NASHVILLE -- The Comptroller of the Currency has agreed to accept the settlement offer of a national bank found guilty of discrimination, according to the agency's chief examiner.

But the OCC cannot rule on the case itself, so it is waiting to see whether the Justice Department will go along with the deal, Donald G. Coonley said here Wednesday.

In Talks with Justice Dept.

"We are actively talking to Justice because we think the bank is doing everything it can to fix its problem," Mr. Coonley said.

"If it were just the OCC, we could work it out," he continued. "But it's not just the OCC."

Mr. Coonley made his remarks during a presentation to the National Bankers Association's annual convention and in a follow-up interview with the American Banker.

Mr. Coonley would not name the bank. The case is one of several that banking agencies are working with the Justice Department to enforce antidiscrimination laws.

Offer Called Generous

Mr. Coonley termed the bank's settlement offer "generous." He added that the institution plans on "making customers whole," possibly by forgiving the loans.

"It's a win-win kind of agreement," he said. "But Justice has to be satisfied at the end of the day."

Mr. Coonley would not speculate on Justice's likely reaction. But he said he expects a decision "pretty quick."

Hidden Liabilities

While the discrimination at the bank in question was discovered during an exam, Mr. Coonley admitted that banks uncovering evidence of lending bias on their own are playing with fire.

That information could be used against the bank, he said. In fat, if a bank buys loans from another bank and later finds that bank discriminated, the purchasing bank is liable, Mr. Coonley said.

Mr. Coonley, told the bankers that combating lending discrimination is new territory for the industry as well as its regulators.

"We're going to go through a shakedown cruise together," he said.

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