Browse Category

Legal

donkey tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

donkey

ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

Trump1

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

mclub

The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

a

Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

monday again

Start the Week

Welcome to another new week in the world of timeshare, tomorrow Irene Parker has prepared an article following the news that Richard Cordray has stepped down from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Part I is about the Manhattan Club, She begins with what the CFPB has done, including the investigation into Westgate, which was conveniently dropped after two years. But more on that tomorrow.

tribunal supremo

In Friday’s Letter from America, we began with the usual roundup from Europe, with the latest court cases. At the end of the day the news came in, too late for publishing, of yet another Supreme Court ruling being issued from Madrid.

In this case, Silverpoint have been ordered to return over £61,000 plus legal fees and interest to another client. The contract was also declared null and void, at present we do not have the full details of the sentence, but it would appear that the contract breached the timeshare law on several points.

As usual the main point will be the length of the contract, the law states that contract must be no longer than 50 years in duration, so the perpetuity contracts sold by Silverpoint contravene this. Once again the Supreme Court has made its point.

los claveles logo

On the story of Los Claveles in Tenerife, Inside Timeshare has received some comments from other members who do not appear to be in agreement with the Committee. They are either neutral or feel that Wimpen has acted in good faith.

Well, there are always two sides to any story or dispute, not all will agree, Inside Timeshare is happy to publish opposing views. We will also be looking into this and preparing a full article in due course.

In the meantime there is a link below which will start the ball rolling in bringing another side to the story and hopefully a little balance.

Inside Timeshare does try to get other views, quite often other parties do not respond, many emails are sent but no reply is ever received. Telephone calls are terminated, usually with you are through to the wrong department or even we don’t know anything about that. So thank you to those who did send in information.

http://www.losclaveles-alt.eu

 

jaw jaw

You have any comments or views on any article published, send them in using the contact form, we will either post them in the comments section or include them in any article.

Want to know if a company is genuine, once again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s that time of the week again, so welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds. This article is from Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker. But as usual a roundup from Europe.

It has been a very busy week in the courts again with many case being heard, with sentence still to be issued by the judge but there have been a few announced.

gavela

On Monday there were two announcements, the first was the judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Anfi, once again the contract was declared null and void, the client in this case will be returned over 12,000€ plus legal interest. The courts are certainly sticking to the letter of the law.

In the second case that was announced, the Court of First Instance in Tenerife found against Silverpoint (Resort Properties). In this case the judge found that the contract was in breach of the timeshare law 42/98 in that it exceeded the 50 years that is allowed, this should have also been explained to the customer before signing.

The judge declared the contract null and void, ordering Silverpoint to pay the client over £59,000 plus legal interest.

The following day, Tuesday, another sentence against Anfi was announced by the Judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Another contract was declared null and void, with Anfi being ordered to return over 26,000€ plus legal interest.

Back in September Petchey Leisure (now MGM Muthu) was ordered to repay over 16,000€ and declared the contract null and void, by the High Court in Tenerife. The client in that case has now had the money transferred to their bank account.

On Thursday, there were three court sentences announced, Once again Anfi have been ordered to return over 20.000€ plus legal interest, this was by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. The judge also declared the contract null and void.

In Tenerife the Court of First Instance declared a Silverpoint contract null and void, ordering the return of over 30,000€ plus legal interest.

In the High Court in Tenerife, Regency Resorts was ordered to return £35,200 plus an extra £35,200 as double the deposit taken in the cooling off period, which is forbidden by law. This particular client will now be receiving £70,400 plus legal fees and legal interest. A nice Christmas present for this client!

Today as we this article was being prepared for publishing the following news was issued in a press release:

The Supreme Court in Madrid issued another damning sentence against Silverpoint, the Court ordered the return of the full purchase price plus double the deposit and all legal fees. The contract was also declared null and void. In this case the client will be receiving over £105,000.

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who are certainly at the forefront in the field of timeshare law.

cla-brochure

Inside Timeshare is still receiving many enquiries regarding “claims” companies and “law firms” contacting owners with the promise that they have cases and can get their money back. Many of these readers don’t even own in Spain, or even upgraded in Spain since the law came into place in 1999, so how can these cases go to the Spanish Courts?

Some of these are also being told that they pay for a relinquishment, then the claim will be filed on a no win no fee basis. This can only mean one thing, an attempt to claim under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Another aspect to this is the client will also be told at the meeting the only way they can do this is by purchasing another product! Sounds like the classic “bait and switch”!

There is also more news which at present we cannot publish as it has not been verified, so that is it from Europe, now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds – The Developer vs the Member

wall st

By Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer

November 17, 2017

On Monday Inside Timeshare published an article comparing hedge fund involvement in Puerto Rico to hedge fund involvement in timeshare. Today we examine further how debt affects timeshare with help from Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and private equity investor Justin Morgan.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-american-perspective-comparison/

Introduction by Irene Parker

As a Diamond Resorts member, I have access to information I would not have about other timeshare companies, so once again Diamond is used as an example with help from Michael Nuwer, also a DRI member, and Justin Morgan, a former DRI member, to explain the mechanics of timeshare inventory valuation and timeshare debt.

I asked Inside Timeshare Australian Contributor Justin Morgan how a company like Diamond can have a $2.2 billion dollar valuation when the entire inventory of points is worthless to the members, given so many complaints about the lack of a secondary market. Of course, there is value to staying at a property, but for discussion purposes, timeshares are a liability on an individual member’s net worth statement. Inside Timeshare has received 196 timeshare complaints from our readers against four major developers. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch. I have interviewed many families devastated, sometimes just weeks after purchase.

In an article I wrote for TheStreet, I expressed concern over inventory valuation irregularities that delayed DRI’s second quarter 2016 earnings report, the last public report before being taken private. Diamond previously reported 11 quarters of consecutive robust earnings growth. After announcing the delay, just after the Apollo acquisition announcement, earnings had to be restated from 2014 going forward.

“After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release. Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.”

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

Justin Morgan’s analysis

The whole industry itself uses some quite questionable inventory valuation methods that may be designed, according to some, to target more the financing arrangements that were the traditional model in the industry when GMAC and others were underwriting timeshare sales departments. This is why private hedge fund equity in the industry has somewhat caused a shift in thinking. If private equity is funding the model based upon equity vs loan models, the capital structures underneath begin to change. The same accounting reports will still be drawn upon to make sense of the numbers, but let’s not forget that inventory valuations do have a bit of leeway to move. Even financial reporting itself can diverge from standard reporting models, but it usually is flagged as a change in accounting methodology that would have otherwise tipped off Apollo.

Like Enron, it depends upon who’s looking, and who might be wanting to look away to get a deal done. Even if Apollo did know, it doesn’t mean they’d fess to the knowledge of spotting an irregularity if they believed they were able to profit in the end, and I believe that Michael Nuwer showed the sort of cap structure that Apollo introduced. It largely turned the debt into the membership, so whilst Apollo may have even noticed non-standard valuations, it might have only forced a better price to come from Diamond vs flagging the issue or walking away from the overall deal. Clearly, Apollo are their own beast in these type of private equity deals which reap profits and shift debt restructuring unwittingly into club members. This is a bigger issue. It’s like taking a loan out in someone else’s name and handing them the bill after you’ve taken what you want for the deal. Club members were only ever at Apollo-DRI’s mercy after this.

There are definitely some important and significant value-implied shifts from these numbers since the street uses earnings to make their valuations, but the valuation of inventory is an area that is somewhat suitable itself. The industry bodies know how to make it work and actually fought to use non-standard inventory models. But I’ve not gauged for differences between the pre-order hedge fund industry and the one we’re seeing rise out of the seas today.

I have looked with horror upon the entry of these private hedge funds because I know that they have little interest in the product itself. They are only in it to devour the membership of as much as they can get, and given the legal models, that could be the scariest evolution to date. At least cryptocurrencies attempt to establish some monetary supply rules, but timeshare clubs know that they can just keep raising budgets legally to cover their required rates of returns.

In an industry that generally looks for 30% per annum returns as a rule of thumb, that’s going to cause some high maintenance fee jokes in the future. But I remember the old DRI hiking maintenance close to 25% circa 2007 and then again in 2009. They first blamed a strong economy, whilst the second blamed the weak economy. More like a satyr blowing hot and cold in the one breath! But the disturbing thing to me is how Apollo financed this whole arrangement. They shifted the debt onto the members. They made their money from the start…The rest is just cream…The debt which now pays the Apollonian entities is the debt Apollo created and lumped into the membership at the financing stage.

We must be clear. They created the debt specifically to land it on membership; so really, it is as if the DRI members paid a good chunk of the deal. If the Attorneys General don’t see this, then they’ll miss what chicanery has been done here.

Michael Nuwer

Diamond reports show increasing levels of bad debt accompanied by decreasing membership since the peak in 2013.

chart1

Membership is down 9% since 2013

chart2

One thing that is not clear to me is the economic value of points. It often appears that a developer sells the points (say 10,000 points) for, say, $20,000. But, the next day, if I (the owner) try to sell those points in the secondary market, they are worth, maybe, $1,000. (If Bluegreen points; DRI points are worth $0.) The economist in me thinks the developer originally sold me points for $1,000 plus a club membership for the remaining $19,000. Thus, if my points are foreclosed and resold for the full $20,000, only $1,000 is the value of the points.

So, the question here is: what is the developer selling. Is the sale just vacation points or is the sale a bundle that includes points plus other stuff? I’ve read my DRI contract many times and still can’t tell what it specifically covers.

So what happens when someone buys timeshare points?

Let’s look at this example:

Say Diamond makes a sale for $30,000. The buyer might make a down payment of 20% or $6,000. The remaining $24,000 is a loan. Diamond now has a short term financing problem. They have $6,000 in cash and $24,000 in a non-liquid asset. But Diamond has immediate operating costs. A bit more than $15,000 from the sale is needed for advertising, marketing, and commission expenses. The carrying cost of the inventory must also be paid. Additionally, Diamond faces G&A costs (general and administrative) which need to be paid. All of these are current expenses, but Diamond only has the cash down-payments to cover them.

To pay current expenses, Diamond borrows money from a bank (the jargon is a “warehouse facility”). This facility is a credit line agreement, and, just like my credit card, Diamond’s credit line has a limit. Before Apollo, Diamond’s credit line was $100 million with Capital One.

In short: Diamond must borrow money from a bank to cover the current year’s expenses while it waits 7-10 years to get re-paid on the outstanding loans made to members.

Securitization of the outstanding loans is a way to oil, and thereby speed-up, the lending machine. Once Diamond reaches its $100 million credit limit, it will not be able to offer more loans for the purchase of points. Thus, to overcome this limit, the company bundles outstanding loans into a trust fund and sells shares in that fund as an Asset-Backed Security. The proceeds from selling these shares are used to pay down the credit line and Diamond’s perpetual loan machine continues.

Irene asked how Apollo Global Management will fare in their purchase of DRI. Will the restatement of inventory valuation have an impact?

DRI EBITDA in 2015 was $385 million and thus the valuation multiple ($2200/385) is a mere 5.7. Apollo got the company for a steal. If they can spruce it up and get 10x, the valuation will be $3.8 billion. There’s Apollo’s 30% profit.

trust earned

Thank you to Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan for their analysis. I have nothing against private equity, but extraordinary investment returns at the expense of timeshare members or Puerto Ricans is not acceptable if so many complaint allegations are true. In addition to 192 Inside Timeshare readers who are timeshare members, I have interviewed ten current and former timeshare sales agents that all confirm predatory sales practices are widespread in this industry. There have been several recent investigations and settlements by Attorneys General including New York, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado as well as lawsuits too numerous to mention. It is our hope developers will confront the problem and work with member complaints to improve the quality of timeshare sales today rather than continue to deny such practices exists. Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Facebook if you have timeshare concerns.   

Timeshare self-help Facebook groups

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you to Justin and Michael, also to Irene for her introduction. This week Irene has been very busy dealing with the many enquiries we have received from US owners / members. Within an hour of publishing Tuesdays article, we received 3 pleas of help, these are sent to Irene who then makes contact with the relevant advice and which of our advocacy team can help. Keep up the great work US Team.

If you need any information or help with any timeshare matter and don’t know where to turn, Inside Timeshare is here to help.

Also remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you find in an advert. This last one rings very true for one UK reader, She found an advert in the Royal British Legion Magazine for a company that said it could help with a claim. Being in the British legion magazine she believed it would be genuine, well we all would! Unfortunately, adverts are not checked for authenticity, they are sold by a marketing company to pay the cost of publication, the same is also true for any newspaper or magazine. So the it proves that you need to do your homework!

On that note, Friday is here, the weekend is once again upon us, so have a great weekend and we will be back on Monday.

friday dog

 

nightmare

The Never Ending Ownership: Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street.

Once again Tony Hetherington has highlighted the problem of timeshare ownership and the never ending membership. His article in MailOnline published 12 November (see link at the end for the full article), is the story of an elderly couple being hounded for £3,010 maintenance fees.

This couple are 80 years of age, they purchased their timeshare in 1993, this is now controlled by Cameron House Owners Club. Apparently they have been asking to sell since 2004, all maintenance fees had been paid upto 2012, when they returned their ownership certificates.

cameron logo

They have serious medical conditions and are unable to use the timeshare, they are also on limited pensions, so are unable to afford the ongoing costs. They are now being threatened with debt collectors if they do not pay.

Sounds a very familiar story, Inside Timeshare has been highlighting these types of cases for some time, especially those involving MacDonald Resorts, remember the case of Mrs B, which has still not been resolved even after nearly 2 years.

Mrs B and her sister are both in their 80’s not in good health and believed that their timeshare at Dona Lola Club in Spain had been transferred to a third party. Inside Timeshare has the notarised document that shows this to be the case. MacDonald’s refuse to accept this and are hounding them for around 3 years maintenance which they cannot afford to pay. Again the debt collectors have been sent in.

mcdonaldsresortlogo

In Spain these “perpetuity” contracts have been illegal since 4 January 1999, when Ley 42/98 was enacted. Under this law contracts must be for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years. Many contracts for timeshares that have been sold since then which exceed the 50 year maximum are being declared null & void, with all the purchase price being returned. This law has been enforced by 69 Supreme Court rulings which all Spanish courts must abide by.

Timeshares such as MacDonalds and Cameron House use the perpetuity clause to lock in owners for ever, it also becomes part of their estate which is then the responsibility of whoever inherits the timeshare to continue to pay the maintenance. It doesn’t end there, it then becomes part of their estate, as so on it goes.

So as Tony Hetherington puts it “Even death does not bring an end to the bills. It could claim against your estate, blocking bequests to family, friends or charities, while it pockets annual fees for a timeshare that will stand unused”.

Some timeshare companies do have exit policies, Diamond for instance would have allowed this couple out free of charge under their exceptional circumstances programme, which this couple would clearly fall into.

MacDonald Resorts which has a very poor reputation on this matter, usually charges 4 years maintenance for release, but this is only offered every two years and is limited to participants on a first come first served basis.

These perpetuity contracts and the behaviour of these timeshare operators is totally unfair, at least Spain has addressed the problem, it is time for the Scottish and English law makers to address this and bring in the laws such as Spain to limit the duration of contracts and enforce reasonable exit programs. The industry cannot be trusted to do it themselves, until this is done we will be seeing many more cases such as this couple and Mrs B.

Follow the links below to Tony Hetheringtons’ latest article and his previous article from July 2014, the next two links are articles relating to Mrs B.

tony hetherington
Tony Hetherington

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/investing/article-5073153/TONY-HETHERINGTON-s-time-leave-Cameron-House-Hotel.html

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2698355/TONY-HETHERGINGTON-Even-death-not-rid-timeshare.html

http://insidetimeshare.com/illness-not-reason-surrender-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/bbc-scotland-investigates-problems-timeshare-contracts/

If you have any questions or concerns about similar circumstances, or have purchased in Spain and would like to know if you are eligible to claim, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

If you have been contacted by any company or are thinking of dealing with a company regarding claims or relinquishment and want to know if they are genuine, Inside Timeshare will help you find the information.

homework

vulture

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

I can’t speak for Americans, but I imagine EU timeshare members, and even lawyers are not aware of the impact vulture lending by hedge funds has on impoverished Puerto Ricans and timeshare members. Not familiar with the term, my research uncovered the term private equity used to be called in the 80s venture capital and a venture capitalist was called a vulture capitalist due to targeting extraordinary returns for their investors. Fast forward 20 years and “Vulture” Funding in Puerto Rico is being talked about in American Financial news.   

puerto rico

It took me a while to “connect the dots” as Irene says in her article. The majority of complaints Inside Timeshare received concern rising maintenance fees. Legacy owners are particularly affected. Legacy owners are timeshare owners who have not given up their deed to convert to the points based program.

Diamond Resorts does not build new properties. Their strategy is to buy existing properties. Members tell us they are told they have to give up their deeded weeks and convert to points. This is not true. Some contacting Inside Timeshare report maintenance fees doubling or tripling after their resort is acquired. While Diamond will insist to owners, such maintenance fees increases are necessary to bring the resort up to standards, investor conference calls told a different story, explaining that 15% is added onto every budget line item after acquisition, affording investors a guaranteed and immediate 15% profit.

The Finn Law Group questioned the increases in this lawsuit filed against Diamond owned Bali Condominiums.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

Not everyone has a background in private equity like Justin Morgan, economics like Michael Nuwer or an MBA like Irene Parker. Justin and Michael expressed their concerns about private equity and what is necessary for investors to achieve a 30% or better return.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

While explosive returns are often achieved in starting up a company like Apple or Amazon, expecting 30% or better returns out of timeshare may require tactics like those expressed by our readers, claiming they are being crushed by high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

Let us know if Irene’s connecting of the dots makes sense to you.  Now to Irene’s article.

What does Puerto Rico’s Debt and Timeshare Debt have in Common?

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide. (Hedgeclippers)

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, which aired November 6, described how Puerto Ricans are being crushed under the weight of debt orchestrated by hedge or “Vulture Funds”. Similarly, many timeshare members struggle with high interest rate timeshare loans and higher interest rate credit cards. It’s not surprising to find out hedge funds are involved with both Puerto Rico and timeshare debt.  

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-puerto-rico

FOX Business reporter Maria Bartiromo interviewed Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey April 2017.  The Milken Institute was prominently displayed during the interview. Connecting the dots, Michael Milken, formerly known as the “King of Junk” in the 80s because of his role in a junk bond scandal, worked at the brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. According to Wikipedia, Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black founded Apollo Global Management after DBL declared bankruptcy, having incurred $650 million in fines. Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo, is managed by an affiliate of affiliate of funds.

Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American private equity firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations. (Wikipedia)

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drexel-burnham-oral-history/

Debt and Michael Milken are as synonymous as debt and timeshare.

While Mr. Milken is known for his generosity, he is also known to have served 22 months in jail for securities fraud. Mr. Black emerged from the DBL bankruptcy unscathed, today worth $5.1 billion according to Hedgeclippers, $6.3 billion according to Forbes 2017 ranking (Hedgeclippers footnote link 85)   

Only Bloomberg subscribers can read the article linked below, but the headlines speak volumes.

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

June 29, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT Updated on June 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

Puerto Rico is getting a thorough introduction to Michael Milken’s junk-bond world as it increasingly relies on some of the financial industry’s most aggressive players to solve its crippling financial troubles.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-29/munis-meet-milken-as-hedge-funds-dictate-puerto-rico-debt-terms

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-puerto-rico/

Hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have swooped into Puerto Rico during a fast-moving economic crisis to prey on the vulnerable island. Several groups of hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts, pushed the island to borrow more, and are driving towards devastating austerity measures.

Known as “vulture funds,” these investors have followed a similar game plan in other debt crises, in countries such as Greece and Argentina.

argentina

The spoils they ultimately seek are not just bond payments, but structural reforms and privatization schemes that give them extraordinary wealth and power – at the expense of everyone else.

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide.

Apollo Global Management, the third largest US-based private equity firm, has not yet been reported to be a member of the Ad Hoc Group looking to collectively pressure the Puerto Rican government, but press reports have indicated that Apollo, along with Fortress Investment Group and Aurelius Capital, are looking to take on a “more activist role” as the debt restructuring continues.

I think we can add timeshare to the list after Greece and Argentina given our reader responses and Diamond’s increased loan loss provision. Moody’s has placed Diamond on a downgrade watch after the company raised its loan loss provision to 18.4% March 31, 2017, from 12.9% the prior year.

The review for downgrade is a result of Diamond Resorts’ high leverage — Moody’s adjusted debt/EBITDA was about 7.0x for the last 12 month period ended March 31, 2017 — and increasing loan loss reserves which will make it difficult for the company to reduce leverage. Diamond Resorts, and other timeshare companies, has increased its loan loss reserve over the past year as a result of an increase in timeshare owner defaults, which to a large degree have been initiated by third party activities. Diamond Resorts’ loan loss provision increased to 18.4% of gross Vacation Interests sales at March 31, 2017, from 12.9% in the prior year. Should the loan loss reserve trend not improve, the company will have difficulty lowering its leverage below our trigger for a downgrade (below 6.5x).

https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-places-Diamond-Resorts-ratings-on-review-for-downgrade-including–PR_370606

Of note is the blame placed on third party activities, which includes fraudulent transfer companies and resale agents, some posting ads above our Inside Timeshare articles as soon as we publish. Ignored is deceit on the front end of the sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits too numerous to mention, as well as the severely limited or sometimes non-existent secondary market. Without a secondary market, a timeshare contract is worth nothing the moment the contract is signed and it is not uncommon for a timeshare to cost over $100,000.

Timeshare members struggling to meet loan and credit card payments can relate to those suffering in Puerto Rico. Inside Timeshare has heard from 192 of our readers of which 183 are from Diamond Resort members. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch, locked into loans and credit card debt they can’t afford, owning a perpetual vacation product they can’t sell.

Holding timeshare members hostage is a short term profit plus for Apollo’s investors, but is squeezing money out of middle class families at 12% to 24% sustainable? Not one of our readers was aware of the difficulty selling points due to lack of buyers. Contract language doesn’t help because the contract states “you can sell your points” but the part about secondary market restrictions and lack of buyers is not included, at least not in the contract I signed. Timeshare companies will either take back points or foreclose, reselling the same points over and over, described as a hamster wheel by one former Diamond sales agent.

money man

They say history repeats itself, but I would have never imagined, as a former Drexel Burnham Lambert client, the subsequent Apollo firm would buy my vacation plan twenty years later. This, in addition to reading so many online complaints posted by timeshare members who seemed to have nowhere to turn, motivated me to join Charles Thomas and Inside Timeshare in an effort to provide factual timeshare information and to warn the general public to do due diligence before buying any timeshare. I felt there was a need to go a step beyond helpful Facebook posts to warn members away from fraudulent listing and transfer agents, steering them towards regulatory and law enforcement agencies, if they feel they were a victim of a bait and switch.    

On Friday Inside Timeshare Contributors Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer will explain in Part II their take on the role private equity plays in timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has already heard from Diamond members worried about special assessments after this season’s catastrophic hurricanes, especially St. Maarten. They fear a repeat of the Poipu water damage assessments that resulted in a class action lawsuit.

http://advantagevacation.com/the-point-at-poipu-angry-owners-file-lawsuit-against-diamond-resorts/

As timeshare members brace for 2018 maintenance fees, Inside Timeshare will be here to help those who have questions, given the perpetual contract that still exists in the US, along with member sponsored Advocacy Facebooks.

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

not alone

I don’t know about you the readers, but my head is spinning after this, finance and economics have never been my strong point, but it does look a little clearer now, so thank you Irene.

If you need any help or advice about any timeshare matter, or just about any company you may be thinking of doing business with or that has contacted you, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

 

alone

Los Claveles: Chairmans Update

Welcome to the start of the week, back in August we published an update on the goings on at Los Claveles in Tenerife, it was announced that the arbitration process had completed and the judgement was in total favour of the owners and the owners committee. The judgement ruled that the owners committee was legally constituted and has all the rights to run the resort.

Well it would seem that WimPen have not taken any notice, they continue to refuse to allow members onto the resort unless they pay THEM the maintenance fees. They are also sending out threatening letters to the members of the Club stating that they will be suspended if they do not pay. The Chairman Albert Fletcher and the President Carol Parkinson are still being denied access to the resort, even though they have a legal right.

It must also be remembered that WimPen’s contract as the managing company was ended on 3 May 2017, yet they still behave as though they have the contract.

los claveles logo

WimPen have lodged an appeal with the Court of Sessions in Scotland (equivalent to the English High Court). WimPen argue that the Arbitrator is wrong in law coming to the conclusion he did. WimPen maintain that the Club does not have a legitimate Committee so WimPen can not be challenged.

This case will be heard as a “Priority” due to the rules regarding an Arbitration Appeal, hopefully a decision from the judge will be made on how this is to proceed. Also, it has to be said that WimPen have not yet been given permission to appeal, before a full hearing can take place this must happen.

The Club has also instigated a court case in Scotland against FNTC for failing to transfer all documents to Hutchinson as directed in 2012. This followed the Clubs decision to terminate the contract with FNTC as the Clubs Trust Company. We wait to hear when this will take place.

The Chairman, has also made contact with RCI, it looks like RCI has agreed to convene a meeting of all parties at the RCI Headquarters in Kettering. The Club Chairman has agreed and that the Club confirmed it would participate.

This certainly looks like it is the industry just bullying the owners, from what we have seen, the Club has gone out of its way to do things by the book. There is still a long way to go in this sorry tale, these have been long standing and loyal owners of the resort, the way they are being treated is downright despicable.

For the Club Chairman’s full update see the pdf link below. For the full sorry story see the past articles.

Chairmans Update 8 November 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-return-bad-days-timeshare-tenerife/

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-battle-goes/

http://insidetimeshare.com/horror-weekend-los-claveles/

Inside Timeshare will bring you the latest news as and when we get it, all we can say is we will publish every story, giving the Club and the Committee our full support in publicising their plight.

If you have any information regarding this matter or any other timeshare problem would like to share with others, contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to give you the facts.

back

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

truth 1

Anfi: The Legal Battle hots up!

Just recently Inside Timeshare was sent an email from a reader who is an Anfi member, it was regarding a video interview posted by a Norwegian Anfi member. In the video he berates the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who we must remember have been instrumental in having the timeshare laws in Spain clarified through the many Supreme Court rulings they have achieved over the past two years.

It turns out that this member had sought legal advice from Canarian Legal Alliance, with the view of regaining his purchase price and having his contract declared null and void. But for some reason he decided not to go ahead.

Anfi have also employed a Public Relations company, Geelmuyden Kiese AS, this company has been deemed the task of putting a “spin” on the problems that Anfi are having with all the lawsuits and adverse publicity. It was this company which wrote the letter to Norwegian members on behalf of Anfi, it was signed by the CEO Jose Luis Trujillo who then sent the letter to members with quotes from Mr Aksel Malterud along with the video. Mr Malterud in one quote goes on to say that “CLA pretends to be a law firm”, well I just wonder what the registered lawyers of CLA think about that one?

This letter is another step in the continuing battle Anfi are waging against CLA, still they deny any wrongdoing or that they have lost any cases. The ones they have mentioned losing, they claim the judges have got the law wrong.

lies

It must also be asked why has this PR firm taken on this case, after all have the Scandinavian press not run many stories on these cases, including the now famous case of Mrs Tove Grimsbo, the very first Supreme Court ruling?

Could it be they have not done their homework, and believe whatever they are told in order to get the business from a client who is clearly in the wrong?

We leave you to decide the answer to that question. After all, we have all come across this type of “spin” before, it follows the old saying “keep telling the lie long enough then everyone will believe it is the truth”.

From information received, these are the facts which it would appear the PR company Geelmuyden Kiese do not know:

Mr Malterud still owes for services and legal work done up to this point.

He has by all accounts never paid, which leaves CLA no other option than to take out legal proceedings for the outstanding legal fees. For whatever reason he decided not to take the case any further his subsequent actions leave a lot to be desired, CLA have evidence written by him claiming the underhand way Anfi was sold to him, the fact he was sold a contract that the courts have deemed illegal. Had he known this at the time, along with the fact that what was sold to him was worth nothing, he wouldn’t of signed.

Yet now he appears to be on the side of Anfi, so it does beg the question why?

What incentives has he been offered?

Anfi after all, are losing daily in the courts, only just recently 25/10/17 they had to payout a Norwegian client 136,000€ which was 106,000€ more than he had originally paid. Inside Timeshare has published many articles regarding these court cases, all have been verified by the courts and are genuine.

These figures also have been verified:

  • 32 First instance rulings against Anfi
  • 41 High Court rulings against Anfi
  • 32 Supreme Court rulings against Anfi
  • 1,210,169.11€ Pay-outs from Anfi to former Anfi timeshare owners
  • 5,516,694.81€-  already instructed by the courts to be returned by Anfi
  • 61,646,867.62€ Total claim amounts against Anfi

It was also announced last week that 3 pretrials were held at the Court of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the judge ruled that there was no need to take them to full trial, his reason was the contracts were in breach of all the rulings made by the Supreme Court. The judge then announced he would deliver the sentence himself in due course.

With information such as this being made public, it really is not surprising that Anfi will do everything in its power to discredit a very successful law firm. Inside Timeshare say to all our readers, before you decide what the truth is, just remember where it comes from. If you want to believe Anfi, that is up to you, but remember what you were told when purchasing, all the promises that never came to fruition.

We have also published some of the history of the Anfi Group and the legal battles over the years, especially the most recent events surrounding the debacle of the Tauro Beach Project, which is currently under investigation by the authorities. The former head of the Coastal Authority is the first to be charged for forging documents and malpractice in public office. We would not be surprised to see more charges being filed with the courts over what has become a nightmare for the local residents.

We also published a similar story back in June, again it was a letter to members from the CEO Jose Luis Trujillo (see link below). For more articles on the subject of Anfi over the years including the story of the Tauro Beach Project just enter Anfi in the search box.

http://insidetimeshare.com/anfi-ceos-letter-members-desperation/

lie2

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.

Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.

In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€  plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.

abogados-ag-250

Once again, we have to warn about the “fake” law firms operating out of Tenerife, part of the Litigious Abogados family, another reader has been in contact with the new firm Abogados AG, with Armando González Areca named as the main “lawyer”.

They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, once again Andrew Cooper, has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr Cooper in Spain and the Canary islands.

Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr Andrew Cooper on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!

In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.

See the full letter below, pdf.

Abogados AG

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.

The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?

In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.

Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:

A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against The Manhattan Club. Of note, The Manhattan Club admitted wrongdoing, unusual in corporate America.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.

The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.

As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.

Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:

I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them.  The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged but be careful.  Some of the agents would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range.  One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!   It made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s.  I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!!  They have the money!!  Deception actually goes back further than that.  We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!

Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.         

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.

After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.

Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.

Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:

  • Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  • Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  • Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  • Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  • Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  • Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  • Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.

Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always be targeting your best interest.    
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. File with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby dollars. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to act.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The ⦁ BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation.  

chat

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help Facebooks:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

 

There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

friday cat

class action

The Tuesday Slot with Mike Finn

Today we publish the article by Mike Finn, which was postponed from last Friday’s Letter from America, it is the second in his series on Class Action Litigation, Part 1 looked at Arbitration. Tomorrow we publish a rather interesting article which compares two different industries, but surprisingly they operate in a very similar way.

Well it is that time of the year, the sound of envelopes containing your maintenance bills dropping on the mat. How much will they have gone up by this year, we hear you asking?

To be honest, one question we often ask, is what the hell do they spend this money on, after all our resort hasn’t had a facelift in decades. The tiles round the pool are still damaged, the bed covers are the same as when we bought 30 years ago. Even the sofa bed is still falling apart!

It would seem that they don’t spend it on maintenance, it goes on their profit line, so what can you do about it? Not a lot, you’re tied into perpetuity contracts, there is no resale or secondary market, yes, you are stuck in a rut with no way out.

Well not quite, things are changing, back in June Business Wire, published news of a lawsuit filed by Finn Law Group against Diamond Resorts. The suit was about maintenance fee practices and alleges maintenance billing practices were fiduciary duty violations and breach of contract. Follow the link below.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

In Spain at least, owners do have a way out, many of the contracts are illegal under Spanish timeshare law, so those owners can take their case to court. Not only do they get their money back, but more importantly their contracts are declared null & void, leaving them timeshare and maintenance free!

So, on with today’s article.

CLASS ACTION LITIGATION

Misunderstood by Timeshare Consumers

post it

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

October 31, 2017

Part I – Arbitration – The Question Timeshare Buyers Never Ask

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

We all know a little bit about class action lawsuits, many of us have even received a letter or postcard advising us that we may be potential class members. Many sense that our individual recovery may not be worth the effort.

A timeshare purchase could be a horse of a different color. The beauty of a class action is that, as a class member, you wouldn’t have to actually hire the lawyer – he or she would be paid from the proceeds of the case assuming it is successful. As a lawyer with some class action experience, who has primarily represented consumer timeshare owners over a considerable period of time, I can report to you that class actions do play a role in consumer timeshare practice. That role, however, is more limited than we would like it to be.

The explanation lies with the kinds of cases that can be effective class action cases, especially if they are timeshare related. Most of our clients tell us that they were deceived during their initial timeshare presentation. They relied upon the veracity of the sales staff and only later, when they attempted to utilize their timeshare, did they learn the truth of their purchase. Of course, this realization did not come during the rescission period provided by law, which varies state to state. Instead, the hapless owner came to realize too late that the resort would not help them, and that the purchase contract they signed is legally binding, and that, in the absence of a viable resale market, there is no exit scenario built into the contract.

Essentially, they committed themselves to a lifelong obligation!

The above scenario, repeated over and over with some variation on the theme, is the “staple” fraud-in-the-inducement file we see at Finn Law Group on a daily basis. Per our own internal analysis, these matters occur with amazing frequency, mainly because of the manner that the timeshare product is marketed.

In nearly all instances, the salesperson assigned to the prospective customer is purely commission based. Top sales staff can make a very good living, but they must maintain a high closing rate to do so. This methodology puts the salesperson into a conflict, with ethical considerations competing against their own financial needs. With direct compensation incentives providing temptation, sales staff may well significantly embellish the advantages of timeshare ownership over the course of the three to five hours they often spend with their sales prospects. After this long sales process, the interested prospects are then immediately ushered into the closing aspect of the transaction, attended by different members of the sales team known internally as “closers.” These closer’s shepherd the prospect into and through the closing process. No prospects are ever given the opportunity to take the presented documentation with them for review or consultation with an attorney pre-execution. It’s all completed on the same day and that is by careful design. Given the mountain of paperwork processed at a timeshare closing and the relatively short amount of time a consumer has (or takes) to read and understand the finer points of the transaction, it is no small wonder that what one legally agrees to via their signature, compared to what they were told they were contracting for, are often diametrically different from one another.

A buyer spend hours with a sales person who is motivated to tell you, “yes,” your purchase does include that feature only to discover later that nowhere within those mounds of paperwork you signed and initialed is there any reference to the feature or features your salesperson assured you were included. To add insult to injury, one of the contractual clauses that was not pointed out to you was a clause that states that the purchasers did not rely on any oral representations when making their timeshare purchase decision.

Imagine a salesman knowing that clause exists resisting the temptation to increase his or her income!

magic box

I call that provision the “salesman’s license-to-lie” clause and I can say with pride that I was so quoted in the New York Times! So, we have now isolated one of the more frequent legal issues with the typical timeshare purchase, and we have identified the possible legal cause of action that applies, which lawyers call “fraud in the inducement.”  

From this, a remedy becomes readily apparent: The contract should be rescinded, because the purchasers didn’t buy what they were told they were purchasing by the sellers. Herein lays the rub, however. Should fraud in the inducement be raised in litigation, the developer will undoubtedly counter by claiming no such acts ever occurred, as it’s unlikely that the salesperson, if called as a witness, will admit they promised items not contained within the preprinted contract.

When combined with the salesman’s “license-to-lie” clause, this makes the plaintiff consumer’s case far more difficult to win – recall that the burden of proof rests with the party bringing the action. As the consequences of losing the case may mean the loser pays the winner’s attorney fees and costs, the wisdom of pursuing such a case for any one client becomes questionable, especially if the odds are no better than 50-50.

It’s tempting for a lawyer to look into the possibility of filing class action litigation for fraud-in-the-inducement claims for an entire class of timeshare buyers who have purchased a timeshare interest under the false impression that more attributes were being purchased than what were actually acquired. Surely, if everyone reports a similar purchase experience, the court will conclude that all of these purchasers couldn’t be wrong; and therefore, that the developer must be knowingly encouraging its staff to make false assertions to increase sales?

At this point we must pause and examine the state of the law to understand the legal conclusion that most courts have reached on this matter, with the sad fact being that, for the most part, courts have not considered fraud to be the type of case that belongs in a class action scenario.

The best explanation I can provide as to why the courts have adopted this position is that the elements of fraud – the actual deceit perpetuated with the intent to deceive – are all very individualized factors. The underlying facts of which will, by definition, vary with every individual timeshare presentation and by each individual timeshare salesperson. Therefore, each separate sales experience constitutes a new and separate set of facts to be evaluated. Courts are loathe to combine individualized sets of experiences, wherein every class member theoretically would have suffered the same level and severity of deceit and conclude that all members equally relied upon these separate individualized deceptive statements to their detriment.

In short, these fraud-based claims in the timeshare arena are not, in the foreseeable future, going to become actionable timeshare-based class actions. Of course, individual actions are still possible and we are aware of recent individual litigation that ended quite successfully for the consumers. Again, however, any owner considering individual litigation based upon a theory of fraud had better be aware that their battle will be costly and the ultimate results unpredictable.

So, is class action litigation just another pretty face with no significant place in the timeshare arena?

Decidedly not! Finn Law Group has successfully initiated multiple class action litigations against timeshare resort developers. In one concluded case, more than 11,000 former timeshare owners saw foreclosure entries on their credit reports purged, and more than two thousand others received extended vacations at no cost.

Other class cases are currently pending. View:

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/active-litigation

In conclusion, class action litigation isn’t going to, on its own, repair the underlying problems with timeshare ownership, but it will make a dent. More importantly, it will continue to serve notice to the timeshare development community that someone out there is paying very close attention to them, and that can’t be a bad thing.

law book

Thank you Mike, this certainly explains class actions for us, in Europe this type of litigation is not common, most cases are done on an individual basis. We have seen some class actions, most notably against Barclays Partner Finance, who provided loans for illegal timeshares. Another of note was the RCI class action, which ended up at the High Court London. This was a bit of a shambles to be honest, although the court agreed that RCI had used banked weeks for rental, the members did not lose out financially, so no compensation was awarded. Unfortunately those who took part in the “No Win, No Fee” action, may now be left with all of RCI’s legal costs. The decision from the court is still to be announced.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we will be pleased to help.