Obama’s African-American clients got coupons, not cash

Stephen Elliott Contributor
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Plaintiffs’ attorneys took home nearly $1 million in Barack Obama’s 1995 class-action discrimination lawsuit against Citibank, but 183 of the 186 plaintiffs did not get a dime.

Three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit — Selma Buycks-Roberson, Calvin Roberson and Renee Brooks –- each collected $20,000. But none of the 18 ordinary, or non-named, plaintiffs that The Daily Caller was able to reach for comment reported receiving any money. This is despite a claim to TheDC by the lawsuit’s initiator, attorney Fay Clayton, that the settlement paid the 186 non-named clients between $770 and $3,250 each. [RELATED: With landmark lawsuit, Barack Obama pushed banks to give subprime loans to Chicago’s African-Americans]

According to the court docket, President Barack Obama was lead attorney for Roberson and Brooks, as well as the second listed attorney for Buycks-Roberson, in the lawsuit, which claimed that Citibank discriminated against African-Americans in its mortgage practices.

The settlement provided a payout for the lawyers, but only the equivalent of coupons to the 183 ordinary — non-named — African-American plaintiffs.

For example, according to the January 1998 settlement document, non-named plaintiffs who applied for a Citibank mortgage “within two years from the date of a Final Judgment approving the Settlement, satisfy the Lending Criteria, as described in Paragraph 33(K), at the time they re-apply, and are approved for a first mortgage loan by Citibank and accept the loan, are entitled to cash or credits against closing costs in an amount between $2500.00 and $3,250.00.” [RELATED: Obama’s Citibank plaintiffs hit hard when housing bubble burst]

The settlement document is titled FH-IL-0011-0008.

“We should have gotten some type of monetary reward from the lawsuit, which we didn’t,” said John Buchanan, one of the clients. “I don’t remember any money being offered since we were discriminated against,” Buchanan said. The bank “should have had to pay.”

Elwood Flowers said, “the attorneys got the fatter part.” All he remembered getting was “a 1.4 inch thick package of legal gibberish.”

Most clients said they didn’t see anything from the lawsuit.

Fellow plaintiff Juanita Malone told TheDC she did not get a payment or a loan from Citibank after the settlement.

Another, Patricia Dixon, said she “didn’t get anything” from the settlement.

Cary Cotten, wife of plaintiff Edward Cotton, said the couple “got nothing” from the lawsuit.

When asked about a payout from the settlement, Don Byas said, “I haven’t heard a thing since” the lawsuit was settled.

Did plaintiff Maudestine McLeary get any financial compensation? “Nothing. I haven’t seen anything,” she said.

Fellow plaintiffs Samuel Wilson, Mary Carr, Bob Currie, Kenneth Hanshaw, Michael Lieteau, John Geoghegan and Arthur Wilson also did not remember receiving settlement payouts from Citibank.

Dale Freeman, a plaintiff who is an operations manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said the settlement did not provide money to those who joined the class-action lawsuit, but did push the bank to help minorities get future loans.

“Here was a settlement that didn’t necessarily go to the people from a funding standpoint, but they made sure that [mortgage] money was allocated to future folks,” he said.

The lawsuit, “Buycks-Roberson et al v. Citibank Federal Savings Bank,” was settled in 1998 when Citibank agreed to pay the plaintiffs, all African-Americans in the Chicago area who claimed Citibank discriminated against them on the basis of their race during the loan application process.

The law firms for the successful plaintiffs split $950,000 of the $1.3 million total payoff from Citibank, of which Obama billed $23,000. A total of $60,000 went to the named plaintiffs, and $360,000 supposedly went to 183 other plaintiffs.

Renee Brooks, one of the named plaintiffs, told TheDC that Citibank provided her with everything it promised.

Buycks-Roberson and Roberson declined to comment.

Hans Bader, senior attorney and counsel for special projects at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDC, “When it comes to class actions, the judicial system has often failed to protect class members from being ripped off by their lawyers (including their use of it for ideological causes).”

The Daily Caller was able to contact 18 of the 186 plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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