Officials: AmEx discriminated against Puerto Rico customers

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two American Express subsidiaries have paid $95 million for discriminating against more than 220,000 consumers in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for at least a decade, officials announced Wednesday.

In a statement, the company acknowledged making the payments but said it did so to avoid a protracted legal battle and it "absolutely does not agree" with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's finding that its practices amounted to discrimination.

The bureau said American Express was ordered to pay another $1 million for practices including charging higher interest rates, imposing stricter credit cutoffs and providing less debt forgiveness and less valuable promotional offers. The bureau said the company also discriminated against some consumers with Spanish-language preferences.

It did not name the subsidiaries.

Officials said the company faces no civil penalties because it self-reported the problem and is cooperating. The bureau said American Express did not intentionally discriminate against customers and that the differences were a result of its management structure.

The American Express statement said the company began an internal review in 2012, reported the issue to the bureau a year later and made $95 million in payments to customers from 2013 to 2016.

"The company decided to settle with them rather than go through years of litigation that would have provided no additional value to any of its customers," American Express said.

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