The owner of a California-based mortgage broker finds himself in some trouble with federal regulators for posting sensitive personal information about mortgage borrowers in response to those borrowers leaving negative reviews about the broker on Yelp.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it is fining Mortgage Solutions FCS, which does business as Mount Diablo Lending, and its sole owner, Ramon Walker, for revealing borrowers’ information in comments on Yelp.
According to the FTC, Mount Diablo Lending and Walker allegedly posted borrowers’ credit histories, debt-to-income ratios, taxes, health, sources of income, family relationships, and other personal information in response to negative Yelp reviews. Some of the responses even revealed reviewers’ first and last names.
The FTC complaint states that in one example, Walker wrote on behalf of the company: “Your credit report shows 4 late payments from the Capital One account, 1 late from Comenity Bank which is Pier 1, another late from Credit First Bank, 3 late payments from an account named SanMateo. Not to mention the mortgage lates. All of these late payments are having an enormous negative impact on your credit score.”
In another comment, Walker allegedly wrote the following:
“His mother-in-law was on title but not on the new loan. The new loan was only going to be in his and his wife’s name. This was a cash out loan, he was supposedly using the funds to pay off his kids Med School bills. The notary that sat down to sign was concerned the mother-in-law who was signing her rights off of the property had dementia. This was never mentioned to us throughout the whole process.…The funny thing is he admitted to me in one of our final conversations that his mother-in-law actually did have a ‘slight’ case of dementia. OK SO WHAT THE NOTARY SAID IS TRUE!!!! The title company did try to work with him by saying if he could get a letter from a doctor stating his motherin-law was aware of what she was signing we could proceed. He didn’t want to go that route, evidently she doesn’t have the capacity to understand she is signing away her rights to the property…. I know you feel entitled to the funds from your mothers house as you clearly stated to me but unfortunately that is not the way the law works and there is nothing my company can do about it.”
The FTC alleged that Walker and Mount Diablo’s actions violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the FTC Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
According to the FTC, Walker and Mount Diablo agreed to pay $120,000 to settle the agency’s allegations.
In a statement provided to HousingWire, Mortgage Solutions FCS stated: “We fully complied with the FTC investigation and will implement stronger security measures as a corrective action. We will continue to cooperate with the FTC and its determination.”
Beyond the fine, the company is prohibited from misrepresenting its privacy and data security practices, misusing credit reports, and improperly disclosing personal information to third parties.
Mount Diablo must also implement a comprehensive data security program designed to protect the personal information it collects and obtain third-party assessments of its information security program every two years, the FTC said.
Beyond that, the company must designate a senior corporate manager responsible for overseeing the information security program to certify compliance with the order every year.
“Companies that use credit reports and scores have a legal obligation to keep that information confidential,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They should not disclose that information to third parties without a legitimate reason to do so, and they certainly should not post that information on the Internet to embarrass or punish consumers, as happened here.”
[Update: This article is updated with a statement from Mortgage Solutions FCS.]