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Enforcement

Closing the book on Colfax

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Today, we announce an enforcement action against Colfax Capital Corporation and its subsidiary Culver Capital, LLC for engaging in unlawful lending practices that targeted and financially harmed servicemembers.

Although the name Colfax Capital Corporation might be new to some, this is actually the last gasp of a chameleon-like company with a long and deplorable record of preying on servicemembers.

Formerly known as Rome Finance Co. Inc. and Rome Finance Company, LLC (collectively Rome Finance), this unlicensed lender provided financing that merchants, such as SmartBuy, used when selling products to military members. Rome Finance’s contracts inflated the disclosed prices of the products to hide the true finance charges that the servicemembers would have to pay, typically by military allotment. This trapped servicemembers in contracts that generated millions of dollars for the company and substantial debt for its customers.

Background on the company’s actions

Rome Finance first came to our attention on Veterans Day 2010, when SmartBuy, Rome Finance and other affiliated finance companies operating in New York were sued by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for unlawful practices that targeted soldiers at Fort Drum. A subsequent review of complaints submitted to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, our consumer complaints, and an investigation by AG Schneiderman’s office revealed that military members were also targeted in California, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and even overseas. The NY suit led to approximately $13 million dollars in fines and settlements.

The NY suit was actually not the first time Rome Finance had been called to account for its unlawful practices. Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper had brought suit in 2005 against Rome Finance and an affiliated company called Britlee Inc. for unlawful practices that targeted servicemembers near Fort Campbell Army post through their The Military Zone and Laptoyz Computers and Electronics stores. The TN lawsuit also resulted in a multi-million-dollar judgment against Rome Finance and its network of companies.

What it means for impacted consumers

Although Rome Finance was able to continue doing business for some time by filing for bankruptcy, changing its name to Colfax Capital Corp. and Culver Capital, LLC and employing other evasive maneuvers, I am happy to see that we can finally close the book on Rome Finance in all its forms, and see that they never receive another penny from servicemembers.

Since the company is being liquidated in bankruptcy, Colfax does not have enough money or assets to pay back consumers affected by its actions. Instead, consumers will no longer have to pay on the more than 17,000 outstanding finance agreements, amounting to a total of about $92 million in debt relief for consumers. If you have outstanding finance agreements with Colfax should stop making payments immediately and turn off any allotments that were set up to make these payments. The Bankruptcy Trustee will also notify the credit reporting bureaus that consumers’ contracts with the company should be treated as “paid as agreed,” which could potentially help consumers’ credit scores. Also, if you had default judgments against you, you can apply for the judgments to be vacated. If you have questions about how to do this, check with your JAG or the Attorney General’s office in your state.

Defend yourself from deceptive practices

The sad truth is that Rome Finance was not the first and will not be the last company to financially prey on the military community. Servicemembers, veterans and military families need to actively guard themselves against bad business practices and financial scams.

Make sure you know the total price of the product you’re buying, including interest and fees for your loan, not just the monthly payment! Use available resources like your installation Personal Financial Manager, JAG or legal aid office, your state’s Attorney General office, the Better Business Bureau, and even the internet to research the contract terms and company. Demand to take a copy of the sales contract to a financial or legal professional for review before you enter into it. And if the company will only take payments by military allotment, ask why. That could be a red flag.

Federal and state officials worked in this case to protect you, but remember that you are your own most important first line of defense when it comes to consumer financial decisions!

Claim forms for the Ocwen settlement available now

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Last year, along with authorities from 49 states and the District of Columbia, we filed an order requiring Ocwen Financial Corporation and Ocwen Loan Servicing to provide $125 million to foreclosure victims.

The National Ocwen Settlement Administrator is responsible for handling settlement claims and has created a website with information for consumers who were harmed by Ocwen’s actions.

Submit your claim online or by mail

The National Ocwen Settlement Administrator has contacted foreclosed borrowers and mailed notice packages last week. Once the materials arrive, you can submit your claim online. You’ll need your personalized claimant ID number (located on the form you receive in the mail) to complete your submission. Be sure to submit the online claim form by September 15, 2014.

If you choose to submit your claim form by mail, follow the instructions in the materials you receive in the mail from the National Ocwen Settlement Administrator. Claim forms submitted by mail must be postmarked by September 15, 2014.

You won’t receive a settlement if you don’t file your claim. All eligible borrowers who submit valid claims will receive an equal share of the $125 million. If you receive payments, you will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts.

Filing a claim is free

Watch out for scammers claiming that they will help you with your claim. When large numbers of consumers get refunds, scammers sometimes pop up. The scammer may charge you a fee or try to steal your personal information. If someone tries to charge you, tries to get you to disclose your personal information, or asks you to cash a check and send a portion to a third party in order to “claim your refund,” it’s a scam. Call us at (855) 411-2372.

Still have questions?

If you have questions about your claim, eligibility, or the settlement, check out the commonly asked questions or call the National Ocwen Settlement Administrator at (866) 783-5382, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT.

Explainer: Compensating consumers for Bank of America’s illegal tactics for credit card add-on products

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Today we’re fining Bank of America, N.A. and FIA Card Services, N.A. for unfairly billing consumers for services relating to identity theft protection “add-on” products and for using deceptive marketing and sales practices for credit protection “add-on” products.

We are also ordering Bank of America to refund fees and provide other redress to consumers. Approximately 2.9 million consumers will be receiving or already have received up to $727 million in refunds for fees they paid for these products and services as well as additional redress.

If you’re impacted by the announcement, you don’t have to take any action to receive a credit or check. If you are one of the consumers affected by the order, Bank of America should have already notified you or will notify you directly. If you have questions about whether you are entitled to a refund, you can contact Bank of America.

Who is eligible for compensation?

Nearly 1.4 million consumers have already received or will receive refunds of at least $250 million in fees for the “credit protection” products (Credit Protection Plus and Credit Protection Deluxe). You will receive refunds if you are a Bank of America customer who enrolled in these products at any time over the phone, were charged a fee between October 1, 2010 and March 31, 2013, and either did not activate benefits or who had  a request for benefits denied.

Approximately 1.5 million consumers purchased the “identity theft protection” products (Privacy Guard, PrivacySource, and Privacy Assist) and were improperly billed for services that were not performed. As a result, consumers paid at least $459 million in fees, interest, and over-limit charges for these products without receiving full services. Today’s announcement recognizes the refunds Bank of America has already provided to consumers harmed as a result of the illegal billing practices relating to these identity theft protection products.

Eligible consumers who were enrolled in the “identity theft protection” products received refunds if they enrolled in these products between October 2000 and September 2011 but did not receive full credit monitoring services, received only partial credit monitoring and/or credit report retrieval without notice, and/or didn’t receive credit report retrieval benefits.

What do eligible consumers get?

That depends on the product consumers were enrolled in and some other factors.

Eligible consumers who were enrolled in a “credit protection” product for less than a year, who made a request for benefits that was denied or closed, or who, complained to the CFPB or to Bank of America stating that they did not authorize enrollment in the product, will receive a refund of all fees charged from October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2013. Eligible consumers who were enrolled in a “credit protection” product for a year or more and who do not fall within any of the groups described above will receive a refund of 300 days of fees charged from October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2013.

Some consumers who were enrolled in “credit protection” product will also receive:

  1. A reduction in charged-off balances due to product fees charged from October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2013.
  2. “Credit protection” services for six months at no-cost for consumers enrolled in the product as of March 1, 2013.

Bank of America has already completed reimbursement for the “identity theft protection” eligible consumers, so eligible consumers should have already received refunds. If you have questions about receiving a refund for this product, you can contact Bank of America.

Bank of America is responsible for providing refunds

Watch out for scammers claiming they will get you a refund. When large numbers of consumers get refunds, scammers sometimes pop up. The scammer may charge you a fee or try to steal your personal information. If someone tries to charge you, tries to get you to disclose your personal information, or asks you to cash a check and send a portion to a third party in order to “claim your refund,” it’s a scam. Please call us at (855) 411-CFPB to report the scam.

We’re protecting students from predatory lending

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Today, we filed a lawsuit against ITT Educational Services, Inc., accusing the for-profit college chain of predatory student lending. We believe that ITT used high-pressure tactics to push many students into expensive private student loans that were likely to end in default.

This is our first public enforcement action against a company in the for-profit college industry.

“Today’s action should serve as a warning to the for-profit college industry that we will be vigilant about protecting students against predatory lending tactics,” said Director Richard Cordray.

You can read the press release, read Director Cordray’s full remarks, and view the formal complaint against ITT.

You can also watch a recording of today’s press conference.

Ally to repay $80 million to consumers it discriminated against

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When you shop for a car, auto lenders work with your auto dealer to offer you financing for your loan. Auto lenders consider the terms of your loan, your credit history, and other factors, to set a risk-based interest rate on your loan.  Many of them have policies that allow an auto dealer to “markup” that interest rate. Lenders use a part of that markup to compensate dealers for the valuable services they perform in arranging financing. Unfortunately, that creates incentives for dealers to charge higher interest rates and may be implemented in a way that results in illegal discrimination.

Ally Financial Inc. and Ally Bank have markup policies that have resulted in illegal discrimination against over 235,000 African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers.

Today, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), we’re ordering Ally Financial Inc. and Ally Bank to pay $80 million in damages to the consumers that were harmed by their discriminatory markup policy between April 2011 and December 2013.

Ally will pay a settlement administrator to contact consumers who are due to receive compensation. Along with the DOJ, we will identify victims and calculate their damages by looking at loan data.

Protections against discrimination

Remember, it’s illegal for a creditor to discriminate in any aspect of a credit transaction based on certain characteristics. If you believe a lender has discriminated against you for any reason, you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

You can learn more about the warning signs of discrimination and what you can do to protect yourself.

Protect yourself

In the meantime, watch out for scammers claiming that they will get you money. When large numbers of consumers get damages, scammers sometimes pop up. The scammer may charge you a fee or try to steal your personal information. If someone tries to charge you, tries to get you to disclose your personal information, or asks you to cash a check and send a portion to a third party in order to “claim your refund,” it’s a scam. Please call us at (855) 411-CFPB to report such scams.

Explainer: What the multi-billion dollar Ocwen enforcement action means for you

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Along with authorities in 49 states, and the District of Columbia, we’re filing an order requiring the largest nonbank mortgage loan servicer in the country, Ocwen Financial Corporation, to pay for years of systemic misconduct in mortgage servicing. The misconduct included unfair shortcuts, unauthorized fees, deception, illegal foreclosures, and other illegal practices. Ocwen will be required to provide $2 billion in loan modification relief to its customers and $125 million in refunds to consumers whose homes were foreclosed.

Since 2009, Ocwen has been taking advantage of homeowners with shortcuts and unauthorized fees and deceiving consumers about loan modifications. We have mortgage rules that will take effect in January 2014 that establish strong protections for struggling homeowners facing foreclosure.

We have answers to some of your questions about this case:

Q: What is a mortgage servicer and how do I know if Ocwen services my loan?

A: The company that you make your monthly payment to is your mortgage servicer. Many of the loans administered by servicers are owned by third-party investors, so they may or may not be a lending institution and may or may not own your loan. A mortgage servicer administers mortgage loans, including collecting and recording payments from borrowers. A servicer also handles loan defaults and foreclosures, and may offer programs to avoid foreclosure to assist delinquent borrowers.

You can find out whether your mortgage is serviced by Ocwen by calling (800) 337-6695 or emailing your question to ConsumerRelief@Ocwen.com.

Q: How will I know whether this settlement affects me?

A: This settlement involves Ocwen and two companies recently purchased by Ocwen: Litton Loan Servicing LP and Homeward Residential Holdings LLC (previously known as American Home Servicing, Inc. or AMHSI). If your loan was serviced by Ocwen, Litton, or Homeward, you lost your home to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2012, and if you meet other criteria, the settlement administrator will mail you a notice letter and claim form.

For loan modification options, you may be contacted directly by Ocwen. You can also contact Ocwen for information about specific loan modification programs and find out if you will be impacted by this settlement. You can reach Ocwen by calling (800) 337-6695 or emailing ConsumerRelief@Ocwen.com.

Q: Will there be payments to foreclosure victims?

A: Yes. The settlement administrator will mail Notice Letters and Claim Forms to borrowers who lost their home due to foreclosure between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012, whose loans were serviced by Ocwen, Homeward, or Litton, and who meet other criteria. Borrowers who receive payments will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts.

Q: How do I know if I am eligible for payment as a foreclosure victim?

A: You are eligible if you meet the following requirements:

  • Your home was foreclosed between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012.
  • At the time of foreclosure, the loan was serviced by Ocwen, Homeward, or Litton.
  • You made at least three payments on the loan.
  • You lived or intended to live in the property as your principal place of residence at the time of the origination of the loan.
  • The property was a one-to-four unit residential property.
  • The unpaid principal balance of the first-lien did not exceed $729,750 for a one-unit property, $934,200 for a two-unit property, $1,129,250 for a three-unit property, or $1,403,400 for a four-unit property.
  • You make a valid claim.

Q: If I am eligible for foreclosure relief, how much will I get?

A: That depends. All consumers who successfully file eligible claims will receive an equal payment based on the total number of successful claims.

Q: What about those borrowers who continued making payments?

A: Borrowers who are current on their payments but are nonetheless struggling to make their payments and are “underwater” on their mortgages may qualify for loan modifications that will result in reductions in principal.

For loan modification options, borrowers may be contacted directly by Ocwen.

Borrowers can also contact Ocwen themselves to obtain more information about specific loan modification programs and inquire whether the borrower may be impacted by this settlement. You can reach Ocwen by calling (800) 337-6695 or emailing ConsumerRelief@Ocwen.com.

Q: What laws did Ocwen violate?

A: Ocwen is charged with engaging in unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Act and state laws. Ocwen’s unlawful conduct has resulted in injury to consumers who have had home loans serviced by Ocwen, Litton , and Homeward. The harm includes payment of improper fees and charges, unreasonable delays and expenses to obtain loss mitigation relief, and improper denial of loss mitigation relief.

We have some more answers to specific questions about the Ocwen settlement.