For immediate release – Thursday, July 12, 2007.
Contact Bob Brammer – 515-281-6699.
Miller: 3,799 Iowa Consumers are Eligible for $2.27 Million in Ameriquest Restitution
Claim forms are going to eligible consumers,
who must submit claims by September 10, 2007.
Attorney General Tom Miller said today that 3,799 Iowa consumers are eligible for almost $2.3 million in restitution from Ameriquest Mortgage Company and its related companies as part of a $325 million national settlement last year of a predatory lending lawsuit against the company.
“This is the largest total consumer restitution in Iowa history,” Miller said. The total Iowa restitution amount is $2,277,585.
Miller said the settlement administrator began sending letters and claim forms to eligible Iowa consumers this week, on behalf of his office and the Iowa Division of Banking. Consumers must mail completed and signed forms to the settlement administrator by September 10, 2007, if they choose to participate in the settlement and receive restitution.
The forms mailed to each consumer will indicate the minimum payment the consumer can expect to receive. However, the exact amount could be larger, depending on how many eligible Iowa consumers decide to participate in the settlement.
Miller encouraged consumers to study the claim forms and information and reply as soon as possible.
Consumers who opt to receive the restitution payments relinquish their right to file lawsuits against Ameriquest related to the loans covered by the settlement. Therefore, consumers are encouraged to consult with a private attorney or, if they qualify, a legal services attorney before deciding whether to participate in the settlement. However, consumers who participate in the settlement do not give up any claim they may otherwise raise if their home goes into foreclosure.
Under the nationwide settlement, reached in January 2006, over 481,000 borrowers who were customers of Ameriquest Mortgage Company, Town and Country Credit Corporation, and Bedford Home Loans between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2005, are eligible to receive the restitution payments.
Miller said a pamphlet of “Frequently Asked Questions” was mailed with the claim form and provides additional information about the restitution process for eligible consumers.
Consumers also can obtain detailed information about the settlement and their eligibility for restitution at the Settlement Administrator’s web site: www.ameriquestmultistatesettlement.com. Consumers with questions should contact the Settlement Administrator at 800-420-5875. (Hearing-impaired persons may call 866-494-8274.)
“We are elated that the payment process is under way,” Miller said. “This case also resulted in complete reform of Ameriquest’s practices, and that probably is as important as the restitution. This case has begun to set standards of fair treatment throughout the sub-prime lending industry.”
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Additional background and details:
Miller said over $300 million is being distributed nationwide to 481,388 eligible Ameriquest customers. The consumer restitution is being handled by a Settlement Administrator on behalf of the states. Decisions about restitution amounts and eligibility were made on an objective and ‘blind’ or impartial basis, using numerous factors and analysis of data.
Miller led the group of state attorneys general and banking and finance regulators who reached the settlement with Ameriquest in January 2006. The states alleged that Ameriquest employees deceived consumers as part of high-pressure tactics to sell mortgage refinancings.
The alleged improper practices included inadequate disclosure of prepayment penalties, discount points and other loan terms; inflated appraisals; and encouraging borrowers to give inaccurate income or employment information to obtain loans.
In the agreement, Ameriquest agreed to be bound by a battery of new standards to prevent what the states alleged were unfair and deceptive practices. The reforms included: changing how appraisals are handled, providing full disclosure regarding interest rates, discount points, prepayment penalties, and other loan or refinancing terms, and not paying sales personnel incentives to include prepayment penalties or any other fees or charges in the mortgages.
Miller said Ameriquest has been complying with the agreement, and that the states and a Monitor are watching company practices carefully.
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