Battle erupts over allegations that retail lenders are overcharging veterans for mortgages

AIME's Anthony Casa accuses Fairway, Quicken, others; Fairway fires back

For approximately 18 months, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ginnie Mae, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been looking into whether certain lenders are aggressively targeting service members and military veterans for quick and potentially risky refinances of their mortgages.

The investigation has led to some lenders being booted from Ginnie Mae’s primary mortgage securities platforms, and other lenders being restricted for questionable conduct.

And now, retail mortgage lenders are facing new accusations that they are overcharging veterans on VA loans. But these accusations aren’t coming from the government. Rather, this is some rather nasty mortgage industry in-fighting.

Earlier this week, Anthony Casa, the head of the mortgage broker trade group the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts, levied accusations against a number of retail lenders, claiming that the lenders are “taking advantage” of VA borrowers and overcharging them for their mortgages.

Casa, who’s frequently made retail lenders his target as he advocates on behalf of mortgage brokers, suggests in a lengthy post on LinkedIn that some lenders are charging veterans as much as 20% higher for a mortgage than those veterans could get from other lenders, namely wholesale lenders.

And as Casa is wont to do, he names names. According to Casa, Quicken Loans, Movement Mortgage, loanDepot, and Fairway Independent Mortgage all charge much higher interest rates to veterans than they could get from a wholesale lender.

“Based on this data [data laid out in Casa’s LinkedIn post], a veteran securing a mortgage with a retail loan originator at Fairway Independent Mortgage will pay 20% more in interest to borrow the same amount of money based on all things being equal,” Casa writes. “Mortgages are a commodity. Service, average days from contract to closing customer service are all the same among all lenders/channels. The only difference is that the Veteran pays 20% more.”

Fairway takes the brunt of Casa’s allegations in the post. And the lender is not taking those allegations lightly.

After Casa posted his initial accusations, Fairway’s general counsel sent Casa a cease and desist letter, ordering Casa to remove the information from both his LinkedIn and Facebook pages. The letter claims that Casa’s post contains “several egregiously false statements” about Fairway, which also calls Casa’s post “defamatory.”

Casa, in turn, published the cease and desist letter on that same LinkedIn post, and added his response to the letter, in which he claims that his data is “100% true” and all but begs the company to escalate the issue further.

Fairway did not respond to Casa, but did respond to HousingWire’s request for comment on the matter with a lengthy statement that lays out its case against Casa.

“In an article posted on AIME’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Anthony Casa made statements about Fairway’s treatment of Veterans which we believe to be misleading, untrue and potentially defamatory,” Fairway General Counsel Elizabeth Steinhaus said in a statement.

“Fairway takes comments like this very seriously and therefore felt a cease and desist letter was appropriate. Fairway is very passionate about providing assistance to Veterans through both mortgage lending and its American Warrior Initiative. We are very humbled to be able to serve and give back to Veterans and active military,” Steinhaus continued.

“Fairway lends not only to Veterans with high FICO scores and loans amounts as referenced in Casa’s article, but also to those Veterans with lower FICO scores and loans amounts, which was not mentioned in the article,” Steinhaus added.

Steinhaus also contends that Casa is not being entirely truthful with the data he uses in his posts.

“Although Casa claims in his article he sourced and verified his data through Thomson Reuters Eikon, we have since confirmed with TRE, this is not the case.  According to a TRE representative, the information as presented in Casa’s article can be misleading if not fully explained,” Steinhaus said.

“Casa also claims in his article, Fairway has a wholesale presence in [Arizona] which accounts for a large percent of its VA purchase volume. This in turn weighs down its average note rate,” Steinhaus concluded. “The truth is Fairway has ZERO wholesale presence in Arizona so his allegation is completely unfounded. Fairway stands behind its service to Veterans and intends to protect against those who disparage us.”

Casa, for his part, writes that he has no plans of backing down.

“These types of bully/intimidation tactics may have worked for these companies in the past with other people, but I am not other people,” Casa writes. “I firmly believe that anyone or any company that intentionally harms or takes advantages of Veterans and/or consumers, on the basis that they are unlikely to comparison shop, or may be less educated on how to shop around for the best mortgage terms, must be exposed.”

Buckle up.

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