Lenox Financial Mortgage gets cease and desist order from Georgia regulator
An Atlanta man once dubbed a mortgage maverick by CNN has a state regulator telling him to stop operating without a license. The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance issued a cease and desist order to Lenox Financial Mortgage this week. The order seeks to stop the Atlanta-based residential mortgage business from mortgage lending/brokering activities that require a mortgage license. "This order to cease and desist was issued by the department after it obtained evidence that Lenox Financial Mortgage engaged in residential mortgage brokering and lending activities without a license or under an applicable exemption," the state regulator said in a statement on Lenox. However, Lenox founder Jon Shibley told HousingWire he voluntarily relinquished his license in November and notified the Department of Banking about the change. Shibley said he exited his old business model in late 2010 to focus on building a new model where he sincerely believes no license is needed to operate. "The department issuing the cease and desist is overstepping its bounds to such a degree that they are trying to label everybody a mortgage provider, requiring them to be licensed," he said. Shibley said prior to Dec. 1, Lenox functioned under a business model where homebuyers would call the company's Atlanta headquarters asking for loans. At the time, hundreds of licensed mortgage brokers at Lenox handled those calls, Shibley said. As mortgage brokers "we would sell (the loans) directly to the mortgage market," he explained. Shibley said his firm was able to offer no closing costs by paying those fees for borrowers. But as the mortgage landscape changed, Lenox said he closed his old business on Dec. 1 and notified the Department of Banking of the change. Specifically, his plans call for the creation of a franchisee-business model, where Lenox will no longer broker mortgages or have brokers inhouse. Instead, the firm will rely on outside mortgage brokers and banks that will function as franchisees. All of the leads that come in under Shibley's new platform will be fielded directly by the franchisees, allowing those firms to handle the entire mortgage origination, he said. "I informed the Department of Banking and Finance -- the ones that issued the cease and desist," he told HousingWire. "And then they gave a cease and desist with no investigation or understanding" of the new business model. More than a year ago, CNN ran an extended interview, in which Shibley tells a reporter his firm is able to offer loans with no closing costs by selling mortgages to the secondary mortgage market. Shibley founded Lenox Financial in 1994. The firm is not affiliated with Lenox Financial Mortgage Corporation headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Write to Kerri Panchuk.