Thanks to a kind tipster (send in your tips here) I received a copy of a cease and desist order by the State of Idaho against The Residential Litigation Group. This is company that is selling services that claims to be based out of Washington, DC and offers foreclosure defense. It appears the company was using similar mass joinder type advertising as other companies have that have landed in hot water.
What makes this event worth sharing is the detail provided by the Idaho investigators. It’s nice to see detail from others that make secret shopper calls and the results of their efforts.
In official documents, the State of Idaho laid out their objection to The Residential Litigation Group by stating:
THE RESIDENTIAL LITIGATION GROUP, P.A. (Respondent) was formed as a Florida corporation on April 13, 2012. The company lists its business address with the Florida Secretary of State (Florida SOS) as 777 South Flagler Drive, Suite 800-West Tower, West Palm Beach, Florida, However, on its website, Respondent lists its address as 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 4 Floor, Washington, D.C. Respondent’s Officer/Director and Registered Agent is Marc Hoffman,
Mr. Hoffman is licensed to practice law in the state of Florida and in the District of Columbia. He does not hold a license to practice law in the state of Idaho. The Florida Bar lists Mr. Hoffman’s firm as The Residential Litigation Group and also lists the website, www.theresidentiallitigationgroup.com. In addition, the Florida Bar indicates that Mr. Hoffman is admitted to practice before the Florida State and District of Columbia Courts, in addition to the U.S. Supreme Coint, the Fifth and Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Mr. Hoffman lists the West Palm Beach address with the Florida Bar, and the Washington D,C. address with the DC Bar.
Respondent uses the website, www.theresidentiallitigationgroup.com, wherein it represents the following:
The Residential Litigation Group is a leading litigation law firm based out of Washington D.C, Our firm focuses its practice on litigation against all of the major banks and lenders in the United States.
The Residential Litigation Group is suing the nation’s biggest banks and lenders for deceptive loan practices, deceptive and illegal foreclosure actions, and deceptive mortgage modification practices, among other causes of action. We are seeking to hold the banks and lenders accountable for their harmful and illegal behavior, and we are working to find real relief for homeowners. The lawsuits are also targeting banks’ use of fraudulent paperwork in the foreclosure process, foreclosing without actually holding a mortgage, corrupting the local title and land recording systems, and failing to uphold promises of loan modifications.
One of our most significant causes of action that we are taking is to go after the banks’ use of phony documents and forged signatures (“robo-signing”) for the purpose of illegally foreclosing on tens-of-thousands of homeowners.
On or about September 19, 2012, the State of Idaho, Department of Finance, Financial Institutions Bureau (Department) received a complaint from an Idaho bank concerning Respondent’s recent dissemination to Idaho residents of advertisements relating to Respondent’s services. The bank provided the Department with a copy of the advertisement received by one of its customers. On or about September 27, 2012, the Department received a second complaint from another Idaho bank concerning Respondent’s dissemination to Idaho residents of advertisements relating to Respondent’s services, That bank provided the Department with a copy of the advertisement received by one of its customers.
Among other things, the advertisements stated that Respondent “is intending to file a potential claim against [the individual’s lender] aimed at improper lender actions.”
Further, the advertisements state that the recipient “may be a potential plaintiff in a national lawsuit,” The advertisements specifically name the recipients’ mortgage lenders, which are both banks.
In the fine print appearing at the bottom of the advertisements, Respondent confirms that the document which purports to be a “Litigation Notification” is actually an advertisement.
Respondent’s advertisements were received by at least two (2) Idaho residents during the month of September 2012. To date, the Department has been unable to determine the total number of Idaho residents who received Respondent’s advertisements.
The advertisements Respondent sent to Idaho residents suggest to the recipient that the recipient’s mortgage lender may have engaged in fraudulent lending practices.
Posing as a prospective customer, on September 21, 2012, a Department representative called the telephone number listed on Respondent’s advertisements. The representative’s phone call was answered by an individual who identified the business as “The Residential Litigation Group.” The individual taking the representative’s call identified himself as Nick McNesky.
Mr. McNesky pressed to obtain information from the representative regarding her mortgage balance, current lender, current interest rate, the market value of her residence, and whether her current lender had filed a foreclosure action. Mr. McNesky further stated that the law firm is assisting homeowners in a lawsuit against 22 lenders, and that the firm is currently working on 17 different fraudulent practices suits,
Mr. McNesky told the representative that to begin working with the law firm, she needed to send Respondent a retainer fee of $6,000, which would be refunded after the lawsuit is settled, and additionally, that the representative needed to pay a monthly fee of $450 during the pendency of the lawsuit.
Here is What Idaho Didn’t Like
The State of Idaho took issue with the advertisement that was mailed out. It in fact sounds very similar to many others I’ve written about over the years that have led to issues and problems for consumers.
Apparently in Idaho it is prohibited to use, “in a manner likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive, the name, trademark, service mark, or logo of a financial institution in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any product or service without the consent of the financial institution.”
The Idaho Bank Act apparently also makes it unlawful for a person to circulate or transmit to another any false statement, rumor, or suggestion, written, printed or by word of mouth which is erectlyor by inference derogatory to the financial condition or affects the financial standing of a financial institution.
They take their banking pretty seriously in Idaho.
The outcome of this order was that The Residential Litigation Group was ordered to to stop engaging in advertising that is misleading, confusing, and deceptive and which use the name of a financial institution without the financial institution’s consent; and from violations of the Idaho Bank Act.
The full cease and desist order can be read here.