By Jeffery L. Boney
Back in March of this year, the Forward Times wrote an eye-opening article entitled Banking In Houston: The New “Jim Crow” Is There More To Come?, where we highlighted a major federal racial discrimination lawsuit that had been filed against Capital One Bank.
In a stunning ruling against the bank, a federal judge presiding over the high-profile racial discrimination suit by the plaintiffs against Capital One Bank, ruled last week that Capital One Bank’s motion to dismiss all charges would be denied. After granting portions of Capital One Bank’s motion, U.S. District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Alfred Bennett, held that the primary racial discrimination claims against the Bank would not be dismissed and ruled that the case may go forward in the suit.
The ruling serves as a severe blow to Capital One Bank, which has claimed the lawsuit was frivolous.
The lawsuit, which was filed in February 2018 by former Capital One Bank Community Development Banking Senior Vice President of Texas and Louisiana, Laurie Vignaud, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Houston Branch (“NAACP”) and the League of United Latin American Citizens, District VIII (“LULAC”), alleges that Capital One Bank violated four federal laws, including the U.S. Constitution, because the bank decided to only close branches in Black and Hispanic communities, according to the suit. The lawsuit also alleges that Capital One Bank engaged in a conscious and deliberate plan to close banks in Black and Latino communities while opening more branches in White communities.
In addition to that, the lawsuit alleges that the Bank has unwittingly used high profile Black personalities, such as Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee and Charles Barkley to advance its program to relegate minority bankers to only debit-card carrying customers and encourage minorities to use Capital One Bank’s high interest credit cards.
Lastly, the lawsuit alleges that Capital One Bank’s CEO, Richard Fairbank, has made comments suggesting that it was okay for the Bank to lose the business of minority customers.
The ruling also allows the racial discrimination and retaliation claims of Vignaud, the former bank executive named as a plaintiff, to go forward. Vignaud, who had been employed with Capital One for nearly 20 years, alleges she was prematurely relieved of her job duties after her repeated complaints about Capital One Bank’s discriminatory practices.
“This is an important first step in a long fight for justice,” said Vignaud. “I am happy with the ruling and look forward to having a jury review more disturbing evidence of modern-day redlining by Capital One Bank. No bank is above the law.”
Court records also show that the powerful National Community Reinvestment Coalition has asked to join the suit against Capital One. If that request is granted, it would more than likely result in Capital One Bank facing a much larger base of claims relating to its banking practices.
The case is expected to go to trial during the last quarter of 2019 and the Forward Times will continue to follow this case to see what more will happen as a result of this major racial discrimination lawsuit involving one of the country’s top financial institutions. Stay tuned!
This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times.