FTC Returns $1.5 Million to Consumers from Mortgage Lender

On April 22, 2011, an administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission mailed 3,162 refund checks to borrowers allegedly harmed by Golden Empire Mortgage, Inc. and Howard D. Kootstra. The refund checks stem from a lawsuit the FTC filed against Golden Empire and Kootstra, alleging that they illegally charged Hispanic consumers higher prices for mortgage loans than non-Hispanic white consumers – price disparities that could not be explained by the applicants’ credit characteristics or underwriting risk. A settlement order imposed a $5.5 million judgment that was suspended when the defendants paid $1.5 million for consumer redress. The settlement order bars the defendants from discriminating on the basis of national origin in credit transactions and requires Golden Empire to establish and maintain a policy that restricts loan originators’ pricing discretion, a fair lending monitoring program, a program to ensure the accuracy and completeness of their data, and employee training programs.

Approximately $1.5 million is being returned to consumers. Consumers who receive the checks should cash them on or before June 21, 2011. The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information before redress checks may be cashed. Golden Empire customers with questions should call the redress administrator, Gilardi & Co. LLC, at 888-292-6875 or visit the FTC’s refund website.