The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS Group) has entered into a $4.9 billion settlement today resolving federal civil claims that RBS Group’s subsidiaries in the United States (RBS) misled investors in the underwriting and issuing of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) between 2005 and 2008. The penalty is the largest imposed by the Justice Department for financial crisis-era misconduct at a single entity under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, which allows the Justice Department to seek civil penalties for violations of criminal statutes.

The settlement includes a statement of facts that details – using contemporaneous calls and emails of RBS executives – how RBS routinely made misrepresentations to investors about significant risks it failed to disclose about its RMBS. For example:

  • RBS failed to disclose systemic problems with originators’ loan underwriting. RBS’s reviews of loans backing its RMBS (known as “due diligence”) confirmed that loan originators had failed to follow their own underwriting procedures, and that their procedures were ineffective at preventing risky loans from being made. As a result, RBS routinely found that borrowers for the loans in its RMBS did not have the ability to repay and that appraisals for the properties guaranteeing the loans had materially inflated the property values. RBS’s RMBS contained, as its Chief Credit Officer put it, “total f***ing garbage” loans with “random” and “rampant” fraud that was “all disguised to, you know look okay kind of . . . in a data file.” RBS never disclosed that these material risks both existed and increased the likelihood that loans in its RMBS would default.
  • RBS changed due diligence findings without justification. RBS’s due diligence practices did not remove fraudulent and high-risk loans from its RMBS. In fact, RBS executives internally discussed how RBS’s due diligence process was “just a bunch of bullsh**.” For example, when RBS’s due diligence vendors graded loans materially defective, RBS frequently directed the vendors to “waive” the defects without justification. One due diligence vendor, which tracked waivers by most major participants in the RMBS industry, concluded that RBS waived material defects 30% more frequently than the industry average. RBS’s waiver of material defects routinely resulted in the securitization of loans with excessive risk. When it engaged in such waivers, RBS never included enhanced “scratch-and-dent” disclosures that would have alerted investors that loans with excessive risks were included in the RMBS.
  • RBS provided investors with inaccurate loan data. RBS’s due diligence frequently found that loan data – which RBS passed on to investors, who used the data to analyze the risks associated with its RMBS – were riddled with errors. Many inaccuracies made the loans look less risky than they actually were. RBS, however, did not require originators to correct the data errors. In one deal, where RBS identified over 600 data errors associated with 563 loans (including debt-to-income ratios understated by as much as 2700%), RBS failed to disclose these errors even to the originator; instead, RBS reassured the originator that RBS had not required originators to correct data errors in the past and did not anticipate doing so for that deal.
  • RBS failed to disclose due diligence and kick-out caps. To develop and maintain business relations with originators, RBS agreed to limit the number of loans it could review (due diligence caps) and/or limit the number of materially defective loans it could remove from a RMBS (kick-out caps). RBS’s scheme reached its height in two deals issued in October 2007. In both of these RMBS, RBS identified hundreds of underlying loans that carried a particularly high risk of default and would cause losses to the RMBS investors. RBS kept these materially risky loans in the RMBS, without disclosing their inclusion to investors, because RBS had agreed to a kick-out cap limiting the number of defective loans that RBS could exclude from the securities in exchange for receiving a lower price for the loan pool. As a result, over the entirety of its scheme, RBS securitized tens of thousands of loans that it determined or suspected were fraudulent or had material problems without disclosing the nature of the loans to investors.

Through its scheme, RBS earned hundreds of millions of dollars, while simultaneously ensuring that it received repayment of billions of dollars it had lent to originators to fund the faulty loans underlying the RMBS. RBS used RMBS to push the risk of the loans, and tens of billions of dollars in subsequent losses, onto unsuspecting investors across the world, including non-profits, retirement funds, and federally-insured financial institutions. As losses mounted, and after many mortgage lenders who originated those loans had gone out of business, RBS executives showed little regard for this misconduct and made light of it.

U.S. Attorney Lelling, Acting Associate Attorney General Panuccio and FHFA-OIG Associate Inspector General Byrne made the announcement.

This resolution – the largest of its kind – holds RBS accountable for defrauding the people and institutions that form the backbone of our investing community,” said Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “Despite assurances by RBS to its investors, RBS’s deals were backed by mortgage loans with a high risk of default. Our settlement today makes clear that institutions like RBS cannot evade responsibility for the damage caused by their illicit conduct, and it serves as a reminder that the Justice Department, and this Office, will hold those who engage in fraudulent conduct accountable.”

Many Americans suffered lasting economic harm as a result of the 2008 financial crisis,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “This settlement holds RBS accountable for serious misconduct that contributed to that financial crisis, and it sends an important message that the Department of Justice will pursue financial institutions that illicitly harm the American economy and our consumers.”

The actions of RBS resulted in significant losses to investors, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which purchased the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities backed by defective loans,” said Associate Inspector General Jennifer Byrne of the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General’s (FHFA-OIG). “We are proud to have partnered with the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts on this matter.”

These are allegations only, which RBS disputes and does not admit, and there has been no trial or adjudication or judicial finding of any issue of fact or law.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin D. O’Connell, Brian M. LaMacchia, Elianna J. Nuzum, Steven T. Sharobem, and Sara M. Bloom of Lelling’s Office handled the matter.

Lori Lynn Andrew, 49, Cashmere, Washington, the owner of Hartman Escrow, Inc., a real estate escrow firm was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for bank fraud.

Andrew stole more than $2.1 million through a variety of techniques, including making false entries in escrow closing documents, altering accounting records, and depositing checks into the general account instead of the trust account.

According to records in the case, beginning in about January 2011, and continuing until July 2012, Andrew used a variety of means to defraud financial institutions and individual home buyers and sellers who were involved in various real estate transactions.  Andrew made, or had others make, false settlement statements on closing transactions listing false or inflated fees and charges.  Andrew forged signatures on various statements and created false invoices, statements, and bills; she altered and deposited checks to her company account that should have gone to others; and she took client funds from her trust account and transferred them to her personal account for her own use.  Andrew used the money for casino payments, credit card bills, and other personal expenses.  Andrew defrauded individual customers, as well as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi Bank, Chase, and GMAC.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Lori+Lynn+Andrew

In all Andrew defrauded the financial institutions and other customers of $2.185 million.  In July 2012, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions arranged for a receiver to take over the Tukwila, Washington, escrow company after finding evidence of fraud.  Andrew had her license to act as an escrow agent suspended in 2013, and her license has since been revoked. The receiver was able to recover some funds for unsecured claimants, but just over $1 million is still owed to defrauded clients.

U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes made the announcement.

This defendant chose to victimize people when they were buying or selling a home–often the most important financial transaction of their lives,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “Like all real estate escrow agents, the defendant was responsible for ensuring large amounts of money went where they belonged.  When she decided to line her own pockets rather than do her job, she crossed the line and earned the prison sentence that the court imposed today.”

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said, “Every single time you had an opportunity to change your mind and say ‘this is wrong,’ you kept doing it.

The case was investigated by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG).

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Hugo Torres. Mr. Torres is a King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor specially designated to prosecute financial fraud cases in federal court.

 

Daniel Cardenas, 37, Tampa, Florida, was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to court documents, from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, Cardenas and others conspired to execute a wire fraud scheme affecting financial institutions. The goal of the scheme was to sell condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex in Tampa, Florida. To entice buyers to purchase the units, the conspirators offered cash payments to buyers, either before or after closing. Payment of the funds to the individual buyers was neither known to nor approved by the mortgage lenders.

The conspirators made material false statements on loan documents, such as purchase and sale agreements, loan applications, and HUD-1 settlement statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers. The conspirators used several entities to conceal the payments to buyers from the mortgage lenders.

Cardenas’s role in the conspiracy, as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida included but was not limited to preparing, signing, and certifying false and fraudulent loan applications submitted to lenders in order to induce the institutions to provide funding for buyers. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by the mortgage lenders included representations concerning occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.  Cardenas’s participation in the mortgage fraud conspiracy caused approximately $710,000 in losses to the victim mortgage lenders.

Cardenas pleaded guilty on April 24, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Jay Hoffer.

 

Christopher Graeve, Florida, a real estate investor, pleaded guilty today in connection with an ongoing investigation into bid rigging at online public foreclosure auctions in Florida. Graeve is the second real estate investor to plead guilty in this investigation.

According to court documents, from around January 2012 through around June 2015, Graeve conspired with others to rig bids during online foreclosure auctions in Palm Beach County, Florida.

The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected real estate offered at online foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with any remaining proceeds available to the homeowner.  According to court documents, the conspiracy artificially lowered the price paid at auction for such homes. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Christopher+Graeve

Felony charges of bid rigging were filed against Graeve on November 2, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The Department of Justice made the announcement.

In the past several years, the Division and its law enforcement partners have secured convictions of more than 100 individuals for rigging public mortgage foreclosure auctions in six different states, including Florida.

Real estate investors who deal in foreclosed properties should be on notice that the Division will not tolerate the subversion of competition in foreclosure auctions,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division will continue to prosecute antitrust violations that occur at these auctions, and will hold individuals who engage in this conduct accountable.”

Real estate investors who think they can swindle the system to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains beware,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI Miami’s Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will vigorously investigate such schemes.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Miami Division – West Palm Beach Resident Agency.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal I Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-307-6694, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

 

Greisy Jimenez, 50, Methuen, Massachusetts, a real estate broker, was sentenced today in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

Three co-conspirators involved in the scheme have been sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. In June 2018, Jasmin Polanco, 37, Methuen, Massachusetts, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,224,489 in restitution. In May 2018, Vanessa Ricci, 41, Methuen, Massachusetts, a mortgage loan officer, was sentenced to six months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $963,730. In March 2017, Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, Dunstable, Massachusetts, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Greisy+Jimenez

The charges arose out of a scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, Massachusetts in which the purported sellers remained in their homes with their debt substantially reduced. A short sale is a sale of real estate for less than the value of any existing mortgage debt on the property. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that typically occur only with the consent of the mortgage lender. Generally, the lender absorbs a loss on the loan and releases the borrower from the unpaid balance. By their very nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated, and in which the sellers cede their control of the subject properties in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid debt.

The conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater” with homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the scheme, Jimenez, Polanco, Ricci, Bellerose and others submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales, thereby releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts, while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties; in fact, the buyers and sellers were frequently related, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale. The conspirators also submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that were submitted to banks in order to obtain new financing for the purported sales. In addition, the defendants submitted phony “HUD-1 Settlement Statements” to banks that did not accurately reflect the disbursement of funds in the transactions. HUD-1 Settlement Statements are standard forms that are used to document the flow of funds in real estate transactions. They are required for all transactions involving federally related mortgage loans, including all mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Jimenez was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, to three years in prison, four years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $12,500. The court will determine issues of restitution and forfeiture on Aug. 29, 2018. In January 2018, Jimenez pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, New York Field Office; and Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank, Chief of Lelling’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Victor A. Wild, also of the Economic Crimes Unit, prosecuted the cases.

It was announced today that HSBC Securities (HSBC) will pay $26.8 million to settle allegations that it purchased and securitized unfair residential mortgage loans in violation of Massachusetts law.

Today’s case follows others brought by the AG’s Office against investment giants Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, Countrywide Securities, JPMorgan, and Citibank regarding their roles in the subprime lending crisis. In pursuing these cases, the AG’s Office has recovered more than $375 million, including relief for thousands of residents across the state, in connection with securitization claims.

While HSBC did not originate the subprime loans in this case, it did purchase these loans from subprime lenders and securitize them. As noted in the assurance of discontinuance, filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court, the AG’s Office alleges that many of these loans were presumptively unfair under Massachusetts law because they had debt-to-income ratios over 50 percent, included substantial prepayment penalties, had loan-to-value ratios over 97 percent, and included other problematic features.

Under the terms of the settlement, HSBC will pay a $5 million payment to the Commonwealth and compensate governmental entities that allegedly suffered harm from HSBC’s actions, including cities and towns that incurred extra expenses due to the foreclosures caused by the unfair loans, such as Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Springfield, and Worcester, Massachusetts. The remaining $20 million will be made available to eligible homeowners for principal reductions and related payments on the loans of eligible consumers and to assist borrowers who suffered foreclosure.

More than 60 homeowners could be eligible to receive payments in Middlesex and Worcester counties under the HSBC settlement. Approximately 50 homeowners could be eligible to receive payments in Essex county, Massachusetts. Approximately 25 homeowners could be eligible to receive payments in Bristol, Hampshire, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk counties, Massachusetts. Eligible consumers will receive a notice from the Office of the Attorney General. Homeowners with questions should contact Attorney General’s Insurance and Financial Services Hotline at 1-888-830-6277.

Attorney General Maura Healey made the announcement.

HSBC’s securitization practices contributed to a financial crisis that deeply harmed Massachusetts communities and caused families to lose their homes,” AG Healey said. “We will continue to help consumers who were sold toxic mortgages by these banking institutions and are pleased that this settlement will provide significant relief for families that have suffered harm from unsustainable subprime loans.”

The HSBC case was handled by the staff of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Insurance and Financial Services Division, including Brook Kellerman, Burt Feinberg, Madonna Cournoyer, Peter Leight, Lilia DuBois, Diane Prend, and Glenn Kaplan.

SAN FRANCISCO ­— Two former senior executives at Sonoma Valley Bank and an attorney for one of its biggest borrowers were sentenced to prison Friday for their roles in defrauding the bank, costing taxpayers and investors millions of dollars when it collapsed in 2010. Sean Cutting, the bank’s former president and CEO, and Brian Melland, its former vice president and chief loan officer, each received eight-year sentences from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston.

Source: Sonoma Valley Bank executives sent to prison for bank fraud

Ricardo Bentham, 58, Jamaica, New York, has been charged today with grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly conning a 101-year-old neighborhood friend into transferring the deed of his long-time home into the defendant’s name in October of 2017.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendant submitted a quitclaim deed to be filed with the city on October 5, 2017. The document stated that the victim, 101- year-old Woodrow Washington was transferring ownership of his 143rd Street, Jamaica, New York, home which has a value in excess of $50,000 to the defendant for a sale price of $0.

According to the complaint, the victim did not realize anything was awry until he received a letter from the Department of Finance stating that the deed to his home had been transferred to defendant Ricardo Bentham. An inquiry was conducted with the New York City Automated Register Information System which revealed that the document that was filed bears the signature of the Mr. Washington along with a notary stamp and signature of a notary. Mr. Washington stated that the signature on the form is his, however, he is adamant that he never signed any documents in front of a notary. Mr. Theodore White, a 93-year-old notary, who was later questioned by detectives acknowledged that he also knows the defendant from the neighborhood and would often sign documents brought to his home by Bentham because he trusted him. Mr. White, though, said the document bearing his signature was missing the notary seal, which he always added to a document.

Furthermore according to the charges, Mr. Washington identified the defendant as a neighborhood friend who offered to help him collect rent from his tenants. He also stated that he recalled signing documents that the defendant brought to his residence and that some of the forms were blank.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown made the announcement.

District Attorney Brown said, “This is a particularly troublesome case. The defendant was supposedly assisting his centenarian neighbor collect rent from his tenants, but in actuality the helper is alleged to have duped the old man into signing away his home. If the charges are proven true, the defendant now faces prison time for his actions.”

Bentham was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Gershuny on a complaint charging him with second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. Judge Gershuny released the defendant on his own recognizance and ordered him to return to court on August 21, 2018. If convicted, Bentham faces probation to up to 15 years in prison.

The case was investigated by Detective Gloria Castelbanco of the New York City Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation under the supervision of Sergeant Teresa Russo and the overall supervision of Sheriff Joseph Fucito.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Burke, of the District Attorney’s Elder Fraud Unit of the Economic Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Silvana T. Sutich, Accountant and James J. Dever, Supervising Accountant Investigator, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Kristen A. Kane, Chief of the Elder Fraud Unit, Gregory C. Pavlides, Bureau Chief, and Christina Hanophy, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco.

It should be noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and several of its affiliates (Wells Fargo) will pay a civil penalty of $2.09 billion under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) based on the bank’s alleged origination and sale of residential mortgage loans that it knew contained misstated income information and did not meet the quality that Wells Fargo represented. Investors, including federally insured financial institutions, suffered billions of dollars in losses from investing in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) containing loans originated by Wells Fargo.

FIRREA authorizes the federal government to seek civil penalties against financial institutions that violate various predicate criminal offenses, including wire and mail fraud. The United States alleged that, in 2005, Wells Fargo began an initiative to double its production of subprime and Alt-A loans. As part of that initiative, Wells Fargo loosened its requirements for originating stated income loans – loans where a borrower simply states his or her income without providing any supporting income documentation.

To evaluate the integrity of its increasing volume of stated income loans, Wells Fargo subjected a sample of these loans to “4506-T testing.” A 4506-T form is a government document signed by the borrower during the loan approval process that allows the lender to obtain the borrower’s tax transcripts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 4506-T testing involves comparing the tax transcripts of the borrower with the income stated on the loan application. Wells Fargo implemented 4506-T testing on two of its programs. This testing revealed that more than 70% of the loans that Wells Fargo sampled had an “unacceptable” variance (greater than 20% discrepancy between the borrower’s stated income and the income information reflected in the borrower’s most recent tax returns filed with the IRS), and the average variance was approximately 65%. After receiving these results, Wells Fargo conducted further internal testing. This additional testing, performed by quality assurance analysts, was designed to determine if “plausible” explanations existed for the “unacceptable” variances over 20%. This additional step revealed that nearly half of the stated income loans that Wells Fargo tested had both an unacceptable variance and the absence of a plausible explanation for that variance.

The results of Wells Fargo’s 4506-T testing were disclosed in internal monthly reports, which were widely distributed among Wells Fargo employees. One Wells Fargo employee in risk management observed that the “4506-T results are astounding” yet “instead of reacting in a way consistent with what is being reported WF [Wells Fargo] is expanding stated [income loan] programs in all business lines.”

The United States alleged that, despite its knowledge that a substantial portion of its stated income loans contained misstated income, Wells Fargo failed to disclose this information, and instead reported to investors false debt-to-income ratios in connection with the loans it sold. Wells Fargo also allegedly heralded its fraud controls while failing to disclose the income discrepancies its controls had identified. The United States further alleged that Wells Fargo took steps to insulate itself from the risks of its stated income loans, by screening out many of these loans from its own loan portfolio held for investment and by limiting its liability to third parties for the accuracy of its stated income loans. Wells Fargo sold at least 73,539 stated income loans that were included in RMBS between 2005 to 2007, and nearly half of those loans have defaulted, resulting in billions of dollars in losses to investors.

The Justice Department made the announcement today .

This settlement holds Wells Fargo accountable for actions that contributed to the financial crisis,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “It sends a strong message that the Department is committed to protecting the nation’s economy and financial markets against fraud.

Abuses in the mortgage-backed securities industry led to a financial crisis that devastated millions of Americans,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Alex G. Tse. “Today’s agreement holds Wells Fargo responsible for originating and selling tens of thousands of loans that were packaged into securities and subsequently defaulted. Our office is steadfast in pursuing those who engage in wrongful conduct that hurts the public.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort between the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, with investigative support from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no admission of liability.

PHH Mortgage Corporation (“PHH”) has entered into a settlement today with Attorney General Chris Carr’s office to resolve allegations that it violated Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act by charging unauthorized fees to Georgia consumers.

The Attorney General’s office alleges that PHH, a New Jersey-based mortgage servicing and mortgage originating business, marketed various third-party products and services, including insurance products and home warranty programs, to certain consumers whose mortgages it serviced and placed charges for these products and services on consumers’ mortgage bills. According to the Attorney General, many consumers did not even realize they had signed up for these products and services. Likewise, they were not aware that the cost of these items was being added onto their monthly mortgage payments.

In resolution of these allegations of unfair and deceptive acts and practices, PHH has entered into a settlement requiring it to:

  • comply with the Fair Business Practices Act;
  • refrain from soliciting Georgia consumers’ purchase of and/or enrollment in third-party products and/or services;
  • cease all billing for the products and/or services provided and/or fulfilled by third-parties;
  • notify each consumer it is currently billing for products and/or services provided and/or fulfilled by third-parties that the consumer may cancel the remainder of the contract without penalty;
  • pay $25,000 to fund a Consumer Restitution Trust Account, to be administered by the Attorney General, for consumers who paid fees for third-party products and/or services that, due to any of PHH’s solicitation and/or billing practices, the consumer alleges were not owed; and
  • pay $50,000 to the Attorney General’s office in fees, penalties, investigation and litigation costs, and/or for future  consumer protection and consumer education costs. In the event that PHH fails to comply with the settlement terms at any time during a 120-day monitoring period, an additional $50,000 will immediately become due.

“Our office will hold accountable those that use deceptive means to profit from consumers,” said Attorney General Chris Carr.

Refunds for Consumers

Consumers who paid fees for third-party products and/or services due to any of PHH’s solicitations and/or billing practices may be entitled to compensation under the settlement and  should fill out and submit a prescribed claim form, along with supporting documentation, to the Georgia Department of Law. Claim forms must be postmarked, faxed or hand-delivered no later than 5:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 in order to be considered for restitution.

Eligibility

Claims must be submitted by or on behalf of consumers who: pfees for third-party products and/or services that, due to any of PHH’s solicitation and/or billing practices, the consumer alleges were not owed; and have not received a full refund from PHH and/or the third-party provider.

Filing a Claim

Consumers can download a claim form from the Consumer Protection Unit website here.

Completed claims and any documentation, should be submitted by mail, overnight delivery, fax or hand-delivery to:

Georgia Department of Law – Consumer Protection Unit

ATTN: PHH Restitution

2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 356

Atlanta, Georgia 30334-9077

Fax number:  404-651-9018

You may NOT submit the Claim Form by email.

Claims must be postmarked or faxed no later than 5:00 p.m. EDT on August 29, 2018.