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Swanson v. Citi

October 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel


Plaintiffs Gloria Swanson ("Swanson") and Charles Routen ("Routen") filed an amended complaint with this Court on June 29, 2009. Defendants Andre Lanier ("Lanier") and PCI Appraisal Services ("PCI") and Defendant Citibank filed separate motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint on July 15, 2009. I will address both motions to dismiss in this opinion.


On or about February 4, 2009, Swanson heard an announcement on the television that Citibank was going to "make a concerted effort to get more TARP money" into the hands of consumers. Plaintiffs allege that these public announcements were not sincere, but rather an attempt to downplay bad publicity Citibank was experiencing because of a scandal involving executives' personal use of company jets. Thereafter, Swanson went to Citibank and applied for an equity loan.

When Swanson entered Citibank, she first spoke with Citibank loan representative B. Skertich. Swanson told Skertich that she had previously been denied an equity loan with Washington Mutual (now JPMorgan Chase). Skertich informed Swanson that her husband (Routen) would need to be present to make the loan application. Swanson did not accept this statement and at which point Skertich asked a manager to speak with Swanson.

Citibank Manager Cimino spoke to Swanson, reiterated that her husband needed to be present for the loan application, and also informed Swanson that Citibank's loan criteria was comparatively more stringent than JPMorgan Chase's. At the end of this conversation, Skertich gave Swanson an application to take home and complete, to be signed by both Swanson and her husband Routen.

Swanson returned the next day with the completed application. Skertich proceeded to input Plaintiffs' required information into the computer and verbally confirmed each answer with Swanson. Plaintiffs allege that when the question of race arose, a discussion between Skertich and Swanson commenced regarding the Skertich's mixed race wife and child.

Plaintiffs later received a letter dated February 5, 2009 stating that they had been conditionally approved for $50,000 pending the review of required documents. On February 7, 2009 Andre Lanier of PCI Appraisal Services went to Plaintiffs' home and performed an appraisal for Citibank. On February 17, 2009 Plaintiffs were informed that the appraisal of their home was $170,000 and that they were being denied a loan because there was not sufficient equity in Plaintiffs' home.*fn1 A series of letters followed between Citibank and Plaintiffs whereby Plaintiffs challenged the appraisal. Plaintiffs allege that in 2003 their home was appraised for $260,000. Additionally, Plaintiffs noted that other homes on their block recently sold for $325,000 and $260,000 respectively.*fn2 Plaintiffs also state that Allstate Insurance Company currently insures their home for $236,817. On April 12, 2009 Plaintiffs hired Midwest Valuations to conduct an appraisal of their home. This appraisal valued their home at $240,000.

Plaintiffs allege racial discrimination by Defendants after being denied their loan application. Plaintiffs allege that Citibank intentionally discriminates against the African American community both by discouraging African Americans from applying for loans, and also by undervaluing appraisals to provide a legitimate reason to deny conditionally approved loans. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Lanier and PCI are involved in Citibank's scheme and intentionally undervalued their home's value in their appraisal for Citibank.

Plaintiffs seek damages for fraud under Title VIII of the Civil Rights (the Fair Housing Act), the Equal Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages for Defendants' intentional infliction of emotional distress.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires that I analyze the legal sufficiency of the complaint, and not the factual merits of the case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). I must take all facts alleged in Plaintiffs' complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the Plaintiffs. Caldwell v. City of Elwood, 959 F.2d 670, 671 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiffs, for their part, must do more than solely recite the elements for a violation; they must plead with sufficient particularity so that their right to relief is more than a mere conjecture. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiffs must plead their facts so that, when accepted as true, they show the plausibility of their claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Plaintiffs must do more than plead facts that are "consistent with Defendants' liability" because that only shows the possibility, not the plausibility, of her entitlement to relief. Id. (internal quotations omitted).


A. The Fair Housing Act (amended Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) and The ...

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