California District Court Unseals FCA Complaint Filed Against Numerous Banks

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Last week, after the government declined to intervene in the case, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California unsealed a qui tam False Claims Act (FCA) complaint filed by a whistleblower in April 2012 against numerous banks. U.S. ex rel Hastings v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 12-3624, Complaint (C.D. Cal. Apr. 26, 2012). The relator claims that the banks knowingly endorsed for FHA-insurance mortgage loans originated in transactions where down payment gift programs were used fraudulently. According to allegations in the complaint, the banks’ programs generated gift funds by manipulating the sales price to pass FHA down payment assistance fees onto the buyer. Further, the alleged system forced the borrower to repay the down payment gift, a violation of FHA policy. The relator alleges that the banks then submitted to HUD false certifications for the non-compliant endorsed loans, upon which HUD relied to issue FHA mortgage insurance. The relator claims that the government was required to pay, and will continue to have to pay, FHA benefits on defaulted loans that contained material violations, and seeks treble damages and penalties under the FCA, a cease and desist order against the lenders, and a civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each alleged violation of the FCA.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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