The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (where “BATMAN” works) today ordered Prospect Mortgage, a major mortgage lender, to pay a $3.5 million fine for improper mortgage referrals in what the regulator calls an alleged “kickback” scheme.
The lender paid illegal kickbacks for mortgage business referrals. Prospect Mortgage isn’t the only one being fined. The CFPB also dealt out penalties to real estate brokers and a mortgage servicer who took kickbacks from Prospect. These three will pay a combined total of $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,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray (“BATMAN”) said. “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.”
Here are three reasons the CFPB said it is fining 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 again 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.
Just yesterday a client of ours asked about a realtor who was pushing an over-market leasing arrangement for a desk that was to be exclusive but had no security as required by GLB. Further, the individual realtors who worked there openly solicited fees from the broker.
If you have a lease arrangement presently with a realtor, maybe I should take a look?
Nelson A. Locke, Esq.