Nationwide Consumer Services, a large private consumer protection organization, recognizing that a sizable portion of their clients were homeowners, many of whom had been adversely affected by the national housing crisis, decided to identify a homeowner assistance firm that it could use within a blanket referral program for the benefit of their members.
“Given the housing crisis that continued to drag on and its impact on increasing numbers of homeowners who were legitimately attempting to maintain their mortgages, many that were our clients, we decided to look for a homeowner assistance company that we could recommend to our customers with confidence,” says John O’Shea, senior vice-president of Nationwide. “Although we looked at a number of programs, we were most impressed with Able Financial, a Florida-based homeowner assistance firm with an apparent good track record of success.”
As part of their process, the company asked that each prospect submit information regarding their business history and background. The information was to be used to help select and eventually vet their top candidate. Beyond simply making a good recommendation, the company wanted to mitigate any potential liability or damage to their business reputation. This was a serious consideration at that time, given the widespread claims of fraud and misconduct perpetrated against the pubic by an assortment of companies in the mortgage servicing and modification arena. Additionally, there were myriad investigations being carried out by state and federal regulators and law enforcement authorities.
Having selected their chief prospect, the company realized they would need to conduct proper vetting, but the principals of Nationwide determined they lacked the expertise and resources to fully investigate Able. They decided they would need to identify an inexpensive-change to affordable investigative research firm capable of cost-effectively determining if Able Financial was the reputable service provider they claimed to be.
The company began an Internet search for an investigative service company that could conduct a thorough, cost-effective check on Able Financial. After speaking with a member of PBAcheck, an attorney-owned research and investigative-intelligence firm, they decided to utilize them to investigate Able and then issue a comprehensive research report detailing their findings.
“We were looking for more than the simple type of information most automated services could offer and we liked the fact that PBAcheck was attorney-owned and had experience across a pretty wide spectrum of business and legal channels,” notes O’Shea. “Our primary consideration was their ability to quickly and effectively conduct the type of thorough investigation into Able that we could rely on. The investigation was to range from their business reputation and finances to litigation and regulatory history, the background of their principals, and more.”
PBAcheck began its investigation and quickly determined that Able Financial was not the upstanding business entity it purported itself to be. The company claimed it had been in business 11 years, maintained a 92-percent success rate in assisting clients with home loan modifications, and had a clean regulatory record with the State of Florida.
Upon completion of its investigation, PBAcheck issued a comprehensive business report revealing that the homeowners’ assistance firm had only been in business 14 months. Additionally, the report demonstrated that Able’s success rate was highly inflated and that the company had received three regulatory citations from the State of Florida. Moreover, PBA discovered that Able’s owner was a convicted felon who had served over six years in prison for his participation in two different fraud schemes and had recently been indicted for stealing the identities of several of his own clients.
Empowered by PBAcheck’s investigative research and report, Nationwide elected against including Able Financial in their referral program. And they were able to circumvent what likely would have been a disastrous scenario for their clients and the company itself.
“The information contained in the PBA report undoubtedly prevented our clients from having their identities stolen, in addition to the resulting financial losses and inconvenience that would have arisen from utilizing such an unscrupulous operator as they attempted to work in good faith to modify their mortgages,” offers O’Shea. “From a business standpoint, we were extremely grateful for the work they did and what they uncovered. That information absolutely prevented a slew of lawsuits that surely would have been filed against us had we proceeded forward with referring Able to our clients.”