Steering Consumers to Expensive Mortgage Loans

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The CFPB announced that it had filed a complaint yesterday in a federal district court against Utah-based Castle & Cooke Mortgage, LLC (“C & C”) and two of its officers for illegally giving bonuses to loan officers who steered consumers into mortgages with higher interest rates.

C & C is not some mom and pop mortgage company: in 2012 it originated in the range of $1.3 billion, and it does business in at least 22 states, and maintains approximately 45 branches across the country.

At the core of the complaint is the allegation that C & C violated the Loan Originator Compensation Rule (“LOC Rule”) which bans compensation based on loan terms, such as the interest rate of the loan. Specifically, the CFPB alleges that C & C violated the LOC Rule by establishing a quarterly bonus program, which paid certain C & C loan officers greater bonus compensation when they persuaded consumers to take on more expensive loans. The average quarterly bonus ranged from $6,100 to $8,700.

The CFPB further alleges, that, by contrast, those loan officers who did not charge consumers higher interest rates did not receive quarterly bonuses. (The CFPB also alleges that C & C did not record what portion of each loan officer’s quarterly bonus was attributable to a particular loan and did not reference its quarterly bonus program in each loan originator’s compensation agreement, in violation of federal consumer financial law.)

The idiomatic expression for this is called "selling up" or "upselling the consumer" or "up-charging the borrower." So, briefly put, the CFPB alleges that more than 1,100 illegal quarterly bonuses were paid - where the loan officers had been given the forgoing incentive - and that tens of thousands of customers may have been upsold by C & C since April 6, 2011, the compliance effective date of the LOC Rule.

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