|Mercantile Bank of Michigan Accused of |
Discriminating Against Black Business Owners.
Mercantile Bank Sued By Multiple Black Businesses For Discriminatory Treatment In Loan Servicing Tactics
Apparently the Bank worked with struggling white business owners. But YANKED the loans for Black Business owners without affording them equal treatment when they struggled.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Mercantile Bank denied allegations that it discriminated against black business owners.
It asked that federal lawsuits against the bank be dismissed.
The bank is in the process of responding to 10 lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court alleging the bank sought to increase minority lending then took a "zero tolerance approach" when borrowers struggled.
The bank denied discriminating against black-owned businesses in the Grand Rapids area and said that those that failed were among many across the nation stung by the 2008 financial crisis.
The black business owners claimed that the bank worked with struggling white business owners but called in loans of black owners. The bank "purged" its minority business owners after targeting minorities with billboards, advertising and loan officials working in the community, the lawsuits said.
Jeremiah "Jerry" White Jr., who owned Reflections LLC, a beauty salon, and four residential properties, is among the black owners.
His attorney claimed the "bank aggressively yanked the loans back – leaving the borrowers and their businesses in far worse shape than if they had never created a relationship with Mercantile at all."
White obtained a $1 million loan in 2005 to build on Madison Avenue. He ran into trouble in 2008. He felt backed into a corner, handed over the keys to his properties then filed bankruptcy the next year, attorney Jordan Hoyer said.
The bank said White decided he couldn't make payments in 2008. He handed the keys to his property to the bank and stopped making payments. The bank sold the collateral but it didn't cover money he owned. The bank obtained a judgment against him.
"Mr. White declared bankruptcy – without listing any claim against Mercantile as an asset – and obtained a discharge from his debts," attorney Molly McManus wrote in court documents.
"Now, six years later, Mr. White and his former business, Reflections, LLC, contend that Mercantile would have worked with them had they been white, but refused to do so because he is black."