Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton Counties filed the lawsuit Thursday against London-based HSBC in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The lawsuit alleges that HSBC and its affiliates abused minority borrowers by putting them into mortgages they couldn’t afford, or gouging consumers with high-priced loans and high fees when they might have qualified for cheaper
The lawsuit is likely unprecedented in Georgia. It was filed under the federal Fair Housing Act and seeks unspecified damages, the Journal-Constitution reported.
A spokesman for HSBC in New York did not immediately return a message seeking comment from the Journal-Constitution.
The lawsuit alleges that discriminatory practices caused the foreclosure crisis, which disproportionately affected minority borrowers. Predatory loans resulted in higher rates of foreclosure, which depressed overall housing values and reduced property tax revenue, the plaintiffs maintain.
The housing crisis “has caused tremendous tangible and intangible damage” to the tax bases in the three counties and resulted in increased costs related to vacant properties, the lawsuit states.
As a result of depressed tax collections, cities and counties across metro Atlanta have struggled with cuts in service — and in some cases property tax rate increases — to stay above water.