Updated December 1, 2008 – For further information, click here to contact us
Update of December 1, 2008: Robert Rubin has tried to defend his $115 million in payola from Citigroup since 1999 by minimizing his role, while now saying, “I have told Vikram that I will remain part of this and try to be helpful.” So the people who caused the problem just stay on and keep getting paid. Contrary to his claim to be uninvolved, Rubin helped hook up Citigroup’s purchase of notorious predatory lender Ameriquest. A “senior person who has no ax to grind,” he calls himself. It’s time to face the axe, some say…
Update of March 10, 2008: The ACJ notes that in September, Citigroup bought the assets of the mortgage servicing company owned by Ameriquest’s parent, ACC Capital Holdings. It also bought the assets of Argent Mortgage. That deal gave Citigroup the servicing rights for the Andronicas’ mortgage and $45 billion in other loans… A Citigroup spokeswoman said Friday that the lender was awaiting information from the Andronicas to “determine their eligibility for a modification.” Kelly and David Andronica think Citigroup should make things right, especially since the problems with Ameriquest loans were well known when Citigroup decided to buy the Ameriquest servicing company.
Update of December 17, 2007: Too little, too late — nearly two years after the Ameriquest settlement was announced with fanfare by state attorneys general, now the relatively small payments are being made. This is for loans from 1999 to 2005: that is, up to seven years ago. In New Jersey, for example, 9,132 borrowers will receive a total of $12.2 million, according to Lee Moore of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. The total awarded in Pennsylvania was $10.8 million to 12,401 borrowers. You do the math…
Update of October 8, 2007: October’s Mortgage Servicing News reports that “Citigroup has acquired the $45 billion subprime servicing portfolio of Ameriquest Mortgage, a transaction that will help it challenge Countrywide Financial Corp. for the No. 1 spot among B&C servicers… Citigroup also purchased Argent Mortgage, a nonprime wholesale lender that is a sister company to Ameriquest… By purchasing the Ameriquest receivables, Citigroup will grow its subprime servicing portfolio to about $110 billion. At the end of June, CFC serviced $125.6 billion in subprime, ranking first in that niche… ‘Exercising our option to acquire the assets from ACH’s wholesale origination and servicing business allows Citi to secure valuable and scalable platforms in a market undergoing significant change,’ said Jeffrey Perlowitz, head of global securitized markets for Citi’s fixed income, currencies and commodities division, where the assets will reside.”
But why would Argent’s origination capacity “reside” in Citigroup’s investment bank? We’ll have more on this.
Update September 3, 2007: With Subprime Hot Air in DC, Cold-Blooded Citigroup Buys Ameriquest
Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press
As President George W. Bush and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke Friday wrung their hands in Washington about the subprime mortgage meltdown, New York-based Citigroup announced it was buying a chunk of admitted predatory lender Ameriquest. Citigroup is a meta-predator, taking advantage of the foreclosure boom to scoop up one of the most abusive lenders at a temporarily reduced price. The head of Citigroup’s “global securitized markets” unit, Jeffrey Perlowitz, said the takeover “allows Citigroup to secure valuable and scalable platforms in a market undergoing significant change.” Some thought predatory lending was a market being discredited and shrinking. To Citigroup, it’s just change that can be scaled up.
The founder of Ameriquest, Roland Arnall, who has made billions from predatory lending, was nominated by President Bush as Ambassador to the Netherlands. While a few U.S. Senators delayed his confirmation until Ameriquest finalized a settlement with state attorneys general, now Arnall will profit again, selling the remainder of the company to Citigroup. The losers in the deal are the borrowers from whom Citigroup will even more ruthlessly squeeze payments on loans that were misleading and abusive from the start, and future borrowers whom Citigroup will target with the ex-Ameriquest “scalable platform.”
At Citigroup’s annual shareholders’ meeting on April 17, 2007, Chuck Prince stood alone on the stage of Carnegie Hall, as Sandy Weill used to do, and took questions. Inner City Press asked about Citigroup’s 2006 lending record — confining African Americans in New York to higher cost loans 4.4 times more frequently than whites — and about Citigroup’s then just announced proposal for “propping up and taking an option in Argent,” an affiliate of Ameriquest.
“Good question,” Prince began. Argent “is a company that has restructured itself. This is a company that has settled with regulators.” He said it is a situation of “good bank, bad bank” and claimed that Citigroup is only thinking of buying the good part.
But it was Ameriquest that announced reforms, none of which have been implemented at Argent. Prince cut in. “We’re not going to buy anything unless it’s cleaned up.” So in the turbulent five months since, have Ameriquest and Argent really been cleaned up? Or have prices hit bottom, leading Citigroup to pounce? Prince said, “we’ve had reputation issues in the distant past, we’re not going down that road.” And now, while other wring their hands to come off as concerned, Citigroup is rushing headlong with Ameriquest further down the road of predatory lending.
Update of July 16, 2007: The letters and notices of the state attorneys general’s $325 million settlement with Ameriquest have started going out. The possible range of settlements? $123 to $2,418. Of what use is $123 to someone who’s losing their home?
Update of May 21, 2007: From a report last week, 2006 subprime mortgage volume and status of Argent/Ameriquest $25,507 Major layoffs, losses, Citi has an option to buy
Update of May 7, 2007: Ameriquest is up to its old tricks, this time in Washington State. Just as Ameriquest and Argent sued in Texas to block the release to Inner City Press of predatory lending-related document requested under Freedom of Information laws, now Ameriquest and Argent are doing the same out West. And this is the company that Citigroup has propped up and wants to buy…
Update of April 23, 2007: At Citigroup’s annual shareholders’ meeting on April 17, Chuck Prince stood alone on the stage of Carnegie Hall, as Sandy Weill used to do. Prince propped up his presentation with PowerPoint slides and two videos. The first was of Citigroup’s volunteer day in 100 countries, from Guam to Pakistan. The second was of the new “Citi” brand, which Prince described as “representing everything our company stands for.”
Inner City Press asked how these state principles are consistent with Citigroup’s 2006 lending record — confining African Americans in New York to higher cost loans 4.4 times more frequently than whites — and with “propping up and taking an option in Argent,” an affiliate of admitted predatory lender Ameriquest.
“Good question,” Prince began. Argent “is a company that has restructured itself. This is a company that has settled with regulators.” He said it is a situation of “good bank, bad bank” and claimed that Citigroup is only thinking of buying the good part.
But it was Ameriquest that announced reforms, none of which have been implemented at Argent. Prince cut in. “We’re not going to buy anything unless it’s cleaned up.” Prince and Citigroup appear to be in denial. Prince said, “we’ve had reputation issues in the distant past, we’re not going down that road.” We’ll see.
Update of April 9, 2007: In a study of the just-obtained 2006 mortgage lending data, ICP & Fair Finance Watch have identified disparities by race and ethnicity in the higher-cost lending of some of the nation’s largest banks. 2006 is the third year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over the federally-defined rate spread of three percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, five percent on subordinate liens. Among other findings, Argent Mortgage, which Citigroup now has an option to buy. made 117,328 mortgages, of which 107,530 or 91.65% were higher cost loans over the rate spread.
Update of March 19, 2007: Notes from the subprime underground —
Date: 3/17/2007 5:02:16 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Name Withheld in this Format
To: Inner City Press
All of Ameriquest’s retail lending division was shut down this past Thursday (the “New Business Model”), and there were additional mass layoffs across the remaining ACC business lines, including Argent, of which their NY Operations located in White Plains was closed that day as well.
The Orange County Register website has some information, but it’s pretty candy coated. Just talks about how relieved employees that they interviewed were that it’s finally over. Also, the Register mentions their “severance packages,” they did not receive severance packages, they are on the payroll for 60 days only so the company compliant with the Fed & State WARN Acts, beyond that, they just received the standard pay out of vacation & sick time accrued — no severance.
The key line from the L.A. Times’ story on the mass layoffs at ACC / Argent / Ameriquest: ” By drastically cutting costs, the company could be making itself a more viable candidate for a sale.” Our take? This way Citigroup gets the layoffs done before it acquires the company…
Update of March 12, 2007: From Deval Patrick, following his $360,000 a year part-time service on the board of directors of the predatory lender Ameriquest / ACC: “As a former board member, I was asked by an officer of ACC Capital to serve as a reference for the company and agreed to do so. I called Robert Rubin, a former colleague from the Clinton administration and an executive at Citigroup, to offer any insight they might want on the character of the current management… I appreciate that I should not have made the call.”
Update of March 5, 2007: “ACC Capital also said it has secured fresh working capital from Citigroup’s Markets and Banking Division and from ACC’s majority shareholder, who is Roland E. Arnall, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.” Inner City Press: But wasn’t Arnall supposed to be out of business with Ameriquest while serving as (bought) Ambassador?
Update of February 5, 2007: If last week’s media speculation, that Citigroup’s in line to buy the damaged predatory Ameriquest, is true, it will again reveal rifts in the community and consumer advocacy movements. Citigroup has bought many friends, from the time of its Associates First Capital Corp. purchase during which now-CEO Chuck Prince flew around the country telling groups they could send their complaints to his “personal fax number” (which some just call a garbage can). Even now, Citi-shills are singing, “But wouldn’t it be better, if Citi ran the show?” Well, no. Ameriquest is near death, due to predatory lending. Just as HSBC’s (14) billions re-inflated Household to harm more and more consumers, so too would Citigroup’s opportunism reinvigorate the Ameriquest network of sleaze. That said, in fairness to some of Citigroup’s and even Ameriquest’s defenders, it may be that the companies saw it made sense to help the few consumers that these advocates referred. But what percentage of Citi’s and Ameriquest’s victims have been helped? Very few.
Update of January 29, 2007: The lawsuit by Wayne A. Lee against Ameriquest and Roland Arnall sets forth how Arnall and others did not want to clean up Ameriquest, and that the company is now up for sale. But who in their right mind would buy it?
Update of December 18, 2006: Investment bankers, analysts, and others familiar with predatory lending said last week that Ameriquest’s parent ACC has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co as adviser to sell the company and is seeking between $1.5bn and $2bn for the franchise…
Update of January 14, 2007: Last week the Gates Foundation was exposed as investing in Ameriquest / ACC, while it was being sued for widespread predatory lending. In response, Gates Foundation Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Scott told the Seattle Times, “It’s very, very complex. Let’s say I don’t invest in oil companies but I do go and buy gas with my car. Let’s say I don’t buy gas for my car, but I use rubber tires. Where do you draw the line?” Well, an credible line would militate against investing in subprime lenders widely charged with predatory lending. No?
Update of December 11, 2006: ACC, the imploding parent of Ameriquest and Argent, last week announced a plan to sell its subprime auto lender Long Beach Acceptance Corp. for $282.5 million to AmeriCredit. What will they sell next?
Update of December 4, 2006: Who will try to buy Ameriquest and Argent? Some now say “the French.” Word to the wise: c’est toxique….
Update of October 16, 2006: From the mail bag:
Subject: ameriquest question
From: [ ]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
Sent: Mon, 9 Oct 2006 2:08 PM
I have a question regarding the upper level management of Ameriquest and this large penalty they paid. Will any of them do time in prison? How about civil law suits against them to take all their assets and give it to the people who were defrauded. My neighbor is Mary Jo Shelton and I know she was the National VP of Sales. Will she be doing any time? We have not seen her at this house here in Eagan for 5 years (they own several properties in MN), now all of a sudden she’s home every day and volunteering at school. So I did a little research on the internet and “discovered” her involvement with Ameriquest. I knew she worked with them, but I didn’t realize her position, etc. Well she looks great driving around town in her brand new Land Rover…
Update of October 9, 2006: Echoing AGs around the country in the midst of gubernatorial campaign, New Mexico Attorney General Madrid last week issued a press release: “Beginning immediately, consumers can learn more about the national settlement with Ameriquest and can sign up to receive a portion of the settlement, either online or through a toll free number. Consumers who acquired a loan from Ameriquest in the 1999-2005 time frame are eligible to receive a portion of the settlement. The amount the individual consumer receives will be determined by the date of their loan acquisition. Consumers may call 1-800-420-5875 to hear a recorded message or log onto http://www.AmeriquestMultiStateSettlement.com. The settlement was signed by the Attorneys General of 49 states and the District of Columbia, and by banking regulators of 45 states. This is the second largest consumer settlement of its kind in U.S. history, following the national Attorneys General landmark settlement in 2002 with Household Finance International” — that would be HSBC, regarding which Ms. Madrid and most other state AGs continue withholding documents, as they do about Ameriquest…
Update of September 25, 2006:
To: MLee [at] innercitypress.org
From: [Name withheld]
Sent: Thu, 21 Sep 2006 1:23 AM
Dear Mr. Lee: I was previously employed by Argent Mortgage for two and a half years and managed, among other areas, the corporation’s fraud investigation, borrower complaints and repurchase departments. There are currently over 568 open fraud investigations involving hundreds of brokers and hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent loans that are being covered up by top executives in the company. If a broker sustains a certain monthly volume, Argent management looks the other way and, not only does not suspend the bad brokers, but knowingly sells these fraudulent loans on the secondary market to unwitting investors.
I was terminated today and left with just my purse in tow, but I have names of individuals in the company who need to be served with subpoenas to enable them to turn over their spreadsheets and boxes full of documentation and evidence of all the fraud they have found that is being covered up by Argent Mortgage’s executive management. The state regulators need to know the truth about the blind eye Argent turns to the fraud perpetrated on innocent consumers by high volume brokers. They also need to be aware that Argent knowingly bundles these fraudulent loans and sells them as mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street, thereby compromising the SEC, as well as our country’s economic stability.
At a recent fraud seminar attended by hundreds of mortgage lenders in Washington D.C. a week ago, an attorney who works for Argent’s retained law firm, Buchalter Nemer, stood up and told the seminar attendees that the wholesale lenders in the audience had better beware, unless their name is Argent. Argent is safe from investigation because the government got their $325 million settlement from Ameriquest and won’t be looking into Argent, per the settlement agreement. I hope this isn’t true because Argent Mortgage funded over $50 billion in 2005 and is gearing up to fund well over $80 billion dollars of fraudulent loans in 2007.
Update of September 18, 2006: This week we’ll let Mother Jones magazine’s Sept.- Oct. story about predatory lenders in Cleveland, including Ameriquest’s Argent, speak for itself:
“retired steelworker Steve Zsigrai lives with vacant foreclosed houses on either side of him. His ex-wife insisted on moving to the upscale suburb almost 40 years ago. Now, Zsigrai says, “Shaker lives in la-la land.” At a sheriff’s sale in December, Deutsche Bank bought back the modest brick house on his left from Adele Eisner, a massage therapist. On an annual income of just $26,000, she had borrowed $197,200 from Argent Mortgage to refinance a high-interest loan on her new home and pay off other debts. She went into foreclosure less than eight months later, owing Argent $233,000. The bank had loaned her nearly three times the county’s assessed value of her house. Argent sells more mortgages than any lender in Cleveland, and it took just one year to hit No. 1.. In January, responding to complaints that Ameriquest reps had aggressively pushed customers to refinance over and over again and misled many of them about the cost of their monthly payments, 49 states reached a $325 million settlement with the company. Ameriquest agreed to disclose interest rates and fees up front, use independent agents at closings, and refinance loans only if a transaction benefits a borrower. (The Ameriquest settlement doesn’t affect Argent, which was spun off as a separate entity in 2003; both Ameriquest and Argent are now part of a shared parent company, ACC Capital Holdings.) After the settlement was announced, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly — whose opponent in the Democratic primary for governor is on the board of the loan giant’s parent company — called Ameriquest “a very bad company engaged in despicable practices.” The man who presided over those practices was by then already packing his bags. In February, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously confirmed Ameriquest’s founder, Roland Arnall, as ambassador to the Netherlands. Arnall and his wife, Dawn, have given more than $6 million to Republican candidates and organizations since 2000; the Arnalls were honorary finance chairs of the president’s second inauguration….
Update of September 4, 2006: Ameriquest was hit with a class action lawsuit last week in Baltimore City Circuit Court. According to the complaint, Ameriquest instructed its affiliated title settlement companies to charge borrowers an illegal notary fee, and engaged in a scheme to receive kickbacks on that fee. The real estate settlement statements given to borrowers at closing identified a $250 fee payable to Baltimore-based JM Closing Services Inc. as a notary fee, the suit alleges. JM Closing was “formed solely to facilitate illegal payments and kickbacks to Ameriquest” and, in most cases, “did not actually provide any notary services to Ameriquest mortgage clients who paid for such services,” the complaint says. It just goes on and on…
Update of August 14, 2006: From the mail bag —
Sent: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 3:14 PM
From: [Name withheld in this format]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
Just found your website on Ameriquest. I guess that explains how they appraised our house at $72,000, and when we contacted another lender to refinance, their appraiser gave an estimate of $46,000.
Update of July 3, 2006: The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois has granted a temporary injunction, the first tangible result in a multidistrict litigation brought by consumers against a major mortgage lender for violations of a variety of federal lending laws. (In re Ameriquest Mortgage Co., No. 05-CV-7097 (N.D. Ill). The size of the MDL will depend on how many potential class members accept the AGs’ settlement offers.
The District Court’s initial order in the MDL required the lender to issue notice to borrowers with Truth in Lending Act claims in the MDL against Ameriquest. The lender must alert the borrowers that they may face foreclosure before a decision on pending motions for class certification and a preliminary injunction is reached. We’ll see.
Update of June 26, 2006: From the LA Times report on ACC’s fallen earnings: “In addition to Ameriquest Mortgage, ACC also includes a larger affiliate, Argent Mortgage Co., which provides subprime loans through independent mortgage brokers rather than its own in-house sales force. Other affiliates are Town & Country Credit Corp., a small retail lender; Long Beach Acceptance Corp., a subprime auto lender; and AMC Mortgage Servicing Inc., a specialist in billing and collecting loans.” So why was Ameriquest’s “larger affiliate” left unreformed?
Update of June 19, 2006: Close observers note that the lawsuits (finally) filed last week show that Ameriquest disclosed to the state AGs that Ameriquest had no pricing grid, and thus that all so-called “discount points” paid did not reduce the interest rate, but were pure predatory profit…
Update of June 12, 2006: From the Berkshire Eagle (of Pittsfield, Mass.) of June 10, a notice of what was in all probability a predatory loan: “Deutsche Bank National Trust Co, Ameriquest Mortgage Securities Inc., AMC Mortgage Services Inc. and Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. Trust sold property at 19 South Carolina Ave., Pittsfield.” Ameriquest and Deutsche Bank – quite a combination…
Update of June 5, 2006: It now emerges that ACC Capital Holdings last year paid $360,070 to board member Deval Patrick, whose staffer says this was for having attended about four or five board of directors meetings and acting as ACC’s liaison in the settlement discussions with 49 attorneys general over predatory lending which required “four or five special briefings” for the board. That’s over $36,000 per meeting…
Update of May 29, 2006: From NMN — Ameriquest Mortgage, which three weeks ago closed all of its 229 retail branches, is planning for a substantial decline in production over the next few months, company executives told National Mortgage News. The lender anticipates that its origination volume will fall dramatically for three to six months as it re-engineers its direct-to-consumer channel toward four regional call centers in Arizona, California, Connecticut and Illinois…The Orange, Calif.-based company said its predictions on originations affect only Ameriquest and not its wholesale affiliate, Argent Mortgage. ‘Argent is unaffected by this,’ said Adam Bass, senior executive vice president and vice chairman of ACC Capital Holdings, the parent of both units.” Convenient, isn’t it, that the one channel of ACC that is covered by the reforms in the AGs settlement now reduces its volume, with the uncovered and unreformed broker channel doesn’t slow down at all…
From the mailbag, to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch from Gatlinburg, TN —
… I have Power Of Attorney for my father who is 68 years old and resides in Gatlinburg, Tn. He and my mother who at the time was dying of cancer and Ameriquest knew this refinanced their home in July of 05 because they were convinced by a mortgage specialist that because they were one month behind on their current mortgage they were going to lose their home. Ameriquest falsified income documents and showed rental income where there was none. My mother passed away in January of this year and now this loan is 4 months behind because my father who’s total income even when my mom was alive was maybe 2000.00 per month cannot make the payment of 1500.00 per month. I have all of the documents from Ameriquest that they sent to him and am now talking with an attorney because he will have to file Chapter 13 in order to stop the foreclosure and give me time to sell his home. [All told,]my parents received 3,500. and Ameriquest paid some of their smaller bills. Ameriquest made over 15,000 on this loan….
Update of May 22, 2006: In the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, in which Ameriquest has become a major issue, the AG/candidate said, “there is no evidence that this predatory company has changed.”
Update of May 15, 2006: Even before closings all its retail offices, ACC in 2005 made only 38% of its subprime loans through the retail channel, which alone is covered by the AGs’ purported reforms. Why let 62% of the business off the hook? Ask the AGs… Fresh from announcing the closing of its retail offices, Ameriquest has been identified as the biggest forecloser in Boston, hauled in to meet with the mayor about the problem…
Update of May 8, 2006: Regarding Ameriquest’s shutdown of its retail offices (thus dodging reforms in its predatory lending settlement with the state AGs), all we can say is “we told you so” — including being the first to report the impending layoffs, based on emails we received from (ex) employees…
Update of May 2, 2006, 7 p.m. — From Bloomberg news, 5:39 p.m. Eastern: “Ameriquest Mortgage Co.’s parent, ACC Capital Holdings, plans to close all of its 229 retail branches and eliminate about 3,800 jobs…ACC’s regional centers in California, Arizona, Illinois and Connecticut will finish processing loans approved by its Ameriquest and Town and Country Credit branches and originate new mortgages. Corporate functions will be centralized at ACC’s headquarters, the company said in a statement. Spokesman Chris Orlando declined to provide financial information about the company.” Typical… Reuters at 5:49 p.m. reported that “Ameriquest said the changes were in compliance with a settlement under which it agreed in January to pay $325 million to clear up claims that its lending practices abused customers in 49 U.S. states.” In compliance with the settlement? We’ll see.
Update of May 2, 2006, 3 p.m. — This just in:
From: [Name withheld]
To: AmeriquestWatch [at] innercitypress.org>
Sent: Tue, 2 May 2006 11:39:29 -0700
Your source appears to be correct. Emails have been sent out to all of my colleagues, managers & supervisors in the appraisal department of Ameriquest Mortgage that effective immediately all Ameriquest and Town & Country Credit branches will be shut down.
If true, the reforms in the settlement with the state attorneys general would be moot, and only the unreformed Argent would continue. We’ll see.
Update of May 2, 2006, 9 a.m. — overnight Inner City Press received anonymous messages predicting major layoff announcements at Ameriquest today. Here’s a sample email, predicting a bit more:
Subject: Ameriquest sold?
From: [Name withheld]
To: AmeriquestWatch [at] innercitypress.org
Sent: Tue, 2 May 2006 07:44:19 +0000
My husband used to work for Ameriquest and he found out tonight (through a reliable source) that Ameriquest has been sold and as of noon tomorrow their offices will be closed. Of course most employees have no idea they are about to lose their jobs…sounds like something they would do.
Update of April 24, 2006: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has conducted a comparative study of 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, this time focused on New York City, and has found that the largest subprime lender to African Americans in NYC in 2005 was Ameriquest and its affiliates including Argent, which made 6394 loans in NYC in 2005, 4656 (or 72.8%) of them over the rate spread. Ameriquest recently settled charges of predatory lending for $325 million, while leaving its Argent affiliate entirely unreformed.
Update of April 17, 2006: Continued sale of loans: in the first quarter 2006 tables, Ameriquest Mortgage came in ninth, after placing $7.8 billion in ABS (asset backed securities). Among the securitizers of Argent’s loans is JPMorgan Chase…
Update of April 10, 2006: The 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch received in late March from Ameriquest, reveal that in 2005, Argent made 220,069 higher cost loans over the rate spread, while Ameriquest Mortgage made 122,868 such loans. (The Federal Reserve has defined higher-cost loans as those loans with annual percentage rates above the rate spread of three percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, five percent on subordinate liens.)The reforms announced in support of the predatory lending settlement with the attorneys general cover barely 35% of ACC’s high-cost lending…
Update of April 3, 2006: With the Attorneys General’s focus limited to Ameriquest Mortgage, Fitch last week put affiliates Argent and Olympus on Ratings Watch Negative — specifically, Classes M9, M10 and M11 of the ARSI series 2004-PW1 Ameriquest Mortgage Securities, on the grounds of “a deterioration in the relationship between credit enhancement and expected losses.”
Update of March 27, 2006: From the department of Justice-delayed-is-Justice-denied — it’s been reported that even those victims of Ameriquest (but not Argent) Mortgage who are entitled to the attorneys general’s restitution wouldn’t receive a dime until at earliest 2007, since “the funds won’t be distributed until the entire amount is collected in quarterly installments over the course of a year, said Thomas Papageorge, head of consumer protection for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.” (LA Times, March 22). Meanwhile Inner City Press’ Dutch sources tell of a combative press conference between new US Ambassador Arnall and Dutch journalists — “It’s not going to end well,” this source has predicted…
Update of March 20, 2006: Update of March 20, 2006: More sample litigation against Ameriquest, this time from Tennessee, Henderson County to be exact, where Jimmy and Florence Grice are suing Ameriquest and appraiser Rick Hyatt for $1.1 million, accusing Ameriquest of conspiring with Hyatt in October 2003 to inflate the worth of the Grices’ house.” He (the appraiser) said our house’s price was double what it was worth,” Florence Grice told the Jackson Sun. “It was properly appraised for $67,500, and it was originally appraised for $130,000 by Ameriquest.”The Grice suit states that Hyatt’s inflated appraisal of their house was predetermined” to allow the Grices to obtain a refinancing loan of $110,500 at 11.784 percent interest. “Ameriquest told the Grices that if they made six months of mortgage payments at $1,064 per month, the company would again rewrite the loan at an interest rate between 4 and 5 percent, according to the suit. After making the six months of required payments, Ameriquest did not reissue the Grices’ loan for the lesser percentage rate, which would have lowered their monthly payments to the “$400 range,” the suit said. Unable to continue paying the $1,064 per month mortgage, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, to whom Ameriquest sold the mortgage, foreclosed on the Grices’ home.” On that, there are more questions arising about Ameriquest and Deutsche Bank – watch this space.
Update of March 13, 2006: The settlement is not a solution, as reflected for example in this South Florida news item last week
Update of March 6, 2006: From the states’ Ameriquest settlement, kudos to Inside B&C Lending for noting this provision about which loans are covered, requiring the Attorneys General to “renegotiate this provision” after monitor Mike Moore files 2007 and 2008 reports — “in these negotiations, the parties may agree to increase or decrease the margin over Treasury yield or they may agree to a different standard entirely.” This bears watching… From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of Feb. 26, a sample warranty deed from ” Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., trustee of Ameriquest Mortgage Securities Inc., to Michael Kirkland and Teresa Kirkland, Lot 6, Villa View Estates, Siloam Springs, $172,000, signed Feb. 7.” Deutsche Bank and Ameriquest…
Update of February 27, 2006: The issue of ACC Holdings / Ameriquest having doled out Rolling Stones concert tickets to politicians and other involved in the January 2006 predatory lending settlement has spread in mainstream media from Nevada to Massachusetts to Maryland. Meanwhile, confusion about the limited scope of Ameriquest’s / ACC Holdings’ predatory lending settlement extends to and/or is caused by those involved in the settlement. In a Feb. 23 conference call, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller called it a good settlement, while speaking about a report which described the settlement as being by ACC Holdings “and its subsidiaries including Ameriquest” – no mention of the exclusion of ACC’s large Argent Mortgage unit. While the call included a question-and-answer, this question was not able to be asked. The eleven who were allowed to ask questions included trade publications, two reporters who blurred mortgages into payday lender, and a radio reporter who said she couldn’t find the report on the website. When asked why more questions weren’t allowed, the public relations firm listed as the contact said that “there were two other reporters we couldn’t fit in,” then claimed that there were 27 who had wanted to ask questions. But since only 11 were allowed, that would leave 16 out in the cold. When asked to explain, the p.r. flack said haughtily that he wasn’t in charge of the queue. Who was, then? When asked how to ask Iowa AG Miller a question (about the exclusion of Ameriquest), the p.r. flack said AG Miller has his own press people. Quite an operation…
Update of February 20, 2006: Flowing from a flim-flam partial settlement, Ameriquest founder Roland Arnall’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands went through without even any additional debate. From California, Arnall’s nephew and ACC vice president Adam Bass said, “We are pleased that Mr. Arnall’s nomination to be the ambassador to the Netherlands has been confirmed by the United States Senate. We take great pride in knowing that our company’s founder will be representing our country abroad and know he will serve with honor and distinction.” What country does Household International’s ex-CEO Aldinger want?
Consider how little of ACC Capital Holdings’ business in Cleveland is covered / reformed by the AGs’ settlement – the 2004 Cleveland volumes of loans to African Americans (Argent 2270 versus only 56 by Ameriquest Mortgage) and Latinos (Argent 176 versus only 16 by Ameriquest Mortgage). In Cleveland in 2004, Ameriquest Mortgage made only 54 refinance loans to African Americans, while Argent made 1015 refinance loans to African Americans. As we’re noted for other areas, most recently Connecticut, the settlement’s exclusion of Argent is even more problematic as a fair lending matter…
Updated February 13, 2006: Looking more closely into what the attorneys general’s settlement excluded, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch has examined the sample state of Connecticut. Ameriquest had its license suspended in the state for a time; Connecticut’s attorney general appeared on ABC Nightline the day of the settlement, talking tough. Well, in Connecticut in 2004, Argent was a larger lender to both African Americans and Latinos than was Ameriquest.
Ameriquest made 286 loans to African Americans, 168 of them over the rate spread.
Argent made 485 loans to African Americans, 286 of them over the rate spread.
Ameriquest made 242 loans to Latinos, 133 of them over the rate spread.
Argent made 631 loans to Latinos, 334 of them over the rate spread.
The government’s numbers reflect that ACC Capital Holdings’ largest lender to people of color in Connecticut was left uncovered and unreformed by the settlement.
Meanwhile, more on the Argent layoffs: ACC refused to confirm to journalists the locations of the cuts, but it’s known that many are in White Plains, where ACC had been growing like gangbusters (or a boiler room operation). ACC bought in the driver Danica Patrick, to quasi-bless (or cover for) the operation. And now the cut-backs. And what’s Danica Patrick’s view? We’ll see.
Update of February 6, 2006: In the run-up to Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has analyzed mortgage lending patterns in the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area in the most recent year for which data is available, 2004. Ameriquest Mortgage in 2004 made 381 loans to African Americans in the Detroit MSA, 315 of them over the rate spread. Meanwhile, Ameriquest’s affiliate Argent Mortgage, which the state attorneys general left out of the settlement and reforms, made 2673 loans to African Americans in the Detroit MSA in 2004, 2142 of them over the rate spread. So the settlement covers less than 12.5% of ACC Capital Holdings’ loans to African Americans, and an even smaller percentage of ACC’s higher cost loans over the rate spread.
In other media, from Utah’s Deseret Morning News of Feb. 2:
“All Marian Paul wanted was a $4,000 loan. Instead, the 73-year-old Native American widow ended up with a $60,000 high-interest-rate loan from Ameriquest Mortgage Co., according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Now, with the loan in default, Paul faces the threat of losing her Salt Lake City home to foreclosure. The complaint alleges that after Paul contacted California-based Ameriquest, two representatives of the company showed up at Paul’s home unannounced on the evening of March 24, 2005, at 10:30 p.m. With only a bathroom light working in the house, the Ameriquest agents moved a table into the hallway by the bathroom and requested that Paul sign loan documents, promising her that she would save a lot of money, the suit says. Paul, who has cataracts and does not read English well, asked if she could keep the documents so her daughter could read them to her. But the sales agents said no…”
Another indication of how much the attorneys general missed is reflected in Indian Country Today’s January 31 article about the settlement:
“Ameriquest was a top 20 lender to American Indians in 2004, and Argent (not named in the investigation) ranks fifth. Together they would comprise the third-largest mortgage lender to Indians in the country, and their 2004 cumulative total was more than $1 billion. Ameriquest, a retail lender with physical branch offices, loaned $348 million to American Indians in 2004, its HMDA filing shows. That was the 17th largest in the country. Argent, a ‘wholesale’ lender that does business with local mortgage brokers, loaned $800 million… These were huge increases from the firms’ 2003 Indian mortgage lending, a record year overall for mortgage lending in the country. That year, Argent reported making $94 million in loans to Indians, for 20th place, and Ameriquest $62 million, placing it 31st, according to HMDA data.”
So Argent impacted more consumers than its affiliate Ameriquest Mortgage in 2003, as well… The Seattle Times of January 30 quoted “David Huey, the [Washington State] assistant attorney general who negotiated the Ameriquest agreement [that] it’s better to settle and make sure the company pays some damages than to fight a long and expensive court battle and risk Ameriquest paying nothing.” Mr. Huey said the same thing about leaving Decision One out of the December 2002 Household/HSBC settlement, which ignored the leverage provided by the then-pending HSBC-Household acquisition, just at the AGs here have pretended that Roland Arnall’s tied-up nomination to be ambassador to the Netherlands didn’t provide leverage. Why did they agree to a “release” clause that they admit won’t be understood. Again, from the Seattle Times: Huey called the release ‘a disaster in terms of understanding. I was the guy that was pushing for plain English and understandable terms,’ he said. ‘I certainly wasn’t personally pleased with the wording of the release.’” Then why sign off on it?
And last week Inner City Press got yet another form letter from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office: “Thank you for your continued patience regarding your public records request received on May 2, 2005… we anticipate needing another 20 business days to complete your request.” The request is for documents about Ameriquest and Argent, and they’ve been sending the same form letter since June…
Update of January 30, 2006, 8 p.m. — One week after announcing a $325 million predatory lending settlement by three of its subsidiaries, ACC Capital Holdings on January 30 has reportedly laid off 16% of the workforce of its non-covered subsidiary, Argent Mortgage. So, analysts wonder, will Ameriquest’s settlement be paid by eliminating what few levels of oversight exist in Argent Mortgage’s subprime lending process? The layoff reports have reached Inner City Press from impacted employees, one of whom writes:
Subject: Argent Layoffs
Sent: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 16:39:48 -0800 (EST)
From: [Name withheld]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
Argent has laid off 16% of their workforce, approximately 1250-1500 [Editor’s note: see below for 2/1/06 update] in job cuts that took place this past Friday and Today. The positions include mostly production jobs, but cuts were also made within their corporate staff. No sales positions were eliminated. One of the biggest changes to come from this consolidation has been the elimination of set-up and doc draw employees. Underwriters will perform the set-up function, and funders will assume the duties of the doc-drawers. Customer service levels and turn time may be affected by these changes.
Layoffs by Location:
200 Doc-drawers and set-up workers in White Plains, NY
~100 Doc-drawers and set-up workers in Schaumburg, IL
Subject: Argent Update 1/30/06
Sent: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 00:26:48 +0000
From: [Name withheld]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] iinnercitypress.org
I thought you would be interested to know that Argent Mortgage laid off approximately 16% of its workforce today. Luckily, I still have a job, but I would like to see what you write about it. I find your site very informative.
Beyond the kind words, one of the questions raises by the specific job-functions that have reportedly been targeted for the layoffs is whether, just after three subsidiaries have settled predatory lending charges, the non-covered subsidiary should be eliminating what oversight it has of its lending process. What will the attorneys general (or the U.S. Senators considering the nomination of ACC founder Roland Arnall to become U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands) or most importantly the consumers impacted by ACC and Argent have to say about these strangely-timed layoffs? Only time will tell…
In other media, North Carolina’s attorney general’s spokeswoman has tried to explain the loopholes in the settlement by telling the Charlotte Observer that the settlement was necessarily “limited to activities over which Ameriquest had direct control.” We note that by laying-off 15% of the employees at Argent, ACC can claim to have even less control over Argent’s high-cost subprime mortgages…
[Editor’s Update 1: late on the afternoon of Jan. 31, ACC’s spokesman confirmed by email the Argent layoffs, reported 24 hours earlier by Inner City Press. He wrote that “this consolidation increases our efficiency.”]
[Editor’s Update 2: on February 1, ACC emphasized to Inner City Press that while the 15% layoff figure is correct, the individual who first wrote in to us with the employee number over 1,000 was wrong, that the number is 600. Duly noted — along with ACC’s argument that that Argent does not, even cannot, control the mortgages it makes, much less now with 600 fewer employees.]
In other media:: In an interim snapshot of the chaos, the Boston Globe last week quoted the Massachusetts attorney general that ACC Capital Holdings “is a very bad company engaged in despicable practices” – entirely true. But since other attorneys general have an agenda to declare the company (or parts of it) ready for business by consumers, the California AG’s spokesman was quoted by the AB, “We believe that the reforms mandated by this settlement should increase the comfort level of consumers who are considering getting a loan from the company.” But what about Argent? Developing…
Update of Jan. 24 – Parts of the largest subprime mortgage lending conglomerate in the United States, ACC Capital Holdings Corporation, yesterday announced a $325 million predatory lending settlement with the attorneys general and regulators in 49 states. While many states’ attorneys general heaped praise on the settling company, there are reasons for consumers to be unsettled, critics say.
Chief among these reasons is the exclusion of ACC’s largest subprime unit, Argent Mortgage, from any of the reforms in the settlement, despite the fact that Argent makes more of ACC’s high-cost loans than its affiliates Ameriquest, Town & Country or Bedford/AMC. As in the attorneys general’s larger 2002 settlement with HSBC’s Household International unit, the distinction seems to be between retail loans and those made through mortgage brokers. But with so many of the abuses in the subprime lending industry being in the broker channel, settlements which leave unaddressed these problems can hardly be said to reform and improve the industry.
Even this limited settlement raises questions about the due diligence performed by the investment banks which have helped package Ameriquest’s loans and sell them as mortgage-backed securities, including the three largest banks in the United States: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Each of these three banks has securitized Ameriquest loans, while claiming to screen out predatory loans. With today’s settlements, these banks previous defenses of their practices must be inquired into, critics say.
But who will do the inquiring? Today’s business press largely missed or ignored the loopholes in the settlement. ACC Capital Holdings or “Ameriquest” was widely described as the largest subprime lender in the United States, without mentioning that what makes it the largest is Argent Mortgage, which is not covered by the terms of the settlement. The Los Angeles Times reported that “advocacy and community groups… praised the conditions imposed on Ameriquest” – without mentioning Argent.
The LA Times also predicts smooth sailing for the nomination of ACC’s founder Roland Arnall to become U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands: “Sen. Sarbanes has indicated that if Mr. Arnall would settle this matter with the attorneys general, he would not object to or seek to block moving forward on this nomination,” Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sarbanes, said… “Because a settlement was reached, Sen. Obama will not seek to block Mr. Arnall’s nomination,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama. But not only does the settlement not cover or reform ACC’s largest subprime unit, Argent – the settlement is also not final, until it is reviewed by a court. Ironically, some of the same members of Congress who are questioning the bypassing of courts and over-concentration of power in the executive branch are in this case conveniently ignoring judicial oversight of this tentative settlement. As noted, Arnall is a billionaire who makes both federal and state political campaign contributions, funded at least in part by ACC’s high-cost loans. So what does $325 million buy? Beyond a coveted ambassadorship, carte blanche to keep gouging consumers, at least through Argent Mortgage.
Update of January 23-24, 2006: Earlier today, the largest subprime mortgage lending conglomerate in the United States, ACC Capital Holdings Corporation, announced a $325 million predatory lending settlement with the attorneys general of more than 40 states. Almost immediately, questions were raised as to why the settlement does not cover ACC’s subsidiary which made the most high-cost loans in 2004, Argent Mortgage.
The settlement comes at a convenient time for ACC and its founder, Roland Arnall. In two weeks, the company plans a major multi-million dollar advertising campaign connected to the National Football League’s Super Bowl XV in Detroit. Arnall has been nominated to become the United States ambassador to the Netherlands. He has seen his confirmation stalled for months due to the pending settlement. But given the perceived loopholes in the settlement, critics question whether Arnall’s nomination should be forward in the U.S. Senate.
In 2004, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is available, ACC’s Ameriquest Mortgage made 185,833 loans, while its Argent Mortgage unit made 215,403 loans, more than half of them over the federal regulators’ high cost definition, of three percent over comparable Treasury securities on a first lien, and over five percent on a subordinate lien. Studies of the data have shown that ACC and Argent direct a much higher percent of their high cost loans to African Americans and Latinos than is true of other, prime-priced lenders.
Inner City Press in mid-2005 submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to many states’ attorneys general, for copies of consumer complaints against ACC and Argent. ACC’s legal department opposed the release of any information, resulting in ongoing litigation, including in Texas.
ACC and its predecessors have previously purported to reform their practices, as far back as 1996 with the Department of Justice and Office of Thrift Supervision (when the company was named Long Beach Mortgage), in 2000 with the Federal Trade Commission, and since. Among those questioning the settlement are class action lawyers, by means of a press release. Consumer protection advocates, however, emphasize the need for binding reforms at ACC including Argent, and not only monetary settlement for past loans. This is a developing story.
Update of January 23, 2006, 8:30 a.m. EST: Both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post have reported that now comes the Ameriquest settlement, the LA Times reporting that it covers Ameriquest Mortgage, Town & Country and the ex-Bedford, AMC (ACC’s smallest unit) – that is, that it does not cover Argent, which is ACC’s largest subprime lending unit (see below). While awaiting confirmation of that huge loophole, the fact that ACC is a serial settler, having previously committed to reform and then still abusing consumers, gives reason to be dubious about the whether ACC (including but not only Argent) will not simply continue to gouge and defraud consumers in the future. Developing… For or with more information, contact us.
From the 2004 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data:
2004 loans by Ameriquest = 185,833
2004 loans by Argent = 215,403
2004 loans by Town & Country Credit Corp. = 10,462
Update of January 17, 2006: Lobbying disclosure forms filed January 10 in Utah reveal Ameriquest giving Rolling Stones concert tickets valued (with a dinner) at $200 to nine legislators — and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Since Ameriquest is on record as negotiating a predatory lending settlement with the state attorneys general, might this not be a conflict? Developing…
Update of January 9, 2006: As Ameriquest tries to finalize a too-narrow settlement with state attorneys general, a sample from this week’s mailbag:
Subject: Ameriquest refinancing
Sent: Thu, 05 Jan 2006 14:54:30 -0500
From: [Name withheld]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
I refinanced my home in 2004 approximately October with Ameriquest Mortgage through their local office. At the time my job hours had been cut in half and I needed to refi to consolidate debts and needed cash out to hold me until my situation changed.
My loan officer was Kathleen Lewis and she approved me over the phone, within 10 minutes actually, did an on-line appraisal on my property and said she could close in 10 days. I was thrilled. The only thing about the loan that was not perfect was that I was told I would be on a fixed interest loan for two years and then it would become variable. Kathleen said in two years come back to them and they would put me on a fixed 30 yr loan. In the meantime, I was to clear an erroneous item on my credit report in the amount of $3500. This was my mother’s nursing home bill by Ensign. After a year of trying to deal with them I decided to forgo that for the moment and get my home refi-ed while the interest rates were even lower.
While looking for lenders I was told by one of the loan officers when she heard my loan was with Ameriquest that they had class action lawsuits going on. I checked to see the reason for the suits and found that everything that happened to these other Ameriquest customers happened to me.
I was told two year fixed changing to variable for the balance of the mortgage, that when I came back to them in two years they would refi AT NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE FOR CLOSING COSTS and get me on a 30 yr fixed. I was told my existing loan would be at 5.6% and when I went to sign papers it was 5.9%. I was told there was no pre-payoff penalty and there was to the tune of $4120. I found out later that the loan was for 3 yr fixed not two years, my closing costs were astronomical, around $11,000 or more. For instance the notary charge was $250.00.
To top it off, I called them about redoing the loan and they flat out said they don’t do my type of loan anymore (manufactured home on my property) and were very rude and at that time they told me there was a penalty for early payoff. I couldn’t believe it. I do feel they lied and pushed me through the loan process…
Update of January 3, 2006: Inquiries into pending class actions against Ameriquest have resulted in, for example, one pending in Minnesota concerning notary fees, reportedly Twite v. Ameriquest Mortgage Company, case number CV 05-2210 PAM/RLE.
Update of December 26, 2005: From this week’s mailbag:
Date: 12/23/2005 1:36:14 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [Name withheld]
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
I am a former employee of Ameriquest and I can confirm all the things that were in your article. I have seen it all. Loan officers are sometimes pushed so hard to meet a quota that they will manipulate borrowers into doing loans that have no real benefit to them…. Ameriquest states to be the sponsor of the American Dream and it constantly preaches do the right thing. In the every day life of an Ameriquest employee, the only dream is Ameriquest’s and doing the right thing isn’t always being done. We were pushed to work 12 hour days, never leave the office for lunch, and work on Saturdays. Month ends were all about working until midnight just to get an approval for a loan that would be back dated and closed the next day(just so it would count for the current month). Now, that I am on the outside I finally see on the bad things that were being done in our office. Title companies removing multiple liens just to close loans. Appraisers pushing the value on properties just to get a loan done.
Update of December 19, 2005: Compared to the number of consumers it’s ripped off, Ameriquest’s repeatedly-reported proposed settlement of $295 million is woefully inadequate. So to the proposed reforms (which would leave in place Ameriquest’s misleading advertising, that lures those seeking the American Dream into a morass-like nightmare). So why would the attorneys general sign off on it? We’ll see. From the mailbag:
Date: 12/14/2005 11:52:57 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
…Your website and its contents have been my link to sanity during an 18 month ordeal with Ameriquest. I have been dealing with their customer resolution specialist… for 6 months after threatening to file a lawsuit and cc same to press, they acknowledged they wrote a loan of no benefit to me, offer a rewrite but refuse to refund me the excess interest, foreclosure fee, closing costs of bad loan, etc (funny how it is a TILA violation to refi a mortgage without a benefit to the borrower but they ADMIT NO WRONGDOING and DENY LIABILITY). get this- they admit they do not have my signature on final loan docs! I have some interesting findings to share- my foreclosure was actually with Ameriquest and Deutsche Bank.. I am appalled that a tentative settlement is being reached with 33 states and want to know where the indictments are.
Our thoughts exactly. We’d like to hear more from this correspondent.
Update of December 12, 2005: Ameriquest’s Arnall’s defenders now include New Mexico governor (and presidential hopeful) Bill Richardson… And from the mailbag:
Subject: ameriquest info
Date: 12/8/2005 2:15:12 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [Name withheld] To: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org
I am currently wanting to put in an offer for a house that is listed with Ameriquest mortgage securities inc as the owner. It was owned by an individual woman for about 20 years and then last fall, Ameriquest is shown as the owner right after another buyer was listed and at the same time, her three years back taxes were paid. My guess would be that they either foreclosed on her or her house was sold to an individual at a real estate tax sale for being delinquent. All that aside, I am very interested in the house, but it is of course listed as is with Ameriquest and I am concerned based on their reputation about doing any business with them.
Update of December 5, 2005: Another jury has found Ameriquest to be predatory, this time in Oklahoma. From the Tulsa World of December 1:
“Melba ‘Mark’ Gillean shouldn’t have responded to a letter she received in the mail five years ago, she said Wednesday. She didn’t know it then, but her response to the advertisement for loan rates from Ameriquest Mortgage Co. would lead to foreclosure attempts against her and bad credit reports that weren’t warranted. Gillean’s vindication came this month, when a Tulsa County jury awarded her nearly $5 million in damages…The jury’s decision included a verdict of $3 million in punitive damages against Ameriquest.”
What’s the response, from Ameriquest’s defenders? We’ll see.
Update of November 28, 2005: The Baltimore Sun last week editorialized in favor of blocking Arnall’s nomination to become U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. In Los Angeles, the new mayor has had to return illegal contributions from Ameriquest (alright, it was a “gift basket”). The LA Times last week correctly noted that As head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Deval L. Patrick brought a case against Roland E. Arnall’s mortgage lending company for allegedly piling extra charges onto home loans for minorities, women and the elderly… But in a twist, Patrick… recently wrote the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Arnall’s behalf. ‘He really stepped forward,’ Patrick… said of Arnall’s willingness to address the charges raised against Long Beach Mortgage Co., which evolved into Ameriquest. “He used the experience to make a better company.” That’s funny – after settling in 1996 and supposedly “us[ing] the experience to make a better company,” Ameriquest in 2005 is under investigation by thirty-some states for more predatory lending…
Update of November 21, 2005: The following arrived in Inner City Press’ email box on Thursday, November 17:
Subj: Ameriquest Layoffs?
Date: 11/17/2005 5:04:22 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [ ]
To: AmeriquestWatch [at] innercitypress.org
FYI – I was just at the corporate headquarters for Ameriquest mortgage on Town & Country Road in Orange, Ca. They have security guards posted on all the floors, I ask and was told that they were having massive layoffs in this building and several others throughout Orange County…
The next day’s L.A. Times reported: “The corporate parent of Orange-based Ameriquest Mortgage Co. said Thursday that it would lay off 10% of its nationwide workforce — about 1,500 employees — as the long-running housing boom and demand for home loans cooled off. ‘The mortgage industry is entering a more challenging phase of rising interest rates,’ ACC Capital Holdings Corp. said in a statement. ‘In cyclical industries such as mortgage lending, periodic workforce reductions are not uncommon’… After benefiting for years from a booming housing market, mortgage lenders face an industrywide slowdown as a rise in interest rates has damped demand for refinancings and new loans. The Mortgage Bankers Assn. on Wednesday said its market composite index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, slipped last week to 657.6. It is down 13.7% from a year ago.”
Question (not asked in the LA Times’ story) — might not these layoffs have something to do with Ameriquest’s predatory lending troubles?
Update of November 14, 2005: While scandals swirls about the use of Ameriquest’s corporate jet, and Arnall tries to sneak through Senate confirmation on party lines (with tricks), Ameriquest’s ex-consultant(s) and current Board member(s) might want to consider this sample finding: At Ameriquest Mortgage Company, for conventional first lien loans, a higher percentage of upper income African American borrowers were saddled with high cost rate spread loans than was the case for moderate income whites. Still want to confirm, or to fly that jet?
Update of November 7, 2005: Even in the face of Freedom of Information Act requests by Inner City Press, and inquiries by the Federal Reserve, Bank of America still blacks-out its answers to the Fed about the terms of its dealings with Ameriquest Mortgage Corporation, which include “whole loan trading”… On the (continuing) ICP data analysis front:
Ameriquest’s 2004 loans in the Nashville MSA: 1942
Ameriquest’s loans at or over the rate spread: 1242
% of Ameriquest’s loans at or over rate spread: 64%
Across the aisle: on November 1, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) cited concerns about ongoing state investigations into Ameriquest. Hagel’s switch tied the Foreign Relations Committee vote, 9-9. But then Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) threw out nine proxy votes from Senators not in attendance. Counting only the votes of those committee members who were physically present at the hearing, the nomination was approved, 8-2. Developing…
Update of October 31, 2005: A vote confirming ambassadors last week did not, as it turned out, include Ameriquest’s Roland Arnall. His written submissions to the Senate have stated, of the investigations by thirty or more state attorneys general: “The precise timetable is difficult to predict, but we anticipate a final resolution by the end of this year.” We repeat: the mere payment of a fine is not resolution. There’s a need for binding (and monitored) injunctive relief…
Update of October 24, 2005: As reported by the LA Times, at last week’s hearing on the nomination of Roland Arnall to be the United States ambassador to the Netherlands, “Arnall attributed the delays in concluding the settlement to the difficulties of dealing with so many regulators and to the many details involved. But he said ‘the most important aspect’ had been resolved with Ameriquest’s decision to set aside $325 million.” We disagree — the most important aspect would be binding injunctive relief, to cease and desist from what have been Ameriquest’s practices (interestingly described here.) Also, reported in last week’s Cleveland Scene: “The FBI began investigating predatory-lending cases involving Argent, according to Dennis Ginty of the Ohio Department of Commerce.” Will this put Arnall on ice?
Update of October 17, 2005: Asked last week about the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance cease-and-desist order against Ameriquest’s Argent unit, Adam Bass, the senior executive vice president of ACC Capital (and the big boss’ in-law), tried a Household-like positive spin: “This is a broad, industrywide issue, and we are happy to be at the forefront of continuously working to eradicate the problem.” Then, when asked “whether Argent would apply any of the practices listed in the Georgia order in other states where it does business, he said, ‘We will evaluate as we go forward.’” That’s being “happy to be at the forefront”? Not even applying the anti-fraud practices consented to in Georgia to other states?
Update of October 10, 2005: At a recent industry conference, Ameriquest’s new vice president for regulatory affairs Rodrigo Alba bragged that the Federal Reserve’s findings that only 2% of the 8,853 HMDA reporting lenders need further scrutiny will go a long way toward blunting criticism that the industry is biased towards minorities. “I honestly believe that the language in the report will serve to neutralize the heated rhetoric,” Alba predicted. “It has already caused consumer groups to back off,” he said. Or is that, sell out? This bragging is unseemly from a company under investigation in 30 states for predatory lending.
Update of October 3, 2005: Yet another settlement, this time with the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, whose spokesman has said that Ameriquest’s broker unit Argent “was doing business with unlicensed individuals. Regarding Ameriquest itself, consider this complaint, sent to Inner City Press by the Washington State AG’s Office: “I refinance my home with Ameriquest… We noticed that we were charged $914 for title insurance.” And then it turned out that Ameriquest did not pay off old creditors as it had promised — making the consumer even more “subprime” than before…
Update of September 26, 2005: We’ve looked closer at Ameriquest’s 2004 lending record, this time in the Nashville MSA, considering which loans are subject to a rate spread (3% higher than comparable Treasuries on a first lien, and 5% on a subordinated lien) —
Whites: 1417 originations, 872 over the rate spread (61.54% of loans
over the rate spread)
African Americans: 329 originations, 253 (76.9%) over the rate spread
— 1.25 times higher than for whites
American Indians / Native Alaskans: Nine origination, seven (77.78%)
over rate spread — 1.26 times higher than for whites…
Update of September 19, 2005: Now here’s a scam: Roland Arnall says he will resign as chairman of Ameriquest and cede his wife control of his companies if by some new madness he is confirmed as ambassador to the Netherlands. First of all, Ameriquest’s predatory record under Arnall should disqualify him from representing the U.S.. Second, handing management to your wife is hardly a blind trust. In this case, maybe Arnall should give control to his ex-wife… [ICP note: pardon the Page Six tone of our Ameriquest Report this week.]
Update of September 12, 2005: From the Ameriquest files, another complaint (naming names) — “I responded to a pop-up ad on the Internet. John Van Der Graf then called and we discussed a cash-out refinance to reduce our debt. Mr. Van Der Graf suggested a 9.25% adjustable rate mortgage. Our current mortgage was at 7.5% so we hesitated to do this. The supervisor, Terrell Richard I believe, got on and we talked. He assured me that if we refinanced the home with this loan, we could, in 12 months, refinance back to the mid-5’s if we were not late on any payments… We did refinance, paying numerous fees (loan discount fee $3450.49; appraisal fee $350; tax-related service fee $70, flood search fee $16, lender’s processing fee $629, Admin to Ameriquest Mortgage $239, application fee $360) and when we called back to refinance [a year later], Ameriquest told me neither employee remained with their company and they did not know of any program where we could do what their employee had said. Leaving me stuck with a 9.35% ARM that is 4% points over the current market.”
That’s how they do it… For further information, click here to contact us
Update of September 5, 2005: In Louisiana in 2004, 72.6% of Ameriquest’s mortgages were over the Federal high-cost rate spread (3% over Treasury securities on a first lien, 5% on subordinate liens). In Alabama in 2004, 74.17% of Ameriquest’s mortgages were over the rate spread. And, highest of the high, in Mississippi in 2004, 78% of Ameriquest’s mortgages were over the rate spread. And now? Click here for ICP’s Gulf Coast Watch.
Update of August 29, 2005: The predators’ profits, per the LA Times: “ACC Capital Holdings Corp., the holding company for Ameriquest Mortgage and other operating companies, recorded a pretax profit of $1.38 billion last year on $4.13 billion in revenue, according to financial statements obtained by The Times.”
Update of August 22, 2005: Last week it was reported that Ameriquest plans to offer $1.5 billion in asset-backed securities supported by high-cost home equity loans… And then, through another vehicle called Park Place, it will issue yet more securities, $1.13 billion worth, through Bank of America and RBS Greenwich Capital, among others. Meanwhile Ameriquest, while setting aside over $300 million to settle predatory lending charges including in New York, has just signed a lease for 3,500 square feet at 444 Merrick Road in Lynbrook on Long Island. More predatory lending?
Update of August 15, 2005: After months of Ameriquest-caused delay, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has received a four-page ruling from the Texas AG’s Open Records Division, stating among other things that
“the OAG states that the Consumer Protection and Public Health Division is currently investigating Ameriquest… for potential violations of the Texas Deceptive Practices – Consumer Protection Act… Generally, however, once information has been obtained by all parties to the litigation through discovery or otherwise, not section 552.103(a) interest exists with respect to that information. Thus, information that has either been obtained from or provided to the opposing parties in the anticipated litigation is not excepted from disclosure under section 552.103(a) and it must be disclosed.”
We’ll see… From the N.Y. Post’s intrepid Fredric U. Dicker: “Gov. Pataki has taken a $25,000 contribution from a powerful California company hoping to end a New York investigation of its alleged ‘predatory’ lending practices. [New York’s] and other attorneys general… had initially pushed for a $500 million penalty against the company. While not directly involved in the talks, the Pataki-controlled Banking Department weighed in on Ameriquest’s side by supporting a lower settlement figure, said a source close to the case.”
Update of August 8, 2005: in the L.A. Times of August 7 we’re told that “in 1997, Arnall sold the part of Long Beach Savings that worked through outside brokers. He kept the part that made loans directly to consumers and renamed it Ameriquest. Now, Ameriquest Capital and its subsidiaries employ more than 15,000 people at about 300 U.S. offices, generating $82.7 billion in loans last year… Arnall has kept the company private, employing family members in key posts. Brother Claude E. Arnall, 60, formerly headed a unit. His second wife, the former Dawn Mansfield, 47, whose background is in commercial real-estate management, has been Ameriquest’s co-chair since about the time of their marriage in 2000. Nephew Adam J. Bass, 39, is the company’s vice chairman.” Note that Long Beach’s wholesale operation was told to Washington Mutual (where WaMu now claims that it must be analyzed separately, not combined with WaMu’s other units). And that Adam Bass is Arnall’s nephew? Who knew… The LA Times continues: “If the Senate confirms Arnall as ambassador to the Netherlands, he would be required to resign as chairman of Ameriquest, though he would remain the principal owner.” A predator as diplomat? We’ll see…
Update of August 1, 2005: While Ameriquest seeks to settle on the cheap with state attorneys general, Inner City Press received last week additional complaints against Ameriquest, including by consumers who had purportedly been made whole by Ameriquest. The consumer wrote to Ameriquest’s Lori A. Maimone on Town & Country Road: “Please note that I am totally dissatisfied with the settlement…I really had no choice but to accept your offer as my attorney wanted most of the loan proceeds as retainer to pursue this… We will be looking to refinance as soon as possible again as we do not want to do business with Ameriquest for any length of time. Had I known this would turn into such a mess, I would have pursued any of several other offers I had received.”
Ameriquest responds with respect to this “purported dissatisfaction with the settlement, Ameriquest has no comment.” Proud sponsor of the American Dream — oh we forgot, that’s copyrighted…
Update of July 28-29, 2005: On the afternoon of July 28, Ameriquest disclosed that it is setting aside $325 million, saying this is “is based on extensive discussions with the states and represents the company’s best estimate of its maximum financial liability for a comprehensive resolution of this matter.”
The immediate question was: why did Ameriquest jump the gun and announce a settlement before the AGs did? A cynic inferred that Ameriquest was still negotiating, making this figure public to put pressure on (some) AGs to accept it. But from Des Moines, the Iowa Attorney General issued this statement: “We understand that Ameriquest has announced that related to our discussions it has recorded a provision of $325 million in its financial statements. The states do not disagree with Ameriquest’s actions in this regard.”
Ameriquest claims it was required to make the disclosure, even though it is not a publicly-traded company, in connection with a bond prospectus. Perhaps. Another cynic noted that on the same afternoon, the White House formally nominated Ameriquest’s owner to become U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands. Low lands indeed… Meanwhile, also on this same afternoon, the Texas Attorney General’s Office’s letter extending its time to rule on the Freedom of Information / Public Information Act request for the 41 boxes of documents about Ameriquest being withheld by that office was received by the requested, Inner City Press. (No cynics here — just stoics).
The more substantive question is how meaningful the reforms / consent decree might be, and how they would be enforced. Also, it’s worth nothing that while this figure is below the $484 million paid by Household International, Ameriquest’s volume of subprime mortgage loans is higher (highest, in 2004). There are doubts and questions about this settlement, that will be answered and/or addressed (even, attacked) once despite this lurching process it become public. Developing…
Update of July 25, 2005: From among the complaints against Ameriquest that Inner City Press has received, this statement by Ameriquest itself: “Ameriquest is affiliated with the originating lender, Town and Country Credit Corporation. Ameriquest also serviced the loan from origination to August 23, 2002, when the loan was sold, servicing request, to Washington Mutual. Accordingly, Ameriquest filed the response regarding the origination issued on behalf of our affiliate and the investor.” So Washington Mutual buy (“invests in”) Ameriquest loans… The above is in connection with a loan where the borrower says that TCCC/Ameriquest over-recorded the borrower’s income, a pervasive complaint against Ameriquest. Developing…
Update of July 18, 2005: Ameriquest last week settled for $8 million the Connecticut Banking Department charges that it violated its previous anti-flipping “commitment.” This does not resolve the ongoing state attorneys general investigation. On that, Inner City Press last week received a copy of Ameriquest’s second brief against the release of documents that ICP has requested from the Texas AG’s Office. The Ameriquest brief is crudely smeared with magic marker. Ameriquest makes a claim for exemption “in conjunction with constitutional and common law rights of privacy.” A sentence begins, “Additionally, it includes” — followed by magic marker. This “brief” is by Ameriquest Senior Counsel Diane E. Tiberend, who appeared with Tom Noto and John P. Grazer in a Louisiana incorporation filing in 2002, for Ameriquest Newco, Inc., and in this letter in which the Connecticut Department of Banking stated that it was “unable to find that the financial responsibility, character, reputation, integrity and general fitness of [Ameriquest] and of its officers, directors and principal employees are such as to warrant belief that the Applicant’s business will be operated soundly and efficiently, in the public interest.” Not in the public interest — that’s Ameriquest…
At deadline, ICP received yet another letter from Ameriquest, this one adding that “evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations is likewise not admissible.” But this is not about the admissibility in court of evidence — it is about whether the records came be withheld under Texas’s Public Information Act. We say no…
Update of July 11, 2005: From the Texas AG’s office comes another letter — without the referenced attachments — dated June 29, 2005:
“On May 16, 2005, the OAG [Office of the Attorney General] filed a request for a ruling with the Open Records Division. On May 19, 2005, the OAG submitted supporting material, along with a copy of many of the documents at issue. Additional documents were submitted for your review on June 8, 2005. Since that date, the OAG has located additional documents to which Ameriquest may file objections to disclosure. Those documents are submitted for your review as Exhibit H.”
This exhibit, of course, has not been provided to Inner City Press, since “Ameriquest may file objections to disclosure.”
Update of July 5, 2005: Judge Carol L. Middlesteadt of San Mateo County Superior Court granted approval to Ameriquest’s predatory lending settlement in four states, brushing aside such concerns as whether Spanish-speaking victims received any meaningful notice. Some say that the political sway of the plaintiff-side attorneys, who’ll be getting $10 million, played a role in this substantive language / civil rights issue being given short shrift. In Re another foreign language, the L.A. Times of June 25 got a quote from the company on Dutch reports that Roland Arnall is angling to be named U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands: “Mr. Arnall would be willing and honored to serve his country in any way he might be asked,” said Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for the company. “But, such decisions are up to the president of the United States.” One wag quipped: maybe it’s the Supreme Court, that needs a predatory lender…
While under investigation in at least 25 states for predatory lending, Ameriquest is paying $4 million to sponsor the tour of aging rockers the Rolling Stones beginning in August. The cost was specified by the CEO of Marketing & Communications International, who said: “It has advertising, event marketing, and you’ll see different PR, promotion and direct mail components. This has a lot of touchpoints with the consumer, and each one of these cross-pollinates very well.” Direct mail from a predatory lender?
We are compelled to note a quote in the American Banker newspaper’s June 30 article on Ameriquest. The context: “To counter the allegations, the company’s normally reticent executives – many of whom had never spoken to the press – agreed to give American Banker a glimpse of its procedures.” The quote: “Tom Noto, Ameriquest’s general counsel, said it prefers to settle cases where it identifies loan problems it has committed, and sometimes it is the first to identify the problems. ‘We prefer informal resolutions,’ he said. ‘Basically, if you see a problem, what’s the point of going to the mat in court? You try to reach a reasonable resolution.’ His company’s approach is ‘to look at the merits of the case and, if things didn’t go according to our procedure, step up to the plate and address it,’ Mr. Noto said.”
This is the same Tom Noto who filed a heavily redacted 20-page brief demanding that 41 boxes of Ameriquest-related documents be withheld from ICP by the Texas Attorney General’s office, including because the material is copyrighted…
Update of June 27, 2005: While awaiting the documents that Ameriquest is trying to withhold, we perused last week Ameriquest’s proposed settlement of predatory lending claims in four states (California, Texas, Alabama and Alaska). The proposed settlement, available on this website http://www.pierceallsettlement.com, listed Ameriquest’s Adam J. Bass as now being with the company’s outside counsel, Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger. Amazingly, the proposed settlement would force some of those injured to further arbitrate their claims. And whatever part of the $15 million is not claimed will be given to groups chosen by Ameriquest. Our question for now is whether Ameriquest would get a tax write-off…
It is reported that one of the objectors has raised the issue of ineffective (or nonexistent) notice to Spanish-speakers. Here are the number of Ameriquest loans in each of the four states in 2004 that were reported as to “Hispanics” —
California: 28,563 loans to Hispanics by Ameriquest in 2004 (11,206 of the loans, or 39.23%, at or over the rate spread of 3% higher than comparable Treasuries on a first lien, and 5% on a subordinated lien)
Texas: 5059 loans to Hispanics by Ameriquest in 2004 — 3889 of the loans, or 76.87%, at or over the rate spread
Alabama: 120 loans to Hispanics by Ameriquest in 2004 — 92 of the loans, or 76.67%, at or over the rate spread
Alaska: 45 loans to Hispanics by Ameriquest in 2004 — 24 of the loans, or 53.33%, at or over the rate spread. And also perhaps (should be) relevant to objection about language / notice, in Alaska in 2004 Ameriquest made 43 loans to Alaskan Natives, 33 of 76.74% at or over the rate spread…
But now it’s reported that this objection might be withdrawn, or settled. Without effective notice?
The LA Times of June 24 reported that “Ameriquest contended that there was no statistical evidence of bait and switch, saying most of its borrowers actually wound up with better loans than initially promised in its written disclosures… ‘The settlement pertains to nearly 10-year-old issues, and Ameriquest instituted many years ago lending … practices and computer systems to better protect customers,’ the company said in a statement. ‘The settlement cannot be used to show or even imply that Ameriquest violated any law or regulation. Ameriquest’s lending practices far exceed federal, state and local regulation.’” Then why is Ameriquest under investigation by at least 25 states’ attorneys general? And what is in the 41 boxes of documents Ameriquest is fighting to get the Texas AG to withhold from ICP? Developing…
Update of June 20, 2005: Last week Inner City Press received from Ameriquest a heavily redacted copy of Ameriquest’s twenty page filing to the Texas Attorney General’s office, urging that all documents responsive to ICP’s freedom of information request should be withheld. Ameriquest argues that documents should be withheld because they are copyrighted. Great argument…
Update of June 13, 2005: On June 8, Ameriquest said its CEO (and president of Argent) is leaving to pursue unspecified “opportunities.” Now Aseem Mital, president of Ameriquest Capital Corp., is to replace him. Nobody at Ameriquest was available for interviews Wednesday, a company spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. All we can say is, “Get it together.”
Update of June 6, 2005: Ameriquest’s tricks include intimidating borrowers who complain by adding to their monthly bill a huge amount of attorneys fees they’ll owe, it’s implied, if they don’t stop complaining. Ameriquest’s role in deed theft / foreclosure rescue scams is also coming into focus. A stray interim finding in Ameriquest’s 2004 HMDA data: Ameriquest doesn’t lend in Virginia or West Virginia, and made only two loans in the District of Columbia. Thus it tries to stay off the radar of the regulators. But not for long…
Update of May 31, 2005: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch’s inquiry into Ameriquest continues. In Texas, where access to 41 boxes of documents from and/or about Ameriquest is being blocked, notice has been given to Ameriquest’s general counsel and the company’s outside counsel at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and another firm. Sample complaints have been received from Kentucky: copies of letters to the complaining consumers, stating for example that “regrettably we have referred this matter to our foreclosure department for further handling.” That recent advertisements, including on Indy 500 car(s), have been for “Argent Mortgage” is interesting. Preparing for a spin-off? Developing…
May 23, 2005
Ameriquest Watch Launched by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch
Ameriquest Capital Corporation, a subprime mortgage lender which admits in a recent SEC filing to being under investigation for predatory lending in at least twenty-five states, tries to present itself to the public as the “Sponsor of the American Dream.” If so, it is a bad dream. ICP has received numerous complaint from consumers about Ameriquest; as Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has sought to assess Ameriquest’s record, the company has sought to stymie the inquire at every turn. On May 17, ICP was informed by the office of the Texas Attorney General that while that Office has forty-one boxes of documents from or about Ameriquest, the information will not for now be released in response to ICP’s May 2 Freedom of Information request, because Ameriquest wants to block release of any of the information.
What would the supposed sponsor of the American Dream have to be so defensive about? That is a question that ICP will endeavor to answer in this, its new Ameriquest Watch. Because Ameriquest is not affiliated with a bank, in the course of ICP’s Community Reinvestment Act enforcement work we’ve put off focusing closely on Ameriquest. We’ve expressed concern (for example to the Federal Reserve Board in 2000, see 86 Fed. Res. Bull. 751, n.23, and see, e.g., Los Angeles Times of March 15, 2005); we requested from Ameriquest its 2004 mortgage lending data. When the data wasn’t provided on time, we noted Ameriquest’s lapses, along with that of a number of institutions. The next day, one of Ameriquest’s apparently many public relations flacks left ICP a vitriolic voice mail message, demanding the retracting of ICP’s “false and misleading” statements. But there was nothing misleading, much less false, about noting that more than a month had gone by since ICP’s request to Ameriquest’s headquarters without the provision of the data. More recently, another flack has called ICP, to discuss a forthcoming article. Again: what would the supposed sponsor of the American Dream have to be so defensive about?
Some surmise that the defensiveness, the reflexive attacking of critics and its inverse, are explained by Ameriquest’s reported plan to go public, in whole or in part. Some predict the spin-off, via initial public offering, of Ameriquest’s wholesale mortgage unit, Argent. In this scenario, Ameriquest wants a quick multi-state settlement, not unlike Household International’s settlement in late 2002, in order to put the scandals behind it and focus on future profits. Reportedly, Ameriquest wants to pay less than Household’s fine of $486 million, despite the fact that Ameriquest in 2004 made many more subprime loans that Household in 2001, or 2002, or 2004. ICP has reviewed Ameriquest’s 2004 data, nationwide and in selected states, in connection with ICP’s petition to state attorneys general to take enforcement action against Ameriquest. The results are not pretty:
Ameriquest — Whites: 1,267,121 applications, leading to 281,808 denials (22.24% denied) and 338,800 originations; 179,665 [or 53.03 percent] exceeded rate spread.
African Americans: 246,568 applications, leading to 64,566 denials (26.19% denied, 1.18 times higher than whites) and 67,586 originations; 43,847 [or 64.88 percent] were at rate spread [1.22 times higher / more likely to be over rate spread than whites].
Latinos: 237,824 applications, leading to 43,971 denials (18.43% denied, 0.83 times “higher” than whites) and 83,405 originations; 43,625 [or 52,31 percent] at rate spread [0.99 times higher / more likely to be over rate spread than whites].
That Ameriquest, the increasingly discredited subprime lender admittedly under investigation by twenty five states, in 2004 made the most loans to African Africans, both over the high cost rate spread and overall, is a reflection of a two-tier financial system, one which is separate and unequal, including as to interest rate. We have now asked for more than forty five states to take action on Ameriquest.
Also not pretty is Ameriquest’s marketing. For example, last month in San Francisco a federal judge granted a petition filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the California attorney general, which sought a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Optin Global Inc., its related companies and owners. According to the FTC, the company’s spam messages directed consumers to Web sites run by the defendants, with consumer data eventually being sold through intermediaries to mortgage lenders and brokers such as Ameriquest Mortgage Co.. So that’s how Ameriquest buys consumers’ information…
Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this from Ameriquest’s 30-minute infomercial featuring ex-gameshow host Chuck Woolery. The classic line from the show: “Something is wrong with these people, it’s not a normal company.” No, it’s not…
For further information, click here to contact us
Copyright 2005-2007, Inner City Press/Community on the Move, Inc.. All rights reserved. For further information, Phone: (718) 716-3540. E-mail: Ameriquest-Watch [at] innercitypress.org