Tag Archives: real estate settlement procedures act

Prospect Mortgage to Pay $3.5 Million Fine for Illegal Kickback Scheme

The CFPB’s investigation found that ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette accepted illegal payment for referrals

By Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd Blog

kickback bills(February 1, 2017) –  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Tuesday took action against Prospect Mortgage, LLC, a major mortgage lender, for paying illegal kickbacks for mortgage business referrals. The CFPB also took action against two real estate brokers and a mortgage servicer that took illegal kickbacks from Prospect. Under the terms of the action announced today, Prospect will pay a $3.5 million civil penalty for its illegal conduct, and the real estate brokers and servicer will pay a combined $495,000 in consumer relief, repayment of ill-gotten gains, and penalties.

“Today’s action sends a clear message that it is illegal to make or accept payments for mortgage referrals,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We will hold both sides of these improper arrangements accountable for breaking the law, which skews the real estate market to the disadvantage of consumers and honest businesses.”

Prospect Mortgage, LLC, headquartered in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is one of the largest independent retail mortgage lenders in the United States, with nearly 100 branches nationwide. RGC Services, Inc., (doing business as ReMax Gold Coast), based in Ventura, Calif., and Willamette Legacy, LLC, (doing business as Keller Williams Mid-Willamette), based in Corvallis, Ore., are two of more than 100 real estate brokers with which Prospect had improper arrangements. Planet Home Lending, LLC is a mortgage servicer headquartered in Meriden, Conn., that referred consumers to Prospect Mortgage and accepted fees in return.

The CFPB is responsible for enforcing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which was enacted in 1974 as a response to abuses in the real estate settlement process. A primary purpose of the law is to eliminate kickbacks or referral fees that tend to increase unnecessarily the costs of certain settlement services. The law covers any service provided in connection with a real estate settlement, such as title insurance, appraisals, inspections, and loan origination.

Prospect Mortgage

Prospect Mortgage offers a range of mortgages to consumers, including conventional, FHA, and VA loans. From at least 2011 through 2016, Prospect Mortgage used a variety of schemes to pay kickbacks for referrals of mortgage business in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. For example, Prospect established marketing services agreements with companies, which were framed as payments for advertising or promotional services, but in this case actually served to disguise payments for referrals. Specifically, the CFPB found that Prospect Mortgage:

  • Paid for referrals through agreements: Prospect maintained various agreements with over 100 real estate brokers, including ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette, which served primarily as vehicles to deliver payments for referrals of mortgage business. Prospect tracked the number of referrals made by each broker and adjusted the amounts paid accordingly. Prospect also had other, more informal, co-marketing arrangements that operated as vehicles to make payments for referrals.
  • Paid brokers to require consumers – even those who had already prequalified with another lender – to prequalify with Prospect: One particular method Prospect used to obtain referrals under their lead agreements was to have brokers engage in a practice of “writing in” Prospect into their real estate listings. “Writing in” meant that brokers and their agents required anyone seeking to purchase a listed property to obtain prequalification with Prospect, even consumers who had prequalified for a mortgage with another lender.
  • Split fees with a mortgage servicer to obtain consumer referrals: Prospect and Planet Home Lending had an agreement under which Planet worked to identify and persuade eligible consumers to refinance with Prospect for their Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) mortgages. Prospect compensated Planet for the referrals by splitting the proceeds of the sale of such loans evenly with Planet. Prospect also sent the resulting mortgage servicing rights back to Planet.

Under the consent order issued today, Prospect will pay $3.5 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund for its illegal kickback schemes. The company is prohibited from future violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services.

The consent order filed against Prospect Mortgage is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_ProspectMortgage-consent-order.pdf

ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette

ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette are real estate brokers that work with consumers seeking to buy or sell real estate. Brokers or agents often make recommendations to their clients for various services, such as mortgage lending, title insurance, or home inspectors. Among other things, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act prohibits brokers and agents from exploiting consumers’ reliance on these recommendations by accepting payments or kickbacks in return for referrals to particular service providers.

The CFPB’s investigation found that ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette accepted illegal payment for referrals. Both companies were among more than 100 brokers who had marketing services agreements, lead agreements, and desk-license agreements with Prospect, which were, in whole or in part, vehicles to obtain illegal payments for referrals.

Under the consent orders filed today, both companies are prohibited from violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay or accept payment for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services. ReMax Gold Coast will pay $50,000 in civil money penalties, and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette will pay $145,000 in disgorgement and $35,000 in penalties.

The consent order filed against ReMax Gold Coast is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_RGCServices-consent-order.pdf

The consent order filed against Keller Williams Mid-Willamette is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Willamette-Legacy-consent-order.pdf

Planet Home Lending

In 2012, Planet Home Lending signed a contract with Prospect Mortgage that facilitated the payment of illegal referral fees. The company’s practices violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Specifically, the CFPB found that Planet Home Lending:

  • Accepted fees from Prospect for referring consumers seeking to refinance: Under their arrangement, Planet Home Lending took half the proceeds earned by Prospect for the sale of each mortgage loan originated as a result of a referral from Planet. Planet also accepted the return of the mortgage servicing rights of that consumer’s new mortgage loan.
  • Unlawfully used “trigger leads” to market to Prospect to consumers: Planet ordered “trigger leads” from one of the major consumer reporting agencies to identify which of its consumers were seeking to refinance so it could market Prospect to them. This was a prohibited use of credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act because Planet was not a lender and could not make a firm offer of credit to those consumers.

Under the consent order filed against Planet Home Lending, the company will directly pay harmed consumers a total of $265,000 in redress. The company is also prohibited from violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay or accept payment for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services.

The consent order filed against Planet Home Lending is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_PlanetHomeLending-consent-order.pdf

[Source: CFPB press release]

 

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All information contained in this posting is deemed correct as of the date of publication, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained from third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

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CFPB Guidance About RESPA, MSAs, Kickbacks, and Referral Fees

Violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act have resulted in more than $75 million in fines

By Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd Blog

kickback bills(October 22, 2015) – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a bulletin providing guidance to the mortgage industry regarding marketing services agreements. The bulletin offers an overview of the federal prohibition on mortgage kickbacks and referral fees, and describes examples from the Bureau’s enforcement experience as well as the risks faced by lenders entering into these agreements. During the course of supervising mortgage lenders and enforcing federal law, the Bureau has found that marketing services agreements (MSAs) carry legal and regulatory risk for lenders.

“We are deeply concerned about how marketing services agreements are undermining important consumer protections against kickbacks,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Companies do not seem to be recognizing the extent of the risks posed by implementing and monitoring these agreements within the bounds of the law.”

The CFPB is responsible for enforcing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which was enacted in 1974 as a response to abuses in the real estate settlement process. A primary purpose of the law is to eliminate kickbacks or referral fees that tend to increase unnecessarily the costs of settlement services. The law covers any service provided in connection with a real estate settlement, such as title insurance, appraisals, inspections, and loan origination.

The bulletin explains that while marketing services agreements are usually framed as payments for advertising or promotional services, in some cases the payments are actually disguised compensation for referrals. Any agreement that entails exchanging a thing of value for referrals of settlement service business likely violates federal law, regardless of whether a marketing services agreement is part of the transaction.

The bulletin describes a number of legal violations the Bureau has encountered in investigations involving kickbacks and referral fees. For example, the CFPB found a title insurance company that entered into marketing services agreements where the fees paid by the company were based in part on the number of referrals it received, as well as the revenue generated by those referrals. In another case, a settlement service provider did not disclose its affiliate relationship with an appraisal management company and did not tell consumers that they had the option of shopping for services before directing them to the affiliate.

The CFPB’s enforcement actions against companies and individuals for violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act have resulted in more than $75 million in penalties to date. The payment of improper kickbacks and referral fees has been the basis of almost all of those actions. As the bulletin notes, the CFPB intends to continue actively scrutinizing the use of such agreements and related arrangements in the course of its enforcement and supervision work.

The bulletin is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201510_cfpb_compliance-bulletin-2015-05-respa-compliance-and-marketing-services-agreements.pdf

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For more information about OnlineEd and their education for real estate brokers, principal brokers, property managers, and mortgage brokers, visit www.OnlineEd.com.

 All information contained in this posting is deemed correct as of the date of publication, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained by third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

Changes to RESPA and TILA Forms, What You Need to Know Before August 1, 2015

 (Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd) – Changes required by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are coming to the real estate and mortgage industry on August 1, 2015 that real estate brokers need to know about. These changes involve four forms with which you are all very familiar. These four forms are:

1. The Truth In Lending Act’s “Truth In Lending Statement” form;

2. The Truth In Lending Act’s “Final Truth In Lending Statement” ;

3. The Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act’s “RESPA Good Faith Estimate” also known as the “GFE”; and

4. The Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act’s “HUD-1 Settlement Statement”.

Watch this short video for a brief explanation and then head on over to OnlineEd and check for a complete course on this topic in the real estate or mortgage education catalogs.