Five mortgage companies have settled allegations of deceptive advertising after the ads they ran in a Spanish-language newspaper were found to be missing key disclosure information.
Streamline Mortgage Solutions, Inc., Simple Home Loans, Premier Mortgage Funding, Inc., CFL Home Equity, and JVD Financial Services, all of which are Florida-based privately held companies, have been ordered to modify their business practices to comply with Florida law and pay a $1500 fine in the form of a donation to the Hurricane Relief Fund, according to documents provided by the Florida Attorney General's office.
JVD Financial did not voluntarily meet with the Attorney General's office, according to a recent press release, and was ordered to pay an additional $500 for fees and costs associated with the investigation. Phone calls to JVD Financial were not returned to MortgageDaily.com.
Investigators reviewed the Spanish-language newspapers in the Orlando area as part of the Attorney General's Hispanic Consumer Protection Outreach initiative, the announcement explained, and found five incidents of deceptive or misleading advertising.
The advertisements placed in the July 21, 2005, issue of the La Prensa newspaper included; "questionable disclosures;" a lack of information regarding the loan product, including the number of payments or the length of the loan; and "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," it said.
"Profiling Hispanics as an easy mark in marketing practices has no place in our communities," Attorney General Charlie Crist said in the release. "These settlements represent a positive step toward restoring trust among Hispanics and the entire business community."
Simple Home Loans co-owner Javier Zeballos called the incident "an honest mistake."
Zeballos said it might have been cheaper to hire a lawyer to fight the allegations however, he thought the idea of donating the money to the Hurricane Relief Fund would be worth it, noting that it was tax-deductible.
Zeballos told MortgageDaily.com that advertising content is always sent to the newspaper written in English, that it was La Prensa's advertising department that failed to translate the disclosure. "The newspaper admitted it was their fault," he said. "We weren't aware of it."
La Prensa Editor Rubin Funes said he wouldn't comment on who is to blame for the incident but that it is difficult to translate disclosures from English to Spanish due to the legal content. "I have always said to leave it in English and have the reader get a translator," Funes told MortgageDaily.com.
Streamline Financial representatives were "out of town" and unavailable for comment. A request for comment from CFL Home Equity's attorney was not returned and Premier Mortgage's attorney did not return calls to MortgageDaily.com.