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Closing Attorney Settles with FDIC

Norman R. Peters accused of RESPA violations

September 22, 2006

WASHINGTON correspondent for MortgageDaily.com

A Boston closing attorney has settled with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. allegations that he violated federal law by providing tickets to sporting events and gift certificates to upscale restaurants to promote referrals of loan closings.

Emphasizing that payment of the penalty does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing, Norman R. Peters told MortgageDaily.com in a phone interview he paid the $7,500 FDIC fine rather than go through the time and expense necessary to fight the charges. As part of the same investigation, Peters also settled with HUD, paying that federal agency $7,500.

Peters, a closing attorney for 1-800-East-West Mortgage Co., said the charges arose, in part, from his contribution to an "Employee and Friends Day" event at a New England Patriots training session. Peters said he was one of about 14 attorneys who contributed.

He surmised that the other attorneys are probably under investigation for their actions.

Peters said he did not contribute to the event to obtain business. He explained that he viewed the contribution as a public relations activity. He said the charges also involved a check he wrote to a Boston Red Sox game.

Although a spokesman for the FDIC declined to comment, HUD issued a statement in which it said it determined that Peters, who is also a member of the board of directors of East-West and its parent, Commerce Bank & Trust Company of Worcester, violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, by paying for and providing tickets to a Boston Red Sox game, the New England Patriots' training event, and upscale restaurant gift certificates to East-West and its employees to promote loan closing referrals to Peters' firm Peters & Sowyrda.

The settlements with HUD and FDIC follow an announcement last November of East-West's agreement to pay the government $150,000 to settle charges it solicited and, or, received kickbacks, including luxury seats to professional sporting events, for the referral of settlement service business.

The Peabody, Mass.-based company, which HUD says is one of New England's largest mortgage lenders, also agreed to stop accepting kickbacks and to cooperate in the investigation of closing attorneys, appraisers, and other settlement service providers.

As part of the FDIC agreement, Peters is prohibited from seeking or accepting indemnification from any insured depository institution for the civil money penalty assessed and paid in the matter.

Peters said he still does closings for East West.


Mortgage Co. Settles With HUD Over Entertainment
A Massachusetts mortgage lender has agreed to pay the government $150,000 to settle charges it solicited kickbacks -- including luxury seats at professional sporting events and social events with NFL players -- from attorneys and appraisers.

Lisa D. Burden is a legal analyst for MortgageDaily.com and holds a law degree from the University of Maryland. She is currently a freelance journalist who previously wrote for Institutional Investor publications and the Baltimore Daily Record.

e-mail Lisa at: [email protected]

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