Black Business Owners Sue Michigan Bank For Purging Their Accounts

Black Business Owners
Many Black business owners find themselves blocked from opportunities given to white business owners.

Black business owners in West Michigan are suing Mercantile Bank. The Black business owners allege that the bank called their loans regardless if they were delinquent or not.

Black business owners claim Mercantile Bank wanted to stop doing business with Black people. Merchantile executed a campaign to destroy the livelihood of African-American business owners in the process.

The Michigan based online newspaper, MLive notes the latest case in a great series written by John Agar who has been following this:

The former owners of the award-winning barbecue restaurant Sandmann’s have joined other black business owners who say Mercantile Bank pushed loans, then abruptly called them in and destroyed their businesses. They contend that Mercantile wanted to be rid of loans held by blacks and destroyed dozens of Grand Rapids-area businesses in the process.

Nearly A Dozen Black Business Owners Allege Discrimination

Agar writes this is the ninth case that has been removed from Kent County Circuit Court. All the cases have been moved to federal court in Grand Rapids. The Sandman case gives the claims more legitimacy. A bankruptcy trustee filed on behalf of the estates of one of the former owners.

Randall Sandifer and Ursula Mann-Sandifer were the restaurant’s former owners. The restaurant’s former owners. They say they met with a bank loan officer Pat Julien in 2004. Julien then set them up in a 20-year, $330,000 construction loan to renovate their restaurant.

The Sandifers say they were up to date with payments until 2008. Some payments were late, but they were never delinquent.

In December 2012, Mercantile called the $326,362.22 mortgage. Mercantile Bank informed the Sandifers they had 30 days to pay. Mercantile foreclosed on the Sandifers. This forced the popular eatery to shutter its doors. 

The Sandifer’s attorney claims Mercantile was willing to work with white loan holders. He writes in his complaint:  

“Mercantile called the Plaintiffs’ debts as part of its ‘concerted’ effort to rid itself of black business borrowers.”

“Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs because of their race by using subterfuge and pretext to get Plaintiffs to pay cash penalties and/or provide additional security for existing debts when the bank simultaneously planned to terminate its banking relationship with Plaintiffs, all without taking the same steps with substantially similarly situated white business borrowers.” 

“What makes Mercantile’s discriminatory ‘concerted effort’ all the more egregious is that, in many cases, Mercantile pushed these loans on many of the minority businesses to begin with, causing them to rely on the financing. Then, the bank aggressively yanked the loans back — leaving the borrowers and their businesses in far worse shape than if they had never created a relationship with Mercantile at all,”

Another group of Black Business Owners filed a similar lawsuit alleging the same thing. Mercantile Bank targeted Black business owners with billboards and target advertising. Mercantile Bank officials even had face-to-face contact with black business owners.


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