Orange County, California, U.S.
|Fate||Chapter 11 liquidation|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California,|
Number of employees
Ameriquest was one of the largest United States sub-prime mortgage lenders until its dissolution in September 2007. Among the first mortgage companies employing computers to solicit prospective borrowers and hasten the loan application process, Ameriquest was accused of predatory lending practices by United States banking regulators. The company was notable for its promotion of the stated income loan, whereby potential borrowers were allowed to claim income without verification of employment. The proliferation of lending to customers with marginal creditworthiness proved to be not only a key factor leading to the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis, but also a catalyst to Ameriquest's own demise.
Ameriquest was widely known throughout the United States for its promotional activity. It advertised widely on television; flew blimps over football and baseball stadiums; and sponsored the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang tour, the Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show, and NASCAR drivers. Its ad slogan was "proud sponsor of the American dream," and its company motto was "do the right thing." Ameriquest frequently reiterated that their customers were "more than a number," producing a series of commercials with the theme "Don't judge too quickly. We won't."
Ameriquest was founded in 1979 by Roland Arnall, in Orange County, California, as a savings and loan association, or thrift, called Long Beach Savings & Loan. After moving to Long Beach, California and being converted to a pure mortgage lender in 1994, the company was renamed Long Beach Mortgage Co. In 1997, the department that funded loans made by independent brokers was spun off into a publicly traded company that was ultimately purchased by Washington Mutual in 1999.
Long Beach Savings & Loan was subsequently reorganized into three divisions under the auspices of ACC Capital Holdings, a private conglomerate owned entirely by Arnall: Ameriquest Mortgage Company (retail banking), Argent Mortgage (wholesale banking), and AMC Mortgage Services (loan servicing).
The home stadium of the Texas Rangers was called Ameriquest Field until March 19, 2007, when Ameriquest relinquished naming rights. The stadium was renamed Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and subsequently Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Predatory lending allegation
In 1996, the company agreed to pay $3 million into an "educational fund" to settle a Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of gouging and predatory lending practices against older, female, and minority borrowers. Prosecutors accused it of allowing mortgage brokers and its own employees to charge these customers an additional fee of as much as 12 percent of the loan amount. As part of the settlement, Ameriquest (then still known as Long Beach Mortgage) agreed to use the educational fund to train its employees in proper mortgage techniques and to refrain from utilizing predatory lending techniques, but only within the State of California. Shortly after entering into this settlement agreement, the company "switched" names with its subsidiary and began aggressively seeking refinance-mortgage business throughout the United States.
In 2001, after being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, the company settled a dispute with ACORN, a national organization of community groups, promising to offer $360 million in low-cost loans.
In February 2005, reporters Michael Hudson and E. Scott Reckard broke a story in the Los Angeles Times about "boiler room" sales tactics at Ameriquest. Their investigation found evidence that the company had undertaken various questionable practices, including "deceiving borrowers about the terms of their loans, forging documents, falsifying appraisals and fabricating borrowers' income to qualify them for loans they couldn't afford."
On 1 August 2005, Ameriquest announced that it would set aside $325 million to settle investigations by 30 state attorneys general into allegations that it had preyed on borrowers by offering loans with hidden fees and balloon payments. In at least five of those states—California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Florida—Ameriquest had already settled multimillion-dollar suits. Federal Housing Administration commissioner Brian Montgomery stated that the settlement reinforced his concern that the industry was exploiting borrowers and that he was "shocked to find those customers had been lured away by the 'fool's gold' of subprime loans".
In May 2006, Ameriquest Mortgage announced it was closing all of its retail offices and in the future would make its loans through mortgage brokers, a channel not covered by the predatory-lending settlement.
On June 13, 2007, lawyers for borrowers seeking class status asserted in a filing with the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that "assets of the Ameriquest entities were transferred to Arnall with the actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud the plaintiffs in this action."
Former Ameriquest employees alleged that they were pushed to falsify documents on bad mortgages and then sell them to Wall Street banks looking to make fast profits. There is growing evidence that such mortgage fraud may have been at the heart of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2010.
Ameriquest operated the Soaring Dreams Fund, which donated money to initiatives that help children.[vague] During the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series season, the fund was promoted on race cars, whose designs were picked in a contest.
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- Reckard, E. Scott (June 19, 2007). "Lawsuit sets sights on Ameriquest founder". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 May 2018.