Rutledge Reaches $470 Million Joint State-Federal Settlement with HSBCFri, Feb 5, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge along with 49 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reached a $470 million joint state-federal settlement today with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC to address mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses.
“Arkansans who were taken advantage of by the foreclosure abuses and loan modifications of HSBC are eligible for direct payments under this settlement,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “HSBC is being held accountable for the way it treated its borrowers, and the agreement requires HSBC to reform its ways and protect borrowers in future transactions.”
The agreement’s mortgage servicing terms largely mirrors the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement reached in February 2012 between the federal government, 49 state attorneys general, including Arkansas and the five largest national mortgage servicers. That agreement provided consumers nationwide with more than $50 billion in direct relief, created new servicing standards, and implemented independent oversight.
A subsequent state-federal agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. worth nearly $1 billion was announced in June 2014.
The HSBC agreement requires the company to provide certain Arkansas borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. The modifications, which HSBC will choose through an extensive list of options, include principal reductions and refinancing for underwater mortgages. HSBC decides how many loans and which loans to modify, but must meet certain minimum targets. Because HSBC receives only partial settlement credit for many types of loan modifications, the settlement will provide relief to borrowers that will exceed the overall minimum amount.
Approximately 700 eligible Arkansas borrowers whose loans were serviced by HSBC and who lost their home to foreclosure from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2012 and encountered servicing abuse will be eligible for a payment from the national $59.3 million fund for payments to borrowers. The borrower payment amount will depend on how many borrowers file claims.
Eligible borrowers will be contacted about how to qualify for payments.
The settlement requires HSBC to substantially change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court.
The terms will prevent past foreclosure abuses, such as robo-signing, improper documentation and lost paperwork.
The settlement’s consumer protections and standards include:
- Making foreclosure a last resort by first requiring HSBC to evaluate homeowners for other loss mitigation options.
- Restricting foreclosure while the homeowner is being considered for a loan modification.
- Procedures and timelines for reviewing loan modification applications.
- Giving homeowners the right to appeal denials.
- Requiring a single point of contact for borrowers seeking information about their loans and maintaining adequate staff to handle calls.
The agreement resolves potential violations of civil law based on HSBC’s deficient mortgage loan origination and servicing activities. The agreement does not prevent state or federal authorities from pursuing criminal enforcement actions related to this or other conduct by HSBC or from punishing wrongful securitization conduct that is the focus of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Additionally, the agreement does not prevent any action by individual borrowers who wish to bring their own lawsuits.
The agreement will be filed as a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
For loans serviced by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., inquiries should be addressed to 1-866-435-7085 or the consumer’s case manager. For loans serviced by HSBC Mortgage Services, Household Finance or Beneficial, inquiries should be addressed to 1-800-333-7023 or the consumer’s single point of contact.
Rutledge Welcomes Spring Law Clerks to the Attorney General’s OfficeFri, Feb 5, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge welcomed a new class of law clerks to the Attorney General’s office. These law students work in various departments assisting with legal research and drafting memos and legal documents.
“This group of future attorneys is gaining valuable experience from some of Arkansas’s top lawyers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “They are getting exposure to the public service sector, and are a valuable asset to the Attorney General’s office.”
Anna Baker, a third year student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) William H. Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001, with a degree in German, and in 2008 she graduated from the University of Virginia with a doctorate in German literature. Baker is from Los Altos, California, and graduated high school from Gunn High School in 1997.
Amelia Fuller, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. She graduated from Arkansas State University, with a degree in English. Fuller is from Hot Springs and graduated from Lake Hamilton High School in 2010.
Tramisha Harris, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. She graduated from Louisiana State University Shreveport in 2010, with a degree in political science, and in 2012 she graduated from Louisiana State University at Monroe with a master’s degree in communications. Harris is from Bossier City, Louisiana, and graduated from Airline High School in 2006.
Austin Harrison, a third year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. He is also a graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2013, with a degree in public policy leadership. Harrison is from Louisville, Mississippi, and graduated from Winston Academy in 2009.
Kolton Jones, a third year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Civil Department. He graduated from Henderson State University in 2012, with a degree in business administration. Jones is from Sulphur Springs, Texas, and graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 2009.
Stephanie Mantell, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Criminal Department. She graduated from UALR in 2013, with double majors in history and English. Mantell is from Waterloo, New York, went to Minutemen Regional Vocational High School, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and received her GED in 2004.
Garrett Morgan, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Criminal Department. He graduated from UALR in 2014, with double majors in criminal justice and philosophy. Morgan is from El Dorado and graduated from Parkers Chapel High School in 2005.
Reece Owens, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2011, with a degree in economics. Owens is from Cabot and graduated from Cabot High School in 2006.
Jeremy Wann, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Civil Department. He graduated from Webster University in 2014 with a Master of Business Administration and from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in 2009 with a degree in marketing. Wann is from Fort Smith and graduated from Roland High School in Roland, Oklahoma, in 2005.
Rutledge Joins Bipartisan Effort, Objects to the EPA’s Cap-And-Trade RuleWed, Feb 3, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined officials from 18 other states in challenging a proposal that will effectively force a cap-and-trade program upon Arkansas if it does not comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called Clean Power Plan.
“If Arkansas does not fully comply with the EPA’s unlawful new carbon rule then the agency will force the State to comply with a far-reaching federal plan,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans know best how to protect our clean air, but the EPA has indicated it is willing to ignore State authority in order to push a political agenda that failed to pass Congress when the President’s own party had large majorities in both chambers.”
Participating states contend the EPA’s federal plan, as set forth in relation to the Power Plan, upends state authority, increases electricity prices and violates numerous aspects of federal law.
Rutledge objected to the federal plan last month with a public comment letter to the EPA and stressed the State’s opposition to the underlying Power Plan, while questioning the EPA’s authority.
The letter also argues that the EPA lacks authority to impose a carbon credit trading program on states, arguing that such a proposal runs contrary to the Clean Air Act, violates state sovereignty and raises serious constitutional issues.
Congress rejected President Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal in 2009.
Rutledge is part of a bipartisan coalition that has filed suit against the EPA’s Power Plan. The lawsuit argues the Power Plan exceeded EPA’s authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation.
Rutledge has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately halt the ongoing damage caused by the Power Plan after the D.C. Circuit denied a request.
Rutledge Speaks to National Association of State Departments of AgricultureTue, Feb 2, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today spoke to State commissioners, directors and secretaries of agriculture from across the U.S. at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture winter conference in Washington, D.C. Rutledge was invited to address the gathering by Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward.
“Growing up on a cattle ranch and married to a soybean farmer, I know first-hand the challenges facing this critical part of Arkansas’s economy,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This country and the world rely on America’s farmers and ranchers who provide a safe and reliable food supply and make a vital contribution to our economy. I was honored to be invited to speak by Secretary Ward, and I commend him for the work he is doing for Arkansas’s farmers and ranchers.”
“Attorney General Rutledge understands how important agriculture is to the state of Arkansas and has been a tremendous asset in helping to keep Arkansas farmers and ranchers successful and prosperous,” said Secretary Ward. “But, it's not just Arkansas, Attorney General Rutledge understands how important agriculture is to our country as a whole as demonstrated through her work as co-chair of the agriculture committee of the National Association of Attorneys General.”
Rutledge spoke to the group about her belief in common sense state and federal regulations – not ones that hurt Arkansas’s farmers and ranchers. This common sense view underlies the six legal challenges she has made to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions on behalf of Arkansas. Specifically, Rutledge highlighted her legal challenge to the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and the so-called Clean Power Plan. Following a lawsuit against WOTUS by Rutledge and 12 other states, an injunction was put in place blocking WOTUS from taking effect until its legality can be determined. Additionally, Rutledge is concerned about the negative impacts to Arkansas and the rest of the country if the Power Plan were to be fully implemented, and she has joined a bipartisan coalition of states challenging the rules’ legality. Last week, she joined a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to stay the rule.
Rutledge also highlighted her work as the co-chair for the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Agriculture. For many years, this committee was dormant, but after Rutledge took office she immediately began encouraging her colleagues to restart the committee. Along with co-chair Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the committee provides a venue in which attorneys general can work collaboratively to discuss and address the new challenges facing consumers, farms and the agriculture industry. Rutledge encouraged those in attendance to reach out to their own attorney general and to use this agriculture committee as a resource as they develop agriculture policy in their respective states.
Rutledge Files Lawsuit Against Automatic Auto FinanceTue, Feb 2, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today filed a consumer-protection lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Automatic Auto Finance Inc. (AAF), Jorja Trading Company Inc., CashFish Motor Pawn Inc. and their officers and owners. The AAF/Jorja companies are a group of buy-here-pay-here automobile dealerships with several locations in northwest Arkansas. The lawsuit alleges that the AAF/Jorja companies are engaging in deceptive practices by selling and financing used vehicles then using prohibited collection methods against Arkansas consumers.
A buy-here-pay-here dealership is one that offers vehicles for sale along with in-house financing. Many consumers who are unable to obtain traditional financing from banks or credit unions are often forced to consider the credit options of a buy-here-pay-here dealership because of limited financial resources and poor credit ratings.
“This buy-here-pay-here dealer is abusing economically disadvantaged consumers who have little or no credit resources by selling them a low-value vehicle financed at an exorbitant price and interest rate,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Unfortunately, instead of helping Arkansans, these businesses only trap consumers in a cycle of debt. These egregious actions are truly unconscionable, and the Consumer Protection Division exists to protect consumers in exactly these types of situations.”
According to the complaint, the defendants’ primary business is selling and financing low-value vehicles at inflated prices to consumers who the AAF/Jorja companies know are likely to default on the financing contract; reselling repossessed vehicles in a commercially unreasonable sale to create a significant deficiency balance; using prohibited collection practices to collect on that deficiency balance; and reselling vehicles to other consumers to repeat the scheme. To date, the Attorney General’s office has identified 2,252 cases of prohibited collection practices by the defendants since 2010.
Rutledge is asking the court to impose civil penalties, restitution, attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief against these individuals and companies. The dealerships operated by the AAF/Jorja companies include Auto Now, Instant Auto, Motor Street Auto of Northwest Arkansas, On Time Auto, and All Star Auto Parts. Consumer victims of these business practices should contact the Attorney General’s office to file a consumer complaint at (800) 482-8982 or go to ArkansasAG.gov.
Rutledge Announces Mobile Office Locations for FebruaryFri, Jan 29, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for February.
Attorney General Rutledge created the mobile office initiative to make the office accessible to everyone, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. In October, the initiative celebrated the milestone of holding office hours in all 75 counties, marking the first time that the Attorney General’s office has held office hours in each county across the State.
The Attorney General Mobile Offices assist constituents with consumer related issues in filing consumer complaints against scam artists. Staff will also be available to answer questions about the office and the other services it offers to constituents. Attorney General Rutledge believes there is no issue too small for her staff to have a face-to-face conversation.
On Wednesday, Rutledge announced that she is expanding the services offered at mobile offices to include Prescription Drug Take Back boxes. Rutledge is partnering with local law enforcement agencies across the State who will handle a secure box and properly dispose of the prescriptions collected. Rutledge encourages Arkansans to bring their old, unused or expired prescription medications to an upcoming mobile office.
For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter.com/AGRutledge.
The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:
Tuesday, Feb. 2
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Perryville Senior Adult Center
107 N. Magnolia St.
Perryville, AR 72126
Thursday Feb. 4
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Des Arc Senior Center
1103 E. Main St.
Des Arc, AR 72040
Thursday, Feb. 18
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Grant County Senior Center
1525 Highway 270 E.
Sheridan, AR 72150
Hot Spring County
Tuesday, Feb. 23
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Central Arkansas Development Council Malvern Senior Activity Center
1800 W. Moline St.
Malvern, AR 72104
Thursday, Feb. 25
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Mid Delta Community Center
553 N. 7th St.
Clarendon, AR 72029