Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer on Thursday filed lawsuits alleging discriminatory lending practices against Citigroup and Wells Fargo, two of the nation's largest banks.
The lawsuits, filed in U.S. federal court, allege that the banks engaged in a "continuous pattern and practice of mortgage discrimination in Los Angeles since at least 2004 by imposing different terms or conditions on a discriminatory and legally prohibited basis."
That practice triggered a wave of foreclosures that has damaged the city by driving down property tax revenues and increasing the need for city services, according to the complaints filed by Feuer.
"This lawsuit sends the firm message that we will use every tool at our disposal to fight for all Los Angeles taxpayers and neighborhoods," Feuer said in a prepared statement.
One report estimated that more than 200,000 homes in Los Angeles were foreclosed between 2008 and 2012, with an estimated $78-billion decrease in property values. That translated into property-tax losses of $481 million for the city, Feuer said.
The lawsuits seek to recoup unspecified damages based on the estimated $1.2 billion that the city spent for increased safety inspections, police and fire calls, trash removal and property maintenance as a result of the mortgage crisis.