A Web site and toll-free telephone number have been created to help consumers who may be entitled to restitution from Ameriquest Mortgage Co. under the terms of a $325 million settlement.
The Web site is http://www.ameriquestmultistatesettlement.com/, and the toll-free number is 1-800-420-5875.
Ameriquest customers who may be eligible for restitution will receive notices in early 2007. The Web site and toll-free telephone number are part of an effort to assist Ameriquest customers seeking to learn about the settlement and have their questions answered.
The Web site provides access to a complete copy of the settlement agreement, information on who may be eligible to receive restitution payments, and answers to frequently asked questions. It also allows visitors to send e-mails to the nationwide settlement administrator.
The settlement, announced in January, resolved allegations that Ameriquest and its subsidiaries deceived borrowers, falsified loan documents and pressured appraisers to overstate home values. In agreeing to the settlement, Ameriquest denied the allegations.
Borrowers who obtained loans through Ameriquest Mortgage, Town and Country Credit Corp. or Bedford Home Loans from 1999 through 2005 are eligible for restitution.
Some of those with claims against Ameriquest say the settlement will not cover their losses and are pursuing separate lawsuits. Ameriquest has stipulated that those who accept restitution through the settlement process must give up other legal claims.
The settlement requires Ameriquest to pay $295 million in restitution to consumers, with $175 million to be distributed in a nationwide claims process. The nationwide claims process will compensate borrowers who obtained loans from January 1, 1999 through April 1, 2003.
Another $120 million in restitution will be distributed by participating states and the District of Columbia, based on the percentage of total Ameriquest loans held by consumers in each state. Virginia is not participating in the settlement because Ameriquest did not do business in the state. Money distributed through the states will compensate Ameriquest customers who obtained mortgages between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2005.
The remaining $30 million will be paid to states to help cover the cost of the Ameriquest investigation, future mortgage-related consumer awareness programs, and enforcement efforts.
According to New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner, Ameriquest issued more than $4 billion in loans in the state, and between 14,000 and 15,000 New Jersey borrowers may be eligible for restitution. Rabner said the restitution each consumer will receive has not been determined, and will hinge on the facts of individual borrower’s cases.
The $325 million payment by Ameriquest ranks as the second-largest state or federal consumer protection settlement in history, after the $484 million predatory lending agreement reached in 2002 between states and Household Finance Corp.
In addition to providing restitution to consumers, the settlement prohibits Ameriquest from offering incentives that might encourage loan officers to unfairly impose higher fees, closing costs or early payoff penalties on customers. It also bans “unreasonable” sales quotas for loan officers, and bars regional loan supervisors from setting quotas that exceed those set by corporate headquarters. The company is also prohibited from colluding with debt collectors to pressure borrowers into refinancing.
After the settlement was announced, Ameriquest founder Roland E. Arnall was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.
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