Ameriquest Mortgage Company, already contending with a flurry of lawsuits and investigations, has contributed more than $7 million to California politicians since 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

The giant California subprime mortgage company disclosed earlier this month that it reached a tentative $325 million settlement with 29 states over allegations of deceptive sales practices, and now faces lawsuits nationwide by customers, the Boston Globe reported.

Customer lawsuits accuse Ameriquest of charging them excessive fees or changing the agreed terms on refinancing loans, according to media reports.

Adding to the company’s woes, the Chronicle reported Friday that Ameriquest has contributed more than $7 million to California politicians including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer and dozens of other state legislators, members of Congress and political committees.

Ameriquest caters to customers described as “subprime,” meaning that their credit rating is not as good as “prime,” customers, those who qualify for “A” loans.

Ameriquest’s top executive, Roland Arnall, has been one of President Bush’s top fundraisers, generating $12 million for the president’s political efforts during the past four years, the Chronicle said. On July 28, Bush nominated Arnall ambassador to the Netherlands, the Chronicle reported.

Since Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, he alone has pulled in more than $1.5 million from Ameriquest, Roland Arnall and his wife, Dawn, according to the Chronicle.

Ameriquest also has given $1.5 million to groups backing the governor’s political efforts and, along with the Arnalls, has contributed $1.5 million to the California Republican Party, the Chronicle reported.

The reports of campaign contributions come on the heels of lawsuits and investigations targeting the company, media reports said.

Ameriquest disclosed earlier this month that it reached a tentative $325 million settlement with Massachusetts and 29 other states over allegations of deceptive sales practices, according to the Boston Globe.

The subprime mortgage giant faces lawsuits nationwide by customers who said Ameriquest charged them excessive fees or changed the agreed terms on refinancing loans when they arrived to sign the final documents, media reports said.

Eight lawsuits, including one filed in U.S. District Court in Boston in February, are seeking class-action status, the Boston Globe reported.

Massachusetts borrowers said their loan fees and interest rates differed from what they had agreed to when they negotiated to refinance their homes, often to pay off household debts, media reports said.

California-based Ameriquest, the suit said, then ”uniformly promised” to refinance them a second time, sometimes within months, ”on more favorable terms,” to recoup additional fees, reports said.


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