City of Oakland v. Wells Fargo & Co., No. 19-15169 (9th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The City of Oakland sued under the Fair Housing Act, claiming that Wells Fargo’s discriminatory lending practices caused higher default rates, which triggered higher foreclosure rates that drove down the assessed value of properties, ultimately resulting in lost property tax revenue and increased municipal expenditures. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss claims for lost property-tax revenues and affirmed the dismissal of Oakland's claims for increased municipal expenses.
On rehearing, en banc, the Ninth Circuit concluded that all of the claims should be dismissed. Under the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding, Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, foreseeability alone is not sufficient to establish proximate cause under the Act; there must be “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” The downstream “ripples of harm” from the alleged lending practices were too attenuated and traveled too far beyond the alleged misconduct to establish proximate cause. The Fair Housing Act is not a statute that supports proximate cause for injuries further downstream from the injured borrowers; the extension of proximate cause beyond that first step was not administratively possible and convenient. Oakland also failed sufficiently to plead proximate cause for its increased municipal expenses claim.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on August 26, 2020.