On November 19, 2015, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) announced that it had reached a settlement with a national mortgage company over allegations the company overcharged customers for mortgage settlement services. The company allegedly charged consumers a $200 settlement service fee in connection with mortgage loans. The fee was imposed to cover appraisal fees and preparation of various documents associated with closing mortgage loans. According to the DBO, the actual cost of these services was approximately $160, and the company therefore overcharged consumers by approximately $40. The DBO further alleged the company failed to properly disclose the settlement fee and that the appraisal company was affiliated with the mortgage company, prematurely charged consumers’ credit cards for the settlement services, and failed to provide the required initial escrow statement. These practices allegedly violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and comparable state mortgage laws. According to the settlement agreement, the company assessed the settlement services fee to over 70,000 borrowers. The agreement requires that the bank provide restitution to all affected borrowers and reform its disclosures to consumers. The bank will pay $2.8 million in restitution and $7.4 million in administrative penalties. Forty-nine state mortgage regulators also participated in the settlement negotiations and signed the settlement agreement.
Blog Enforcement Watch November 20, 2015