Nearly six years ago, the government sued Allied Home Mortgage, its various entities, and its president and CEO, Jim Hodge, for $834 million, claiming the company engaged in repeated fraud against the Federal Housing Administration over a 10-year period.
At the time, the government claimed that Allied Home Mortgage and Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corporation, at Hodge’s direction, committed repeated violations of federal law by falsely certifying the quality of loans insured by the FHA, as well as violating several FHA lending rules.
Last year, after a long legal battle, the government secured a victory against Allied Home Mortgage and Hodge, when a federal jury unanimously found Allied Home Mortgage and Hodge liable for civil mortgage fraud and awarded the United States a total of $92,982,775 in damages, including $7,370,132 against Hodge.
But the case wasn’t done yet, and as it turns out, Allied Home Mortgage and Hodge will have to pay much more than first thought.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Tuesday that a federal judge in Texas more than tripled the jury’s award, pushing the total judgment against Allied to more than $296 million.
The judge also ordered Hodge to pay $25 million, up from his initial $7.37 million fine.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, United States District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. of the Southern District of Texas, who presided over the trial, elected to increase the jury’s award under provisions of the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.
Under the False Claims Act, the jury’s award is subject to mandatory trebling, meaning the award would be tripled. The False Claims act also allows for a per-violation penalty, while FIRREA allows for a penalty of up to $1.1 million for each violation.
Under those guidelines, Hanks trebled the $92 million in damages. Hanks also imposed a penalty of $10,000 for each violation of the FCA found by the jury for a total of $12,950,000 in FCA penalties, and the maximum $1.1 million penalty for each violation of FIRREA for a total of $6.6 million in FIRREA penalties.
That brings the total judgment to $296,298,325.
Hodge is also liable for more than $25 million in damages and penalties.
“Jim Hodge and Allied defrauded a federal mortgage insurance program designed to help spread the dream of homeownership, and then lied about it repeatedly,” Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “A jury saw through their lies, and now the Court has imposed millions of dollars in additional penalties. This Office will continue to investigate and root out fraud in all of its forms.”
When the government first announced the jury’s decision against Allied and Hodge, it detailed the conduct that led to this massive fine.
According to court documents, as an FHA-approved lender, Allied Capital needed approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for each branch office where originated FHA loans.
Instead of complying with this rule, Allied Capital, with Hodge’s knowledge and approval, operated over one hundred “shadow” branch offices that originated FHA loans without HUD authorization, the government said.
Allied Capital then tagged the loans from those “shadow” branches with the ID numbers of other approved branch locations, allowing those shadow branches to escape HUD oversight and enabling Allied to hide the default rates at those branches with the default rates of branches whose IDs they were using.
According to the government, this “fraudulent misconduct” resulted in $7,370,132 in losses to HUD when some of those loans originated at those shadow branches defaulted.
Additionally, Allied Home Mortgage was a participant in HUD’s Direct Endorsement Lender program, meaning it had the right to underwrite loans and transfer them to the FHA without prior approval.
But the government stated that Allied Home Mortgage abused that privilege, and “recklessly underwrote” and certified at least 1,192 loans for FHA insurance that were ineligible for insurance under HUD’s guidelines.
The government said that this “fraudulent misconduct” resulted in losses to HUD of $85,612,643 when those loans defaulted.
The government also claimed that Allied operated a “dysfunctional quality control program and lied to HUD about it,” employing only a “handful” of quality control employees to review loans from as many as 600 branch offices, “many” of whom were not qualified to conduct FHA compliance reviews.
Additionally, the government claimed that Hodge “personally directed his employees to falsify quality control reports to give the impression that required reviews had been performed, when in fact they had not.”
Allied also allegedly provided falsified QC reports to HUD and falsely certified to HUD on an annual basis that the lender was in compliance with HUD’s quality control requirements.
“For years, Jim Hodge and Allied lied to HUD in order to fraudulently reap profits from the FHA mortgage insurance program,” then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said when the jury handed down its award. “After a month-long public trial where all their misconduct was exposed, a jury has held Mr. Hodge and Allied responsible for their lies and has made them pay for losses the United States suffered on loans that would never have been insured by HUD absent their lies.”