U.S. Settles $225 Million Credit Card Claim With GE Capital

GE Capital Retail Bank will pay $225 million to settle U.S. government allegations that it discriminated against Hispanic borrowers and deceptively marketed credit card add-on products.

“Borrowers have the right to credit card terms that do not differ based on their national origin,” Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said today in a statement.

GE Capital, which became Synchrony Bank this month, discriminated by excluding Hispanic borrowers from two of its credit card debt-repayment programs, the Justice Department said. The bank also tricked customers into signing up for products that canceled debts in case of unemployment or disability, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said.

The accord -- said by the two agencies to be the biggest in U.S. history over credit-card discrimination -- will give $169 million to 108,000 borrowers in payments or reduction of credit card balances. The bank has already provided about $131.8 million of relief to 84,000 borrowers, the Justice Department said. Another $56 million will go to customers unfairly charged for the debt cancellation products, CFPB said.

The discrimination occurred between 2009 and 2012, and it involved screening borrowers who said that they preferred their communications to be in Spanish or had a mailing address in Puerto Rico, the Justice Department said.

As part of the settlement, the bank also agreed to fix negative credit reports of affected borrowers.

“Nobody should be excluded from credit opportunities simply because of where they live or the language they speak,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement.

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