Mortgage lender’s inflated rent payments to bank called kickback for referrals

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A St. Louis, Mo.-based mortgage originator accused of paying inflated rent for office space in a bank that referred business to it has agreed to give up $27,076 in origination fees on about 20 home loans and pay a $54,000 civil penalty to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle allegations that the arrangement violated anti-kickback provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Fidelity Mortgage Corp. proposed that the bank outsource its residential mortgage lending business to Fidelity by referring customers seeking home loans, the bureau said in a consent order. Fidelity’s office-lease agreement stipulated that rent payments for the office space it leased at the bank be tied to loan volume. Fidelity paid $800 to $2,000 a month for use of the office, or an average of $1,350. Monthly rents for comparable space ranged from $600 to $900 a month, the bureau said — evidence that the payments were a kickback for referral of business. Source: consumerfinance.gov.

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