Recently, the CFPB announced settlements (see here, here, and here) with three mortgage lenders for mailing consumers advertisements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages that allegedly contained misleading statements or lacked required disclosures. According to the Bureau, the lenders offer and provide VA guaranteed mortgage loans, and allegedly sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to service members and veterans in violation of the CFPA, the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. Among other things, the Bureau alleges the advertisements (i) failed to include required disclosures; (ii) stated credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (iii) made “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; and (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government. Two of the lenders also allegedly used the name of the consumer’s current lender in a misleading way, and misrepresented that consumers would receive specific escrow refund amounts if they refinanced their mortgages, even though the advertised amounts “were calculated using a methodology that had no bearing on the actual escrow refund amount,” and consumers were often required to fund new escrow accounts upon generating new loans.
In addition, one of the lender’s advertisements represented to consumers that they could “‘[s]kip two payments’ or ‘miss’ two payments by refinancing with the company,” but failed to disclose, among other things, that the skipped or missed payments would be added to the loan’s principal balance.
The consent orders (see here, here and here) impose bans on future advertising misrepresentations similar to those identified by the Bureau, require the lenders to use a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws, and require compliance with certain enhanced disclosure requirements. The Bureau further imposes civil penalties of $225,000, $50,000, and $230,000 respectively against the lenders.
The latest enforcement actions are part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. In August and July, the Bureau issued consent orders against four other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes here and here.