The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Office of the Attorney General
One Ashburnton Place
Boston, MA 02108
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For Immediate Release: February 24, 2012
AMERICA SAVES WEEK--OPENING A SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Please find a consumer advisory here regarding information on opening a savings account during “America Saves Week”. The advisory is in PDF format so you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the file. If you already have Acrobat Reader you will be able to open the advisory without any problems. If you do not have it, you can go to the link below and download it. There is no fee associated with downloading Acrobat Reader.
For Immediate Release: January 3, 2012
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL LAURIE ROBINSON ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE FROM OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
The Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Laurie Robinson, announced today that she would be leaving her position at the end of February. Assistant Attorney General Robinson was confirmed by the Senate in November, 2009. She previously served for nearly seven years as assistant attorney general for OJP during the 1990s, making her the longest-serving head in the agency's 44-year history.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary will serve as acting assistant attorney general following Robinson's departure.
“Laurie Robinson has helped transform OJP’s role in the criminal and juvenile justice field, bringing scientific rigor, a true sense of partnership, transparency, and accountability to the agency,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “I am proud of her service to OJP’s constituents, the Department of Justice and the Obama Administration and personally grateful for her friendship and her many contributions to ensuring true justice for all Americans. The United States is a safer and fairer nation due to her efforts.”
“One of the reasons I can think about leaving now is that we have made substantial progress towards goals I set in 2009,” Assistant Attorney General Robinson said. “With the attorney general's support, we have made real progress in building strong partnerships with law enforcement and other parts of the state, local and tribal criminal and juvenile justice field. We have put science front and center and focused on evidence-based approaches. And we've made it a priority to ensure OJP's grant process is fair, accessible to our stakeholders, and accountable to Congress and the public in terms of managing scarce federal dollars.”
Science has been a primary focus during Robinson's tenure. In 2009 she launched an Evidence Integration Initiative (E2I) to better integrate evidence into OJP's programs and policy decisions and improve translation of evidence into practice. Assistant Attorney General Robinson was responsible, as part of E2I, for OJP's launching last June a “what works” clearinghouse, crimesolutions.gov, and the appointment of a Science Advisory Board for OJP, chaired by leading criminologist Alfred Blumstein. Congress has also provided support for OJP's evidence-based programs, including a 2 percent set-aside in OJP's 2012 appropriation for research and statistics spending.
Under Assistant Attorney General Robinson's leadership, OJP has also spearheaded new initiatives in a number of important areas, emphasizing innovative partnerships with the agency’s federal, state, local and tribal stakeholders. In law enforcement, OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance created the attorney general’s VALOR program, which provides critical nationwide training to prevent and respond to the ambush-style violence against law enforcement officers. In juvenile justice, Assistant Attorney General Robinson played a leading role in developing the White House’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, the attorney general’s Defending Childhood program, and along with the Department of Education, the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. In corrections, she supported the creation of the attorney general’s federal interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level effort to ensure those returning from prison become productive, law-abiding citizens. For crime victims, OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime is spearheading the Vision 21 Initiative to expand the vision and impact of the victim services field. In consultation with tribal leaders, OJP also partnered with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Office on Violence Against Women to streamline the grant application and awards process for American Indian and Alaska native communities, creating a single application for multiple purpose areas and facilitating comprehensive planning.
In the area of grant management, Assistant Attorney General Robinson made improving oversight in this area a top priority, with a focus on transparency and rigorous supervision of the grants process. She required for the first time, for example, that all OJP funding decisions be posted on the agency's website, oversaw the introduction of a new high risk grantee monitoring program, and drove a focus on competition in the grants award process. During her tenure, OJP was able to ensure that 100 percent of its $2.7 billion under the Recovery Act was obligated in a timely manner without the addition of any new staff.
Assistant Attorney General Robinson has spent her professional career as a leader in the criminal justice field. Immediately prior to coming back to the Department of Justice, she was director of the Master of Science program at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Criminology.
Additional information about the Office of Justice Programs is available at www.ojp.gov.
For Immediate Release: December 1, 2011
NBC News Report Here
FIVE NATIONAL BANKS SUED BY AG COAKLEY IN CONNECTION WITH ILLEGAL FORECLOSURES AND LOAN SERVICING
First Comprehensive Lawsuit to Address Foreclosure Crisis Seeks to Hold Banks Accountable For Illegal and Deceptive Conduct
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and GMAC All Named As Defendants; Mortgage Electronic Registration System (“MERS”) Also Sued
BOSTON – Five national banks have been sued in connection with their roles in allegedly pursuing illegal foreclosures on properties in Massachusetts as well as deceptive loan servicing, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The lawsuit was filed today in Suffolk Superior Court against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and GMAC. It also names Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (“MERS”) and its parent, MERSCORP Inc., as defendants.
“The single most important thing we can do to return to a healthy economy is to address this foreclosure crisis,” said AG Coakley. “Our suit alleges that the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law. Our action today seeks real accountability for the banks illegal behavior and real relief for homeowners.”
In the complaint, the Attorney General alleges these five entities engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of Massachusetts’ law by:
• Pervasive use of fraudulent documentation in the foreclosure process, including so-called “robo-signing”;
• Foreclosing without holding the actual mortgage (“Ibanez” violations);
• Corrupting Massachusetts’ land recording system through the use of MERS;
• Failing to uphold loan modification promises to Massachusetts homeowners.
USE OF FALSE DOCUMENTS TO EXPEDITE FORECLOSURES “ROBO-SIGNING”:
According to the complaint, the banks used false documentation in the foreclosure process, including so-called “robo-signing”, whereby bank personnel signed affidavits that were untrue, or not based on the signor’s actual knowledge. An entity wishing to foreclose on a property must demonstrate it has filed an affidavit in compliance with Massachusetts law. By October 2010, the banks’ flagrant disregard of affidavit and notary process requirements became widely known. Filings with various Registers of Deeds provided to the Attorney General’s Office revealed the pervasive use of mortgage service employees to sign hundreds of affidavits and sworn statements without personal knowledge of the information contained in those affidavits. Evidence also suggests these practices were not confined to the foreclosure process, but also used in the assignment, transfer and modification of mortgages secured by property in Massachusetts.
FORECLOSING WITHOUT LEGAL AUTHORITY “IBANEZ VIOLATIONS”:
Second, these five entities participated in unlawful foreclosures when they commenced foreclosures on mortgages where they were not the holders of those mortgages. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), in Commonwealth v Ibanez, recently upheld Massachusetts law and stated that “only the present holder of a mortgage is authorized to foreclose on the mortgaged property.” The complaint alleges that these entities ignored this fundamental legal mandate and proceeded to foreclosure even though they did not hold the mortgage, and thus had no legal authority to conduct the foreclosure. The banks’ failure to obtain a valid assignment of the mortgage prior to foreclosure has adversely impacted titles to hundreds, if not thousands, of properties in the Commonwealth. The complaint alleges that the banks falsely claimed to be the holder of a mortgage in several foreclosure documents even though they failed to obtain a valid assignment of the mortgage.
UNDERMINING PUBLIC RECORDS “MERS”:
Third, the complaint alleges that these banks have undermined our public land record system through the use of MERS, a private electronic registry system. According to the complaint, the creation and use of MERS was adopted by these defendants primarily to avoid land registration and recording requirements, including payment of recording and registration fees, and to facilitate sales of mortgage loans. The use of MERS has resulted in a lack of transparency as to the entities that have the legal authority to enforce mortgages, and unfairly conceals from borrowers the true identity of the holder of the debt. Since 1997, more than 63 million home loans have been registered on the MERS System, accounting for more than 60 percent of all newly-originated mortgage loans. The complaint also alleges that through the use of the MERS system, the banks unlawfully failed to register assignments of mortgages and transfers of the beneficial interests in mortgages.
MISREPRESENTING LOAN MODIFICATION PROGRAMS:
Finally, the complaint alleges the banks deceived and misrepresented to borrowers the process, requirements, and availability of loan modifications. The banks publically claimed to be engaged in widespread loan modifications aimed at preserving home ownership and avoiding unnecessary foreclosures. Through the National Homeownership Retention Program, which commenced on November 6, 2008, these banks represented that they would work with borrowers to help them avoid unnecessary foreclosures by reducing monthly mortgage payments to affordable and sustainable levels. The complaint alleges these banks misled borrowers about their eligibility for this program and the amount of relief available, failed to achieve a significant level of modifications, and often strung along borrowers for months in trial modifications that were ultimately rejected.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties, restitution for harm to borrowers and compensation for registration fees that were avoided. The lawsuit also seeks to hold the banks accountable through permanent injunctive relief to provide a solution for prior unlawful foreclosures and to require that the banks, going forward, register assignments and other documents in accordance with Massachusetts law.
The lawsuit follows more than a year of negotiations with the banks over a 50-state settlement focused around the issues of fraudulent documents, including “robo-signing.” AG Coakley had made clear that she would not sign on to an agreement with the banks if it included broad liability release regarding MERS and other issues or if she did not believe the banks had come to the table with an offer in the best interest of Massachusetts.
AG Coakley’s office has been a national leader in holding banks and investment giants accountable for their roles in the economic crisis. AG Coakley has obtained recoveries from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Countrywide, Fremont Investment & Loan, Option One, and others on behalf of Massachusetts homeowners. As a result of these actions, her office has recovered more than $600 million in relief for investors and borrowers, helped keep more than 25,400 people in their homes, and returned nearly $60 million in taxpayer funds back to the Commonwealth.
More information about AG Coakley’s work during the lending crisis can be found here.
The lawsuit is being handled by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division, including Assistant Attorneys General Amber Villa, John Stephan, Sara Cable, and Justin Lowe; Acting Division Chief David Monahan; Investigator Monique Cascarano of the Investigation Division; Chris Barry-Smith, Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau and Stephanie Kahn, Deputy Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau.
For Immediate release - November 22, 2011
AG COAKLEY AND RETAILERS ASSOCIATION OF MASSACHUSETTS OFFER CONSUMER TIPS FOR HOLIDAY SHOPPING
BOSTON – With the biggest shopping days of the year approaching, including “Black Friday” and “Cyber-Monday,” AG Coakley and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts are offering consumers these tips to protect themselves as they prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season:
SHOPPING AT A STORE:
- Gift certificates are good for seven years: Under Massachusetts Law, a gift certificate or a merchandise credit must be redeemable for seven years from the date of issuance. Once a consumer redeems a gift certificate or gift card for 90% of its value, the balance is redeemable in cash. State law does NOT apply to gift cards issued by a national bank.
- Know the return policy: Stores in Massachusetts are required to disclose return policies prior to the transaction, so be sure you review the return policy BEFORE purchasing something. Return policies do not apply to defective goods.
- Get your facts straightaway before you layaway: If you are putting an item on layaway , don’t hand over money before knowing the store’s policy. It is illegal for a store to fail to disclose or to misrepresent its layaway plan, or for a store to represent that the goods chosen by the buyer or an exact duplicate are being "laid away" if that is not true. It is illegal to increase the price of layaway goods.
- Take advertisements with you: A business must honor the price displayed in its advertisement , even if it is incorrect. However, once a business corrects the price in its advertisement, they may sell it for the new price. If a store runs out of a product, check the ad to see if they are offering rain checks. Under state law, businesses must offer rain checks unless they otherwise state in their advertisements that they will not.
- Confirm website security: Shop only on trusted websites. Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in “https://” and in the lower-right corner of the check-out page for the “lock” symbol before paying for an item. You can also right-click anywhere on the website page and select “properties” to view a website’s URL and determine if the website is encrypted. Do not make the purchase if the website is not secure.
- Pay with a credit card: If you shop online, pay with a credit card. This offers an added layer of consumer protection. Under federal law, shoppers can dispute Internet purchases if they don’t receive the purchased items. Consumers can also dispute unauthorized charges made on their credit cards. Be sure to print all confirmation pages and save any e-mail correspondence about your order as a record of the purchase.
- Beware of Phishing: Remember, legitimate businesses do not send emails announcing problems with an order or account and proactively solicit consumers’ financial information. If you receive an email like this, call the company where the purchase was made to confirm whether there really was a problem with the transaction.
- Know who you are dealing with: Online shopping can make it difficult to know who you are doing business with. Do some research and read online reviews, to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business. If you are using on an online auction site , in most situations, it merely brings together the buyer and seller. Check a seller’s record, and if you have made a successful bid, make direct contact with the seller and try not to use just email.
While most businesses are reputable, consumers that have a problem or unresolved issue may wish to make a complaint by contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400. The Attorney General’s Website, www.mass.gov/ago , offers additional tips on retail rights and consumer protections. RAM has been the voice of the Commonwealth’s retailers for almost 100 years. To learn more, please visit https://www.retailersma.org/.
November 1, 2011
CONTEMPT PROCEEDING SOUGHT AGAINST ALLEGED MASTERMIND BEHIND VACATION CLUB SCHEMES
Allegedly Withdrew $480,000 From Bank Accounts in Violation of Court Order; AG’s Office Seeks to Recover Funds
BOSTON- A contempt proceeding has been sought against the alleged mastermind of a bait and switch scheme designed to dupe consumers out of money for fake vacation club memberships. Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The AG’s Office alleges the company’s owner withdrew $480,000 from bank accounts just one day after a court injunction had frozen those assets.
“The Commonwealth often seeks to secure assets for its anticipated judgments, particularly where consumers are the victims of flagrantly unlawful practices,” said AG Coakley. “This is an egregious example of a defendant ignoring the court’s order not to transfer any funds. We filed this contempt proceeding to protect funds that could be used for potential recovery in this case.”
Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office initiated a contempt proceeding in Suffolk Superior Court against Charles R. Caliri, of Woodstock, Vermont for violating the terms of a July 2010 temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction which prevented Caliri from disposing of any assets, including funds held in any bank accounts. The Attorney General’s contempt proceeding alleges that Caliri, one day after the issuance of the court order, withdrew a total of $480,000 from four bank accounts in the form of treasurer’s checks payable to himself.
The Attorney General’s Office is seeking a court order for Caliri to turn over $380,000 to be deposited into an escrow account until further order of the court. If Caliri does not comply with the court’s judgment and order, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. A contempt proceeding typically requires the parties to expedite the discovery process to allow the judge to make a separate ruling on the alleged contemptuous conduct. The underlying complaint will proceed on a normal schedule.
In July 2010, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Caliri, owner of businesses Only Way 2 Go Travel of Plymouth, and Fantasia Travel Group of Methuen, as well as multiple individuals associated with those enterprises, for allegedly using unfair and deceptive marketing and sales tactics to sell memberships for a vacation club that offered few, if any, of the benefits promised.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants lured consumers through mail and telephone solicitations to their Plymouth and Methuen presentation centers by promising them prizes and gifts of airline travel, weekend getaways, and rebate cards. Once consumers arrived at the presentation centers to claim their prizes, defendants subjected these consumers to high pressure sales tactics designed to induce those consumers to purchase memberships in the Outrigger Vacation Club. Consumers paid thousands of dollars for these memberships based upon false promises by the defendants that they would receive better-than-Internet wholesale prices on vacation packages, cruises, accommodations and other travel services.
None of the consumers who complained to the Attorney General’s Office ever received the prizes or gifts initially promised to them. Instead, they left the Plymouth and Methuen sales presentation venues having spent as much as $8,500 for vacation club memberships that were essentially worthless when compared with travel arrangements they could make themselves using one of the major Internet travel search engines or by calling airlines, hotels and resorts directly.
The Attorney General’s office has received more than 300 complaints from consumers who have fallen victim to the defendants’ scheme. Consumers who purchased an Outrigger membership paid on average a membership price of approximately $4,200.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Emily Armstrong and Gillian Feiner of Attorney General Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from paralegal Krista Roche, also of the Consumer Protection Division.