China Merchants Bank Faces Suit Over Racial Discrimination

(Bloomberg) -- China Merchants Bank Co. was accused of discriminating against African-Americans in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a former executive who claims she was fired for blowing the whistle on its conduct.

The Shenzhen, China-based firm’s former head of U.S. corporate banking, Xin Wang, said that she was dismissed after more than eight years for making complaints about discriminatory conduct toward the black community, according to a lawsuit filed in New York federal court on Tuesday.

Wang says she first brought the issue to the attention of management in April 2017 when Morgan Stanley sought more than $26 million in financing from the bank for a $105 million syndicated real estate loan to finance a project in Harlem. The bank approved only $10 million, based on an opinion by its head of risk management that the project’s deficiencies include the neighborhood in which it was located -- "where the African population is more concentrated," according to the suit.

"While there is no place in society for racist stereotypes and discrimination, this is particularly the case for financial institutions that hold access to capital, growth and development," David E. Gottlieb, an attorney for Wang, said in a statement. "China Merchants Bank’s blatant discrimination and then retaliation against Ms. Wang when she raised complaints about this conduct is simply reprehensible.”

The bank said in a statement that the allegations in the suit are without merit and that the company intends to contest them aggressively and expects to prevail.

"Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, and we work very hard to ensure that both our workplace and our lending practices are free from discrimination," the company said. "Our lending decisions are made based on sound risk management and practices, and we take pride in investing in our people and our community."

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