TALLAHASSEE – Attorney General Charlie Crist and Office of Financial
Regulation Commissioner Don Saxon today announced that Florida and 48
states plus the District of Columbia have signed the second largest
consumer protection settlement ever with Ameriquest Mortgage Company and
its parent company, ACC Capital Holding Corporation. Among the states that
signed the $325-million agreement, Florida has the second largest pool of
Ameriquest consumers eligible for compensation.
The California-based company has agreed to refund $295 million to
consumers and make sweeping reforms of practices that the states alleged
amounted to predatory lending. Ameriquest also will pay a total of $30
million to the states for costs of the investigation and consumer education
Ameriquest is the nation?s largest lender specializing in sub-prime
loans, which are loans to individuals with marginal credit histories. The
settlement resolves allegations of predatory practices by the company,
including claims of inflated appraisals, unjustified fees and penalties,
and high-pressure and deceptive tactics against prospective borrowers.
Today?s agreement culminates two years of investigation by the Attorneys
General, state banking regulators and local prosecutors, followed by a year
of settlement negotiations.
“This landmark agreement sets high standards that we expect other
mortgage lenders to follow,” Crist said. ?Floridians and other consumers
should be protected from predatory business practices. This is a good
result for everyone seeking to pay off their home loan or get out of debt.?
Floridians are expected to receive approximately $19 million of the
$295-million settlement fund. Florida?s share of the settlement was
negotiated by the Office of Financial Regulation and the Attorney General?s
Office. Ameriquest has approximately 62,000 borrowers in Florida. Consumers
do not need to take any action at this point to pursue recoveries ? they
will be contacted later by the states in the months ahead as specific
recovery terms and plans are determined.
?Our goal is to protect the financial interests of Florida consumers,? said
Saxon. ?We will continue to aggressively investigate and demand
compensation from companies that prey on unknowing consumers.?
Under the agreement, Ameriquest must exceed current requirements in
the law to protect prospective borrowers. The new requirements include
provisions for full disclosure of loan terms, including specific language
be included in loan documents. Potential borrowers must be told what kind
of loan they will be getting and whether the loan includes a prepayment
penalty. Appraisals cannot be inflated, and there will be restrictions on
refinancing offers and prepayment penalties. No refinancings may be made
that do not benefit the borrower. Independent third parties will now handle
closings, at which borrowers are asked to review and sign final loan
documents. The courts must approve the settlement before it becomes final.
The settlement is between the states and ACC Capital Holding
Corporation, along with its subsidiaries Ameriquest Mortgage Company, Town
& Country Credit Corporation and AMC Mortgage Services, Inc., formerly
known as Bedford Home Loans.