have the authorize to enforce state fair lending laws against national banks and other financial institutions.

The case, Cuomo v. Clearing House Association, began in 2005 when the state of New York tried to investigate certain national banks operating in the state that it believed were charging minority borrowers higher interest rates than White borrowers. Federal Reserve home mortgage data released that year showed that minority borrowers were given higher-interest mortgages at disproportionately higher rates than White borrowers.

Like his predecessor Elliot Spitzer, who initiated the investigation, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wanted to determine whether banks and other lending institutions were complying with consumer and anti-discrimination laws. The banks refused to turn over their records, arguing that only federal regulators have the power to make them disclose loan information.

However, many civil rights advocates believe that states should take greater initiative in regulating banks because the federal government isn't doing enough to prevent abuse within the mortgage industry. In their amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief (PDF), the Center for Responsible Lending and AARP argued that 'there is significant evidence that enforcement by state regulators has served an important role in protecting consumers against financial practices' and added that 'consumers, communities and the economy would be ill-served by concentrating in one federal agency the authority to enforce [consumer protection laws].'

The District of Colombia and 49 other states also submitted amicus briefs in support of the state of New York.