Class action lawsuit alleges lender and appraisal company entered into a corrupt relationship to prepare fraudulent real estate appraisals to quickly close more home loans; subclass of Texas borrowers also certified
DALLAS, February 16, 2018 – Today, the national law firm of Baron & Budd announced that it has secured a certified plaintiff class action federal lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp. and its successor, Bank of America. The case accuses the bank and appraisal firm, LandSafe Inc., of conducting “sham” appraisals to boost the number of loans originated by Countrywide. The cases are: Waldrup v. Countrywide Financial Corp. et al., case number 2:13-cv-08833, and Williams et al. v. Countrywide Financial Corp. et al., case number 2:16-cv-04166, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
According to the suits, Countrywide required borrowers to receive their appraisals through LandSafe as a condition of their loan. The cases allege that in the mid-2000s, Countrywide and LandSafe, which at the time was owned by Countrywide, schemed to prepare fraudulent property appraisals in an effort to help Countrywide quickly close loans. The suits go on to allege that, as part of the scheme, LandSafe cherrypicked appraisers, withheld information and took other steps to side-step the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) to create appraisal reports that benefited the lender. Plaintiffs were charged between $300 to $600 for each of the allegedly fraudulent appraisals.
The suits allege violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. RICO is a federal law originally designed to combat organized crime. It has since been expanded to corporate misconduct.
On Thursday Feb. 8, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder certified the nationwide class, noting that the plaintiffs provided “substantial evidence that could be used to prove an alleged RICO scheme on a class-wide basis.” In addition to the ruling that certifies the class, Judge Snyder also certified a subclass of borrowers in Texas who have filed an unjust enrichment claim under Texas state law.
“It has been a long, hard fight to reach this milestone, and I’m extremely pleased with Judge Snyder’s decision to certify this class,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder, Roland Tellis. “Through this case, we intend to prove that Countrywide charged borrowers hundreds of millions of dollars for legally-mandated, yet fraudulent appraisals. Manipulating borrowers and coercing them into paying for phony appraisals is simply wrong. We intend to continue our fight to ensure each and every borrower who was affected by this scheme receives justice.”
Consumers who received a loan from Countrywide and appraisal through LandSafe may call 866-700-8994 for more information.
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The law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C., with offices in Dallas, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego, is a nationally recognized law firm with a nearly 40-year history of “Protecting What’s Right” for people, communities and businesses harmed by negligence. Baron & Budd’s size and resources enable the firm to take on large and complex cases. The firm represents individuals and government and business entities in areas as diverse as dangerous pharmaceuticals and medical devices, environmental contamination, the Gulf oil spill, financial fraud, overtime violations, deceptive advertising, automotive defects, trucking accidents, nursing home abuse, and asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma.