City of Oakland v. Wells Fargo & Co., No. 19-15169 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The City of Oakland filed suit alleging that Wells Fargo engaged in discriminatory lending practices by issuing predatory loans to its Black and Latino residents in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA). On appeal, Wells Fargo challenged the district court's partial denial of its motion to dismiss the City's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
In Bank of Am. Corp. v. City of Miami (Miami I), 137 S. Ct. 1296, 1306 (2017), the Supreme Court held that to establish proximate cause under the FHA, a plaintiff must do more than show that its injuries foreseeably flowed from the alleged statutory violation. Rather, some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged is required. Pursuant to Miami I, the Ninth Circuit held, after reviewing the FHA's text and legislative history, that Congress clearly intended the nature of the statutory cause of action at issue in this case to be broad and inclusive enough to encompass less direct, aggregate, and city-wide injuries. Furthermore, all three of the Holmes factors support the panel's conclusion that it is administratively feasible for the district court to administer the aggregate, city-wide injuries that the City claims it suffered as a result of Wells Fargo's unlawful discriminatory lending practices throughout the City.
The panel held that the allegations in the amended complaint are sufficient to plead that Oakland's reduced property-tax revenues, but not its increased municipal expenses, are proximately caused by Wells Fargo's discriminatory lending practices. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss as to the City's claims for lost property-tax revenues and the district court's grant of Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss as to Oakland's claims for increased municipal expenses. The panel also held that the FHA's proximate-cause requirement applies to claims for injunctive or declaratory relief. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's denial of Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss as to the City's claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The panel remanded for further proceedings.