Five real estate lenders have agreed to modify their business practices and donate a total of $7,500 to the state’s hurricane relief fund to settle a probe by the Attorney General’s office into alleged deceptive advertising practices targeting the Orlando, Fla., area, officials said Friday.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist announced Friday that his office had reached agreements with the five lenders requiring them to “strictly adhere to the federal Truth in Lending Act, as well as other state statutory regulations and mandates,” and donate $7,500 to the hurricane relief fund.
The lenders are: Streamline Mortgage Solutions Inc.; Simple Home Loans; Premier Mortgage Funding Inc.; CFL Home Equity Inc., and JVD Financial Services Inc.
The companies allegedly advertised financing options available to Hispanic homeowners, but the advertisements’ disclosures were frequently written in English, failing to fully and clearly disclose terms of the financing options, the Attorney General’s office said.
“Profiling Hispanics as an easy mark in marketing practices has no place in our communities,” said Crist in a statement. “These settlements represent a positive step toward restoring trust among Hispanics and the entire business community.”
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division reviewed Spanish-language newspapers in the Orlando area as part of the Attorney General’s Hispanic Consumer Protection Outreach initiative, the Attorney General’s office said.
Five sources of advertising were identified as allegedly deceptive or misleading, official said. Each advertisement promoted different types of financing services to homeowners, including mortgage refinancing, home equity lines of credit and mortgages for new homes, according to officials.
In addition to including questionable disclosures, some of the ads featured disclosures written in English rather than Spanish, jeopardizing the Spanish-speaking reader’s ability to completely understand the terms of financing, the Attorney General’s office said.
Four of the five companies – Streamline, Simple Home Loans, Premier and CFL Home Equity – voluntarily met with the Attorney General’s Office and agreed to correct the advertisements, officials said. The fifth company, JVD Financial, responded to a subpoena and signed an agreement similar to the other four, agreeing to also pay for costs of the investigation, according to officials.
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