Welcome to guest blogger, Marianne G. Sorensen, an attorney in our St. George office that focuses on real estate law.
Could your (or your employees’) use of social media invite a claim that your lending practices are discriminatory?
“No way!” you state, knowing that you have trained bank personnel in complying with regulations issued under the Fair Housing Act, eliminated any overt evidence of discrimination, and carefully implemented policies to minimize claims of disparate treatment.
Take A Second Look: It may be worthwhile to take another look at all of your marketing messages, including those on social media, reviewed in light of fair lending implications. With fair lending compliance being a priority for examiners, a bank’s internet site is subject to review, as are blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. As with traditional advertising, banks must carefully evaluate their messages on social media platforms to make sure they don’t indicate a discriminatory preference. This precaution also applies to your responses to comments made by others on a blog or Facebook page, which could lead to a perception of endorsement of the commenter’s position.
Inviting Problems? Through the use of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, a fair lending complaint can be shared by a disgruntled customer with a large audience in a very short period of time. Your responses to customers on social media websites are also shared with a large audience who may be interested in seeing how consistent your customer service is and whether there might be a fair lending issue waiting to be exposed. It is not hard to imagine a regulator or potential litigant testing your social media customer service responses by posing as a customer with any combination of ethnic, gender and age characteristics.
Steps to Consider: Have well thought-out social media policies in place and monitor not only what goes out, but what goes on in the virtual world. Prohibit employees from making statements online about the availability of and qualifications for your products or services. Require that employees include a disclaimer whenever they mention the bank’s name, to state that the views expressed are the employee’s personal views, not those of the bank.