The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is stepping up its campaign against lending bias.

The agency said Friday that it has created a new unit that will help examiners determine whether banks are complying with fair-lending rules.

The five economists in the agency's financial access and compliance unit will evaluate home mortgage and small-business lending data for examiners.

The economists also will help banks develop statistical models that identify whether women and minority borrowers were treated differently than white male borrowers.

James D. Kamihachi, senior deputy comptroller for economics and policy analysis, said the agency created the unit because both examiners and bankers were asking for help analyzing mortgage and small-business data for fair-lending violations.

Irene Fang will head the group. She previously was deputy director of the economics and evaluation division.

The unit also will study the financial services needs of households that do not use banks to find out how institutions may better reach these potential customers.

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