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DOJ orders Oklahoma bank to invest in minority neighborhoods in wake of redlining accusations

A gavel.
Wesley Tingey

The U.S. Department of Justice is proposing a consent order on a Collinsville bank to resolve allegations of past lending discrimination.

Federal officials say the order combats redlining in Tulsa. It must ultimately be approved by a judge.

American Bank of Oklahoma is accused of redlining and keeping non-white people out of majority white parts of Tulsa because of their race.

“From 2017 through at least 2021 ABOK engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful redlining,” a DOJ complaint says. The bank “avoided providing home loans and other mortgage services in majority-Black neighborhoods. The area that ABOK redlined includes the historically Black neighborhoods in Tulsa that were the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.”

Federal investigators also uncovered internal emails denigrating minorities, immigrants and the neighborhoods where they lived in and around Tulsa. Some even included racial slurs, including the N-word.

“American Bank of Oklahoma engaged in the illegal practice of redlining and failed to serve the diverse members of our Tulsa community as they attempted to purchase homes,” U.S. Attorney Clinton Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said in a statement. “These practices are often hard to identify and prosecute and I want to thank the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division for taking measures to correct these abhorrent business practices.”

Tulsa is a rapidly growing and changing city. An analysis of the 2020 census shows it is majority non-white for the first time in recent memory.

As part of their settlement with the DOJ, American Bank of Oklahoma will invest more than $1.15 million dollars to increase credit opportunities in neighborhoods that aren’t majority white. That includes at least:

  • $950,000 in a loan subsidy fund for residents of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Tulsa area.
  • $100,000 for advertising, outreach and consumer education.
  • $100,000 for development of community partnerships to provide services that increase access to residential mortgage credit.

The bank will also open a new community-oriented loan production office in a historically Black area of Tulsa, employ two mortgage loan officers dedicated to serving Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and host at least six consumer financial education seminars per year, with translation services in Spanish.

On top of that, the bank will also employ a full-time director of community lending to oversee “the continued development of lending in neighborhoods of color in the Tulsa area,” according to the DOJ.

Despite a 27-page court filing including exhibits showing where the bank did not operate in majority-minority neighborhoods for years, the bank denies the allegations. But officials are agreeing to resolve the matter to “avoid the cost and distraction of protracted litigation,” according to a news release.

"We are excited about the opportunity to apply our community banking model in north and northeast Tulsa and look forward to expanding ways we can help members of the communities with their banking and lending needs," bank Chairman and CEO Joe Landon said in a statement.

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Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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