Chicago-based mortgage underwriter pays $15.06 million to resolve false claims allegations

by Ben Vernia | April 30th, 2020

On April 29, the Department of Justice announced that Chicago, Illinois-based Guaranteed Rate Inc., has agreed to pay $15 million to settle allegations – originally brought by a whistleblower – that the mortgage underwriter submitted claims that violated the False Claims Act and FIRREA. According to DOJ’s press release:

Guaranteed Rate Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $15.06 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) by knowingly violating material program requirements when it originated and underwrote mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or  guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Justice announced today.  Guaranteed Rate is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with branches across the United States.

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Participants in FHA insurance and VA guarantee programs, like Guaranteed Rate, have the authority to originate and underwrite mortgage loans without first having the government review the loans for compliance with the agency’s underwriting and origination requirements.  If an FHA insured or VA guaranteed loan defaults, the holder of the loan may submit a claim to the United States for certain losses.  Lenders are therefore required to follow FHA and VA rules designed to ensure that only mortgages that meet key credit and underwriting criteria are insured or guaranteed by the government. 

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Guaranteed Rate knowingly failed to comply with material program rules that require lenders to maintain quality control programs to prevent and correct underwriting deficiencies, self-report any materially deficient loans that they identify, and ensure that the underwriting process is free from conflicts of interest.

As part of the settlement, Guaranteed Rate admitted that it failed to adhere to the applicable self-reporting requirements, that its FHA underwriters received commissions and gifts in violation of program rules, and that there were instances in which its government underwriters were instructed not to review documents that were relevant to the underwriting decision.  Guaranteed Rate further acknowledged that it certified and the government insured and guaranteed loans approved by Guaranteed Rate that were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance or VA loan guarantees and that HUD and VA would not have insured or guaranteed the loans but for its actions.

While the covered conduct stretched back as far as January 2008, Guaranteed Rate took significant measures to stop the practices, both before and after being notified of the United States’ investigation.  It received credit for doing so in connection with the settlement. 

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The Government announced that the whistleblower, a former employee of Guaranteed Rate, will receive $2,443,000 of the recovery (a relator’s share of approximately 16%).

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