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    CFPB Takes Action Against Reverse Mortgage Companies for Deceptive Advertising

    CFPB Takes Action Against Reverse Mortgage Companies for Deceptive Advertising

    Three Companies Cited For Falsely Claiming Consumers Could Not Lose Their Homes

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against three reverse mortgage companies for deceptive advertisements, including claiming that consumers could not lose their homes. The CFPB is ordering American Advisors Group, Reverse Mortgage Solutions, and Aegean Financial to cease deceptive advertising practices, implement systems to ensure they are complying with all laws, and pay penalties.

    “These companies tricked consumers into believing they could not lose their homes with a reverse mortgage,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “All mortgage brokers and lenders need to abide by federal advertising disclosure requirements in promoting their products.”

    A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that allows homeowners who are 62 or older to access the equity they have built up in their homes and defer payment of the loan until they pass away, sell, or move out. The loan proceeds are generally provided to the borrowers as lump-sum payments, monthly payments, or as lines of credit. Homeowners remain responsible for payment of taxes, insurance and home maintenance, among other obligations.

    The Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule prohibits misleading claims in mortgage advertising. In addition, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act prohibits institutions from engaging in deceptive acts or practices, including with regard to advertising of consumer financial products or services.

    American Advisors Group

    American Advisors Group, headquartered in Orange, Calif., is licensed in 49 states and the District of Columbia. It is the largest reverse mortgage lender in the United States. The company ran television advertisements almost daily and disseminated its information kit to approximately 1 million consumers. The information kit included a DVD and several brochures with information about reverse mortgage products.

    Through its investigation, the CFPB found that since January 2012 American Advisors Group’s advertisements misrepresented that consumers could not lose their home and that they would have the right to stay in their home for the rest of their lives. The company also falsely told potential customers that they would have no monthly payments and that with a reverse mortgage they would be able to pay off all debts. In fact, consumers with a reverse mortgage still have payments and can default and lose their home if they fail to comply with the loan terms. These terms require, among other things, paying property taxes, making homeowner’s insurance payments, and paying for property maintenance. Moreover, a reverse mortgage is a debt and therefore cannot be used to eliminate all of a consumer’s debt.

    Under the terms of today’s consent order, the company must make clear and prominent disclosures in its reverse mortgage advertisements and implement a system to ensure it is following all laws. It will also pay a civil penalty of $400,000.

    A copy of the American Advisors Group consent order can be found at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201612_cfpb_AmericanAdvisorsGroup-consentorder.pdf

    Reverse Mortgage Solutions

    Reverse Mortgage Solutions, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is licensed to conduct business in 48 states. The company marketed its product through various media, including television, radio, print, direct mail, and the Internet.

    Through its investigation, the CFPB found that since January 2012 Reverse Mortgage Solutions’ advertisements misrepresented that consumers could not lose their home and that they would have the right to stay in their home for the rest of their lives. The company also falsely told potential customers that they would have no payments with a reverse mortgage and that they would “always retain ownership” and “can’t be forced to leave.” In fact, consumers with a reverse mortgage still have payments and can default and lose their home if they fail to comply with the loan terms. These terms require, among other things, paying property taxes, making homeowner’s insurance payments, and paying for property maintenance.

    The CFPB also alleges that the company misrepresented that heirs would inherit the home, without disclosing any conditions of the inheritance. In fact, heirs frequently are not able to keep the home after the death of a consumer with a reverse mortgage. Heirs are only allowed to retain ownership of the home after the consumer’s death if they either repay the reverse mortgage or pay 95 percent of the assessed value of the home.

    The company also created a false sense of urgency to buy the reverse mortgage product and misrepresented that time limits constrained the availability of a reverse mortgage. For example, one call script required representatives to tell potential customers that if they didn’t call back by close of business, they would “turn your file down and you will miss out on a tremendous money-saving opportunity.” In fact, it was not a limited time offer. Lastly, the company misrepresented that a reverse mortgage could “eliminate debt.” In fact, a reverse mortgage is a debt and therefore cannot be used to eliminate all of a consumer’s debt.

    Under the terms of today’s consent order, the company must make clear and prominent disclosures in its reverse mortgage advertisements and implement a system to ensure it is following all laws. It will also pay a civil penalty of $325,000.

    A copy of the Reverse Mortgage Solutions consent order can be found at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201612_cfpb_ReverseMortgageSolutions-consentorder.pdf

    Aegean Financial

    Aegean Financial, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., is licensed to conduct business in California, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The company also operates under multiple names in the jurisdictions in which it is licensed. Under the name Jubilados Financial, the company advertises reverse mortgages to Spanish-speaking consumers in California. Under the name Reverse Mortgage Professionals, the company advertises reverse mortgages in California, Oregon, Washington, and Texas. Aegean Financial markets its product across various media, including print, direct mail, radio, and the Internet.

    Through its investigation, the CFPB found that since 2012, Aegean Financial’s advertisements misrepresented that consumers could not lose their home and that they would have the right to stay in their home for the rest of their lives. The reverse mortgage broker also falsely told potential customers that they would have no payments with a reverse mortgage and claimed that consumers would not be subject to costs associated with refinancing a reverse mortgage. In fact, consumers who refinance reverse mortgages do incur costs, including credit report fees, flood certification fees, title insurance costs, appraisal costs, and other closing costs. And consumers with a reverse mortgage still have payments and can default and lose their home if they fail to comply with the loan terms. These terms require, among other things, paying property taxes, making homeowner’s insurance payments, and paying for property maintenance.

    The CFPB also alleges that the company falsely affiliated itself with the government in its Spanish-language advertisements. For example, one advertisement said, “if you are 62 years old or older and you own a house, we have good news for you; you qualify for a reverse mortgage from the United States Housing Department.” In fact, although the Department of Housing and Urban Development provides insurance for the most popular type of reverse mortgage, a reverse mortgage is not a government benefit or a loan from the government. Nor is the product endorsed or sponsored by the government. The disclosures associated with Aegean Financial’s advertisements were in small type or rapidly recited at the end of commercials. The CFPB also alleges that the company failed to keep records of its advertisements as required by law.

    Under the terms of today’s consent order, the company cannot imply affiliation with the government, must make clear and prominent disclosures in its reverse mortgage advertisements, implement a system to ensure it is following all laws, and maintain complete and accurate records. It will also pay a civil penalty of $65,000.

    A copy of the Aegean Financial consent order can be found at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201612_cfpb_AegeanFinancial-consentorder.pdf

    The CFPB has long warned of the dangers associated with misleading and deceptive reverse mortgage advertising given the complexity of the product and the consumers to whom the product is offered. For example, in a June 2012 Report to Congress on Reverse Mortgages, the CFPB stated that “[f]alse and misleading advertising poses a serious risk to consumers.” The CFPB also published a June 2015 study, and accompanying advisory warning, reaffirming the risk to consumers as a result of deceptive and misleading reverse mortgage advertising.

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