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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday, yes that is correct, we are publishing a day early as we are travelling to the US on Friday.

Inside Timeshare is visiting our American colleagues, with Irene and Don meeting me at Orlando airport, while there we have arranged to meet with several attorneys including America’s very own Timeshare Crusader Lisa Ann SchreierWe will also be meeting many other people and hopefully having a few cold beers.

beer

Inside Timeshare is also pleased to announce a new collaboration, for sometime CLA International based in Dubai, has been getting their website up and running. They have been following the articles published on Inside Timeshare and have asked if we would run their news section.

They wanted an independent voice rather than their own take on things, Inside Timeshare has agreed to supply those articles, so many of the articles regarding international timeshare news we publish will be posted on their website. These will be from the many contributors who are now writing for Inside Timeshare. We also hope to add more from the following areas:

India (Goa), Thailand and the surrounding Asian area, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, we welcome any contributor who would like to publish their experiences, news and views on the world of timeshare. You can contact us via our contact page or direct to admin@insidetimeshare.com

contribute

Update from Europe

Once again, Inside Timeshare has heard from another reader who found our articles on the Litigious Abogados family, namely Amador Galeca Abogados.

The reader had a call regarding their timeshare at Royal Sunset Beach, with the name Andrew Cooper again being named as the director being taken to court with all his personal property and assets being seized. For a sum of just under 1000€ they could be part of the case.

The reader then made a bank transfer, but then decided to check out the name Andrew Cooper, finding our previous article. When the reader contacted us we explained how the scam operates, they immediately informed their bank and the bank is now trying to stop the transaction.

The reader explained that when her husband became too ill to travel Royal Sunset actually took back the timeshare, so they no longer owned. Because of this there would not be any basis for a claim in any court.

This story just goes to show once again, before you pay any money, check who you are dealing with. Hopefully the readers bank was informed in time to stop the money being transferred.

stop think proceed

We started the week with verdict from the courts against Palm Oasis (Tasolan), the following day the Supreme Court ruled on another case against Silverpoint in Tenerife, that made 64 rulings from this court on timeshare. In this case the court again declared the contract null and void, awarding over £99,000 plus a double deposit of £6,082 including legal fees and legal interest.

Then yesterday Wednesday 4 October the High Court in Tenerife ruled once again against Silverpoint and awarded over 67,000€ plus legal fees and interest to the client. This was then followed by the news the Supreme Court had just issued another sentence against Silverpoint, bringing the total number of cases won at this court by Canarian Legal Alliance to 65.

Now on with Irene’s article where she recounts our first meeting and her visit and interview with Canarian Legal Alliance. We have certainly moved on since that first meeting.

Canarian Legal Alliance and Inside Timeshare

The meeting of minds

Irene with CLA
Irene Meeting with CLA Staff Sept 2016

By Irene Parker

October 5, 2017

We are judged by the company we keep, so shortly after submitting my first article to Inside Timeshare my husband and I flew to Gran Canaria, Canary Islands to meet Charles Thomas and his Canarian Legal Alliance friends. It was not an easy trip since we boarded the wrong plane in Madrid and ended up in AMSTERDAM!

We stayed at Diamond Resorts Cala Blanca resort on Mogan. A Diamond sales agent in the US actually introduced me to Charles by sending me one of his articles. The staff at Cala Blanca could not have been nicer. I talked quite a while with the manager as he was the head of a resort employee union of sorts advocating on behalf of refugees he felt were being treated unfairly at a resort on the other side of the bay. One of the sales agents working at Cala Blanca and a friend of Charles is one of my Facebook friends.

In today’s timeshare world you can’t be too careful. Attorneys come in all ethical shapes and sizes. In addition to meeting Charles, I was able to meet with the CLA office manager Csilla, named business person of the year for Gran Canaria, several intake workers showing sincere compassion as they listened to timeshare accounts over the phone, and a few CLA lawyers. Since this July 2016 video clip CLA has achieved several more victories for EU timeshare clients – 65 Supreme Court victories to be exact as of October 4, 2017. Watching this video for the first time, I remember thinking if Cristina ever decides she doesn’t like law, she could find a job in the motion picture industry.

http://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/cla-latest-updates-video/

Timeshare today seems to have lost all sense of direction. True, we hear primarily from the disgruntled, but developer lawsuits flying back and forth between timeshare developers and transfer agents has left many timeshare members in a state of confusion. Who do you trust?

I trust CLA and am honored to have been asked to have my Inside Timeshare articles featured on the new CLA International website with Charles webmaster of the news tab. Our Diamond Resorts member sponsored Advocacy Facebook administrator and Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and Australian Contributor Justin Morgan submitted their comments for this article about the Apollo Global Management buyout of Diamond Resorts.

http://clainternational.ae/2017/09/28/who-is-apollo-what-is-apollo-two-diamond-member-consumer-advocates-offer-their-opinion/

Timeshare members need help. It has been widely reported many aging baby boomers (like me) are desperate to be released from timeshare. Some timeshare companies have launched surrender programs, like Wyndham’s Ovation program, but the vast majority of members contacting Inside Timeshare succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards. Thus, they are not eligible for voluntary surrender programs. Often they are forced into foreclosure. The problem is exacerbated when the member alleges they were deceived into buying a timeshare or upgraded for maintenance fees relief or buy-back programs that do not exist. Out of 157 complaints received (as of October 4), 143 allege deceit on the front end of the sale. The others can’t afford rising maintenance fees.

From our humble beginnings, as more members started helping other members, we called ourselves Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as members turned anger and disbelief into action and advocacy. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ started as an afterthought. A former timeshare sales agent contacted me and said they wanted to do a press release in Arizona. We needed a place where readers could respond.

Irina Allen stepped up to the plate. She is our Facebook page administrator.

admin lady new

Irina (Irene) Allen purchased over $500,000 worth of timeshare points to share with family, friends and clients. On the advice of a sales agent, Irene opened a RedWeek account and posted one ad to rent some of her points. She gave up this idea after she never got paid for the rental. Rentals are not allowed, according to company rules, but there are hundreds of rental ads anyway. She also was accused of opening an Airbnb account. Irene says she has never had an Airbnb account. She was expected to pay $2,400 per month in mortgage payments and $29,000 in maintenance fees for a year while her account was suspended. Resorts are exempt from the rule for promotional purposes. Thus, the resort was able to rent out Irene’s points at Irene’s expense.

At Timeshare Advocacy Group™ members also help members with regulatory filings and media outreach. We have Wyndham, Bluegreen and Diamond members working alongside former Hyatt, Westgate, and Diamond timeshare sales agents in an effort to reform an industry badly in need of reform. In addition to timeshare members, other Advocates, like blogger Lisa Ann Schreier, lend their support. Lisa Ann and Charles are both former timeshare sales agents.

In America, it’s not easy these days for opposing sides to talk to each other, but every once in awhile there is a glance of a Republican sticking their toe over to the Democratic side of the aisle. It is our hope there will be a day when developers will take the time to listen to what critics have to say instead of only focusing on ambulance chasing unscrupulous transfer and listing agents. It is my belief, until the deception on the front end of the timeshare sale is acknowledged and addressed, the court of public opinion is the only court open for the beleaguered and often financially devastated timeshare member learning their contract is perpetual and the secondary market limited at best. For some timeshare companies, there is no secondary market. What other investment or product exists that holds the buyer of a product hostage?

Charles Irene

Charles is winging his way to America tomorrow, so let us know if you will be in the Orlando area October 8 – 12. Or, let Charles know the next times you happen to be on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

I am a former stockbroker and financial planner. After I retired from the brokerage business, I became a CASA Supervisor, writing court reports for Family Court on behalf of children in foster care. I have always had a problem turning my back on anyone who considers themselves a victim. There are many ways to volunteer time in retirement. Join us in our efforts to enhance timeshare accountability and transparency.

http://insidetimeshare.com/what-a-volunteer-does-for-nothing/

globe

That’s it for this week, tomorrow will be a long day as it is Gran Canaria, Madrid, Miami then to Orlando. I know Irene and Don have set aside a couple of days to show me some of the sights, so it will not be all work and no play!

We will however be trying to publish some articles while over there, so keep an eye on these pages.

Have a great weekend

cartoon-airplane

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, somehow we think that when you have read this story you will be shocked, we certainly were.

shocked cat

Inside Timeshare heard from its first US timeshare member seeking advice one year ago. Like today, it was a Hispanic family. We in Spain feel like first cousins to American Hispanics, so are particularly affected when we hear one of our own might be faced with the possibility of foreclosure.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

When the resort says no, a family may have no choice but to consider foreclosure. There is no one company to blame. Deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale has been talked about since timeshare began. The industry has had its ups and downs, but the emergence of the “right to use” point programs seem to have escalated timeshare complaints and lawsuits from both sides of the fence. There has been a flurry of developer lawsuits against exit, transfer or claims companies targeting members desperate for help, as well as lawsuits against lawyers practicing questionable business practices. Legitimate law firms are not immune.  Several Attorneys General in America have been investigating various timeshare companies.

Caught in the middle is the timeshare member, like the Vargas family. Hoping to warn the general public as well as existing timeshare members, to the danger of buying something that cannot be sold, Deneise Vargas shares her story.

How easily a Vacation Plan can result in Foreclosure

Hispanic

By Deneice Vargas

September 29, 2017

woman 1

I had hoped Diamond Resorts would help us. A hospitality agent had told me to supply medical documentation about my husband’s medical condition, so I thought they had listened and responded in a positive way. I then learned the person I had spoken with had quit. The person who replaced her said they would not help us because Louis got Bell’s palsy a week before we signed the timeshare contract. Bell’s palsy is not the flu! Symptoms include muscle weakness, drooling and an inability to make facial expressions. Just because a person has not been diagnosed, does not mean they are not suffering from a disease.

In dollar terms, this is what we are facing:

  • Current Loan Balance: $93,671 financed at 13.5%
  • Paid already: $76,627
  • Current Maintenance Fee: $6,948
  • We have accumulated 67,500 vacation points

Why buy so many timeshare points?

We purchased a timeshare at Polo Towers in Las Vegas and at Palm Canyon. We were never told maintenance fees would go up each year. With the loans and the maintenance fees, we have used all our savings.

At the Las Vegas sales presentation, the sales manager threatened to have our first sales agent from Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, Tim, fired because it was not legal, per them, for Tim to hold a price for us. The manager got on my phone, speaking to Tim, chewing him out. I was so upset I started to cry. I was confused and did not know what to do. We signed that contract so Tim would not be fired. They opened and charged a Diamond Barclaycard because I did not have enough money. Another $3135 was charged to two different Visa cards. Last July we had to refinance our house to pay off the credit cards.

We went to Las Vegas twice in 2015.  They told us we had to attend an informational meeting about Apollo Global Management because Apollo had purchased Diamond. They said it was not a sales presentation. They lied because they again tried to sell us more points. We were told we should buy more points because we could use points to pay maintenance fees and buy plane tickets and other things. We were not told Platinum members can only use points to pay maintenance fees at four cents a point or that a vacation point is only worth pennies per point if used to buy plane tickets.

In 2016 we went again to Palm Canyon Palm Springs. Tim introduced us to Dan Vendl. Dan explained the benefits of being trial Platinum. I hesitated because the money was going. Dan said there was a company we could refinance with that had a better rate than Diamond, so our payment would be less. That was not true.

We were told “We are real estate agents. You can write off the interest paid and closing costs on these contracts because it is like real estate.” They said the proof was because they have real estate licenses. They are licensed real estate agents, but what they told us was not true. Our accountant said we were not allowed to take any deductions. We were told we had to buy that day so we could not talk to our accountant.

Anytime we check in, they harass us to do another update.  In Las Vegas while checking in, the woman wanted to follow me to the parking garage to get Louie to change his mind even though I had told her NO. She said she needed for us to participate so she would get credit.

We have cancelled other Diamond contracts after signing. One reason was our 16 year old granddaughter was dying of brain cancer.  My son had already lost his wife to cancer and we were helping him.

Now Las Vegas Polo Towers has been calling again. Binni Thomas and his Supervisor Melvin say we need to upgrade to 50,000 points to become permanent Platinum members.  Again, we are told we should never have been given a $3.30 price per point. He said the points are now selling for $8.70 each and that is what we should pay.

I told him No!

operators

Social Media helps. At least we know we are not alone. If you or someone you know does not know where to turn for timeshare help, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help Advocacy Group as members work to help other members find the next step.

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

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

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

Now that you have read this story, do you not agree that things must change?

This type of selling must not be allowed to continue, whether it is in the US, Europe or anywhere else in the world. At least In Spain the law is on the side of the consumer, Spain now has some of the strongest laws relating to timeshare in the world. It is through the efforts of law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance that have brought this about.

The rest of the world take note, have a good weekend.

friday cat

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, What about us? Ms Bondi seems to have a reputation for backing big business rather than the consumer, but more of that in Irene’s article. As usual we begin with what is happening in Europe.

CLA Logo

Some news which was breaking yesterday has now been confirmed, Canarian Legal Alliance issued a press release informing us of the latest Supreme Court victories.

Legal history has now been made with CLA achieving their 60th victory in Spain’s highest court, we say legal history as this is unprecedented. No other law firm has ever managed to get this number of cases through the Supreme Court. This is a fantastic achievement since their first victory in March 2015, in the past two and a half years they have not only made history but have also made law.

Their latest victories have been against Silverpoint, in sentence number 59, the court ordered the return of over 65,000€ plus the payment of First Instance legal fees and legal interest. The client’s contract was also declared null & void, which now makes them timeshare free with no more ongoing maintenance fees.

With sentence number 60, the same court ruled that the contract be declared null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over 92,000€ plus Appeal Instance legal fees and legal interest. This now makes a total of 21 judgments from the Supreme Court against Silverpoint alone.

Then the following day, the Judge at the High Court Number 3 in Tenerife, followed the Supreme Court rulings declaring another client’s contract with Silverpoint null & void. The judge also ordered the return of over 11,000€ plus legal interest.

Not only must the clients be celebrating, but I will wager there was some celebrating going on in the Lawyer’s office!

amador-galeca-300x191

Following the publication of yesterday’s article on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, we received an email from a reader who has already been taken in by them. Unfortunately they have already paid the Procurator a fee, but at least it was not a large sum, yet something prompted them to start checking the internet for information before they paid them next amounts.

As we said yesterday it would only be a matter of time before we found out the new name of the Procurator and the bank account they are using, here it is:

Procurator: Graham Ingum Gorrin

Address: C/ Layanva, Edif Colmenas, Oficina 2223, 38003, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Bank: Deutsche Bank Sociedad Anonima Espa, C.P.A. BCN, Ronda General Mitre 72-74 Barcelona.

IBAN: ES3900190172854010033761

As for the address of the procurator, searching on google and google maps it does not exist, so any post sent there will obviously never be delivered.

This reader has also supplied some new and interesting information, Amador Galeca informed them that the directors of their timeshare had pleaded guilty in court and that all their assets had been seized, not bad, it seems that all the directors according to this group of fake law firms plead guilty!

The amount paid was for a relinquishment through the Spanish courts, which needed to be done first before they could go to court for compensation. The strange thing is, once again it seems that the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts now extends beyond the borders of Spain and encompasses timeshare in the UK!

These readers have been lucky, they have not lost a huge amount, they have also informed their bank who is going to issue an alert to all other banks.

This does prove the point, never believe what you are told, especially when it comes to timeshare,

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD, STOP THINK AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

homework

Now on with Irene’s article.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – What about Us?

Irma Iniki and Timeshare

most people

By Irene Parker

Friday September 22 2017

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her outrage over price gouging during hurricane Irma. While her dismay is understandable and commendable, why has there been so little effort expended to come to the aid of Florida timeshare buyers alleging they were deceived into buying a timeshare? Nationwide there have been lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations too numerous to mention.

Ms. Bondi has been quick to investigate timeshare resale scams.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against a company she accuses of violating Florida’s Timeshare Resale Accountability Act.

Florida has a specific law covering timeshare resales because it has so many of the properties, whose owners are often desperate to unload them.

In this latest case, Bondi sued Prime Resorts International, based in central Florida. She accuses the company of making telephone calls to timeshare owners all over the country, telling them they have a buyer for their timeshare. She says the company also claimed to be able to guarantee the deal would close.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/florida-sues-another-timeshare-reseller-031116.html

The Berkley Group

Sources tell us Ms. Bondi is investigating The Berkley Group. The Berkley Group owns Vacation Village Resorts. With a BBB rating of F, looking into this company is a start, but acting on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014 seems underperforming at best.

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/vacation-village-resorts-in-fort-lauderdale-fl-4003645/reviews-and-complaints

Ms. Bondi opened this resale investigation after receiving 85 complaints.

The attorney general opened her investigation after she said her office got more than 85 complaints, claiming to have lost more than $110,000. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the company, consumer restitution, and a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation.

Inside Timeshare has received 144 timeshare complaints of which 130 allege they were deceived on the front end of the sale. The dollar amount in question concerns well over one million dollars. The 14 not alleging deceit say they seek relinquishment because they say they cannot afford the annually increasing maintenance fees. ARDA and the industry continue to ignore deception exists, and with lawmakers turning a deaf ear, the court of public opinion seems the only avenue open for families reporting how they have been financially devastated by their timeshare plan.

follow money

Timeshare revenue in Florida is a lot of dollars to tamper with.

As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism is crucial to Florida’s economy – generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing more than one million Floridians. In 2011, tourism was responsible for welcoming 86.5 million visitors to Florida and generated $67.2 billion in direct economic impact.

http://www.flgov.com/governor-scott-applauds-floridas-tourism-marketing-2/

The industry will be quick to respond that there are nine million who own timeshares. What difference does a couple hundred families make? It makes a world of difference to the families affected who have contacted Inside Timeshare.

Recently, the Finn Law Group took issue with the lack of disclosure provided to timeshare buyers. If feeling deceived, after spending $5,000 to over $500,000 on a vacation plan, families are shocked to learn their timeshare has no secondary market and the contract is perpetual. Contracts are deceptive in that they often state points can be sold. Buyers are not informed about the lack of buyers should they need to sell.

LARGO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–An administrative petition has been filed against Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleging that the agency’s approval of a request by timeshare developers to make statutorily mandated public offering statements available by providing an online address at the closing rather the furnishing hard copies violates Florida law.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170905006015/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Petition-Florida-Agency

Ms. Bondi appeared on Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi’s Property Man Show in 2016 explaining how the Florida Attorney General’s office worked with ARDA and the Department of Justice to shut down timeshare resale or release scams. Mr. Massi encouraged timeshare members to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association if they need to sell their timeshare. When I contacted LTRBA about selling our Diamond timeshare points, I was informed by several LTRBA members they know of no licensed LTRBA broker who will even accept a listing for our points due to secondary market restrictions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHCdcS2Ds-U

Inside Timeshare has also started hearing from Bluegreen members. One member is Lela Renea, a Bluegreen member and a detective. Lela Renea says she was deceived into buying a timeshare. If a Florida detective, allegedly reports being a victim of deceptive sales, what chance does the average timeshare buyer on the street have?

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

When I wrote an article for TheStreet, Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service, challenging what is in my opinion gestapo like tactics demanding Diamond members stay vacationed, Diamond demanded a rebuttal, stating they understood life’s changes could render their product a liability so they were introducing a program called Transitions that would allow qualified members in good standing a way out. That was June of 2016, yet the company has yet to introduce the program. “Qualified” is the key word. Most members contacting Inside Timeshare have loans, and many allege they succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards after hours long aggressive sales presentations. A timeshare must be unencumbered to be eligible for any voluntary surrender program.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

“Is Apollo Returning to its Junk Roots?” is the article Diamond found objectionable. Most remember the subprime mortgage crisis, but a decade earlier was the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. DBL founder and banker Leon Black filed bankruptcy on DBL only to reform and rebrand as Apollo Global Management, purchasing Diamond Resorts in 2016. If DBL liked junk bonds, which had some value, timeshare points that have no value the moment the contract is signed, should a buyer need to sell, must seem attractive.

Hurricanes and Timeshare

hurricane

One of the top complaints Inside Timeshare has received concerns upsells by timeshare sales agents on the US mainland selling against timeshare agents in Hawaii. This would be normal competition were it not for the fact the dueling agents work for the same company. Buyers tell us sales agents on the mainland side tell existing members they should not have purchased a Hawaii timeshare because of damages from hurricane Iniki that struck Hawaii on Kauai in 1992. They are encouraged to buy more points and transfer to US mainland points, despite Florida resorts included in their purchase. Obviously, Florida is at risk for hurricanes.

pam bondi 1      Ms. Bondi, please listen to us. The Arizona Attorney General has received over 900 timeshare complaints about Diamond Resorts:

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

Wyndham former timeshare sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million by a jury concerning overly aggressive and predatory timeshare techniques:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?mcubz=0

Eric Schneiderman’s $6.5 million settlement with The Manhattan Club:

http://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club/

In addition to member families,Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare has heard from eight current and former timeshare sales agents alarmed at the escalation in predatory sales. The following comment made by a former experienced sales agent mirrors the others.

“I watched every day, agents selling DRI for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them for doing it.  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, who still work at DRI, 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!”   This 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!”

(Charles Thomas, editors note: we have published on many occasions on the “stack and drop” tactic. This has been used for many years and we have seen it throughout Europe. It is used as a tool for upgrading or poaching other companies members. The consumer then believes they have had value for their other purchase).

It is our hope Diamond Resorts will listen and respond, along with Wyndham, Bluegreen and others, to improve timeshare sales today after the rise of “right to use” programs. In my opinion, such programs leave wide berth for misrepresentation and deceit.

The following are self-help Facebook pages representing over 1000 timeshare member families:

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

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

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

A few of the 144 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare:

Marsha, Ann and Marjorie

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-18/

Bonita Hill

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-review-clarity/

Eron Grant ARDA’s Code of Ethics

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Irina Allen

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer June 30, 2017

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

Alan Callner

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

Detective Lela Renea

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

David Franks Chapter 4

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Romeo and Lily

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

Dr. Jeffries

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-7/

Angela Johnson

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy-group-update/

Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Eron Grant May 12, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

Barclays Bank Charles May 11, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-finance-barclays-hot-water-high-court/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

A Filipino Family April 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

Laurie Sabbagh March 17, 2017 Clarity Review

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

A Military Family March 6, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys January 25, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen January 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

Kathie Old December 6, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Hug Your Haters! By author Jay Baer on the importance of Social Media

http://insidetimeshare.com/customer-service-message/

need you

Will anyone listen? Author Jay Baer is to be keynote speaker at the upcoming October Interval International Shared Ownership Investment Conference, attended by developers and private equity firms. In Hug Your Haters, Mr. Baer strongly urges companies to listen. Members are hopeful, but doubtful, developers will listen to him.

Thank you Irene and those that proof read your article and gave advice, timeshare is a crazy world, which is such a shame as it is a great idea, with many who have enjoyed it for many years. There are some very good developers and resorts, but the reputation of the industry is being spoilt by a few.

Have a great weekend.

weekend-picard

         

 

letter from australia

Friday’s Letter from Australia

We start September with another Friday’s Letter from Australia, just to give our American cousins a rest. Today Justin Morgan, looks at the the role private equity plays in timeshare, with the introduction and comments by our very own Irene Parker. But first a little from Europe.

europe

Earlier in August we said that it tends to be a quiet month, well this was not the case this year, as our roundup of the month article yesterday showed. We also mentioned that September usually sees the start of new companies, changes of name or even resurrected ones. Well they have started to surface already.

Doing our usual daily rounds of the internet, one site, mindtimeshare, since the beginning of August has published the names of 6 that have come to their attention. 3 of these were published yesterday. We begin with:

Appointing Consultants, with the following website, which was only registered on the 14 August, as usual, the registrant is hiding under a privacy service.

http://appointingconsultants.co.uk/

According to the website, they are a company that offers the following services:

  • Appointment Setting; We can provide your business with qualified appointments for your sales team.
  • Lead Generation; We can offer bespoke leads from both websites and telemarketing operations.
  • Customer Service; Create the best customer services team for your business.
  • Online Marketing; Run an online marketing campaign. We can help you with SEO or e-mail campaigns.
  • Data Sourcing; Source the best possible data to make your business thrive.
  • Sales Training; Teach your team with one of our professionals to be the best. (Their spelling mistake)

The thing is they are informing timeshare owners that they have grounds to make a claim, which for a telemarketing company making appointments for another company is a little worrying.

They also do not appear on any company house records.

The next one is Barlow & Scott, with the telephone number 01904 501 389 which is a York number. When checking on who is calling, one name comes up First 4 Legal, there was a company of this name registered in London, but it was dissolved in February 2012.

There is no mention of a website and they seem to be contacting Club Class members, stating that they are a solicitors office and that there is money being held for the client by the courts in Spain!

They claim that the purchase of membership was never completed as the client never had an NIE Number, no problem for £500 we can get this for you then you can get your money back.

This is however untrue, you do not need an NIE number unless you are going to live in Spain or for any of the following:

  • Open a bank account
  • Buying, selling or insuring a property
  • Arranging a mortgage or credit
  • Pay taxes
  • Being employed
  • Registering with employment agencies
  • Registering to study
  • Applying to start a business
  • Registering with social services, receiving social security benefits
  • Applying for a driving licence
  • Inheriting assets

The NIE is a Spanish Tax Number for foreigners. So beware these types of claims.

The next is called Stapleton Consultancy. Once again they claim that the Spanish courts are holding money owed to the consumer from a previous fraud. Now to get this money paid out Stapleton Consultancy will need to be paid in order to do the work. There are no contact details available, so very little is known.

There is a company called Stapleton Consulting Limited, but they are chartered building surveyors, so absolutely nothing to do with timeshare. As and when new information comes to light, we will publish it here.

This really does show that you must do your homework before dealing with any company that calls you out of the blue, especially when they inform you that you have a payment waiting to be released by a court!

homework1

Just to finish off the month of August, Canarian Legal Alliance announced yet another sentence from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, once again it is against Anfi, who still deny that they have any cases against them.

In this particular instance the court declared the contract null & void, the infraction was again a contract over the stipulated period of 50 years. The court awarded this consumer over 23,000€, they also awarded over 4,000€ as double the amount that was taken as a deposit within the mandatory 14 day cooling off period.

If August was a quiet month, what will the next few months bring? Keep an eye on these pages and you will see.

So here we go to the land down under and this weeks article from Justin.

What Role Does Private Equity Play in Timeshare?

we the corporations

By Justin Morgan

Introduction and comments by Irene Parker

September 1, 2017

Private equity firms, traditionally providing capital to fund high growth start-ups, may be shortchanging timeshare consumers in their quest for returns typically targeted to reach higher returns than those of the public market.

Timeshare in general has been facing increased pressure due to overly aggressive sales tactics. This warning about escalating default rates was published February of this year by American BankerDiamond Resorts and Wyndham under pressure due to aggressive sales tactics. Wyndham is a publicly traded company. Diamond is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Diamond Resorts ABS under Pressure from Company’s Sales Tactics

https://asreport.americanbanker.com/video/diamond-resorts-abs-under-pressure-from-companys-sales-tactics

The question is – how are higher returns for private equity investors won?

Is timeshare even an appropriate venue for private equity investment? Can higher returns be earned without strangling the timeshare consumer with excessive maintenance fee increases, reduced availability and other unsavory tactics driven by such demands?

Former Diamond CEO David Palmer explained this concept to investors at a September 2014 conference, according to a transcript, “Anything that is put in the budget that gets expended on an annual basis, we get our 15 percent fee, That is basically a 100 percent profit business.”

Meanwhile, timeshare members received this notification:

“Timeshare owners of the Grand Beach Resort, a 192-unit property in Orlando, Fla. … learned in a letter in September that their annual maintenance fee would rise 14.9 percent this year.”

I asked Advocate Justin Morgan, our Australian Contributor, his thoughts:

This is the ‘Super Profits’ issue that I questioned years ago… I pointed out that retail prices for vacation points were sometimes four to six times retail value across Asia and Australia. But the real focus involves turning vacation ‘currency’ into more fiat currencies at super profit level. In my opinion, they are not interested in member value at all. It’s an early version of cryptocurrency! My sentiments are no different today…even worse.

In my case, I found my Diamond Resorts account terminated for renting, although my contracts clearly gave me in writing the right to rent. If they changed the rules, that’s unfair, but virtually all timeshare contracts state the rules can be changed at any time for any reason.  It is now apparent we were ‘all-in’ against the Vegas House that takes all it can get.

Irina Allen agrees. Irina is a professional who ended up with 139,000 Diamond points alleging she was up-sold to that level by deceit. Inside Timeshare previously reported on how Irina’s account was suspended for posting one ad on RedWeek. Rental ads for Diamond points on RedWeek abound.

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

The timeshare point’s product is a cryptocurrency that offers no backing other than your promise to keep paying ‘whatever it is this year’ maintenance fee increases. Some timeshare companies force maintenance fee increases for any reason…They can then pick up default points.

Timeshare developers pocket millions and millions this way. Most members are not allowed to leave. It’s like ‘Hotel California’s’…you can check in anytime you want, but you can never check out.

“Last thing I remember, I was

running for the door

I had to find the passage back

to the place I was before

“Relax, “said the nightman,

“We are programmed to receive.

You can check-out any time you like,

But you can never leave!” The Eagles

It doesn’t matter much whether they are public or private, though I feel private equity firms have far less scrutiny. The problems lie in the legal structuring of these entities, and how they can basically bill members for whatever tab that they find is allowable. If they control the HOA, and therefore budget approvals, the rest of the structure is usually just a financing and ‘dividend’ pay out model. Wages can be like a hidden dividend, if they are simply looking to pull money from members over to those they seek to pay out:  i.e. usually management, vs the actually financiers, who are often at the back of house in the financing structure.

In my opinion these private equity firms are targeting the timeshare industry now because they understand that they can raid them by simply jacking up maintenance fees by 20%, or even their required rate of 30% return, by simply hiding cost allocations within their structure, or simply paying their executives directly from the Club. There’s no stopping what they can do under some structures. It is a license for them to take what they want.

dollar man

As reported by Business Wire, “A class action lawsuit has been filed against timeshare developer Diamond Resorts International, timeshare owners associations Bali Condominium Association and Parkway International Owners Association, and auditor RSM U.S. L.P. alleging breaches of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and professional negligence over billing practices for maintenance.”

The plaintiffs allege that the language addressing maintenance and management fees in the condominium association’s governing documents were outdated and ambiguous. The outdated language allowed the defendants to include subsequent amendments to:

  • Charge inappropriate maintenance fees.
  • Inflate management fees.
  • Hide inappropriate fees.
  • Charge costs unrelated to the maintenance and management of the timeshare development including an “indirect corporate fee.”

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

Bluegreen is exploring a possible Initial Public Offering. I asked Bluegreen member and Economics Professor Michael Nuwer if Bluegreen BBX Capitol falls into this private equity category.

http://www.otcmarkets.com/stock/BBX/news?id=167811

BBX Capitol is not a private equity firm. Alan Levan has had a significant ownership interest in Bluegreen since at least 2008. Something like 85% of BBX revenue and 75% of their income comes from Bluegreen.”  

squiggle

What falls from the mouths of timeshare company public relations departments in their message to the investment community often sounds like a foreign language to beleaguered timeshare members. New York, Tennessee, Colorado and Arizona Attorneys General settlements against timeshare companies are but the tip of the iceberg.

Thank you Justin, we look forward to more from our Australian cousins and your insights into this worldwide product called timeshare. No matter where you are, the story seems to be the same, you are the UP’s, you have the money and we will take it from you, but give you nothing but hassle in return!

It now just leaves us to say thank you to all who contribute to Inside Timeshare, a very big thank you to all the volunteer advocates of our advocacy group, who do a splendid job of helping others with their problems. Have a great weekend and we’ll be back again next week with more from the murky world of timeshare.

BBQ chef

 

letter from australia

Friday’s Letter from Australia (No, you have read that correctly)

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from (America) now Australia, this is just to confuse our American cousins, the reason is that we welcome our first Antipodean cousin to our pages. Justin Morgan, makes his debut with his first contribution to Inside Timeshare. It is ironic that it happens to be on the first anniversary of Irene Parker’s very first article, which was about the acquisition by Apollo of Diamond.

Since her first article, Irene has been a major contributor and very much a driving force in bringing the problems of owners in the US to the fore. She has also become a very valued friend not just to myself but to all those she met while visiting Gran Canaria.

But enough of that, how about some news of timeshare in Europe?

Diamond Resorts has had a battering in the courts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance has secured a victory for one of their clients with the High Court declaring their contract null & void, with the return of over 29,000€ plus legal interest. In this case the court stated that the contract did not contain specified information required by law, with the product being the points system which the Supreme Court has deemed illegal due to their lack of tangibility.

This is the fourth verdict delivered against Diamond by the Tenerife courts this year, which our sources indicate is just the tip of the iceberg!

justice2

Anfi, based in Gran Canaria is on the defensive, it would seem they are already sending out new contracts after the vote last Friday 23 June, which coincided with another defeat at the High Court in Las Palmas. In that case the court declared the contract null & void as it was for more than 50 years.

As this is being written, the news has just arrived from our contact at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, that another contract has been declared null & void, with the client being awarded over 35,000€ plus legal interest.

At the same court yesterday Palm Oasis / Tasolan, were ordered to repay over 31,000€ and declaring the contract null & void. In this case the court ruled against the points system, which it deemed as selling nothing but promises.

On the Tauro Beach project, which has been the subject of many articles, it seems that the beach is still closed to the public, although many people are ignoring the fences and entering the area. There still seems to be no indication when this area will be fully open to the public, it may not be for sometime yet as there are several court cases pending.

So now on to this weeks article.

Who is Apollo? What is Apollo?

Two Diamond Member Consumer Advocates offer their opinion

Up Down

By Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

Introduction by Irene Parker

June 30, 2017

In honor of my one year anniversary writing for Inside Timeshare, it is only fitting to revisit Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts as Apollo’s Diamond acquisition was the subject of my inaugural article June 30, 2016.

http://insidetimeshare.com/700-2/

I had been shouting my timeshare concerns from the rooftops since my husband I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation July 2015 at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort, which ultimately led to our appearance on the FOX News show Property Man, interviewed by Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

The first I heard from Diamond was a year later in reaction to my Apollo article written for Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money’s investment news service, TheStreet. Diamond contacted TheStreet demanding a rebuttal. Diamond members are still waiting for Transitions, a relinquishment program that must still be in development.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

Diamond boasted 11 quarters of robust earnings growth until shortly after the Apollo acquisition announcement. A delayed 2016 second quarter earnings report was attributed to accounting irregularities.

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

According to a May 2017 KROLL Bond Report, Diamond’s default rates remain elevated.

The collateral pool of DROT 2014 – 1 has experienced elevated levels of defaults, which similar to certain other vacation ownership companies in the industry, Diamond Resorts attributes to an increase in the number of borrowers who have been solicited by lawyers to get out of their timeshare and/or have sent Diamond Resorts “cease and desist” letters.  

https://www.krollbondratings.com/announcements/3705

A National Mortgage News article appeared indicating the interest rate on the Apollo acquisition was raised due in part to the earnings restatement. Earnings had to be restated back to 2014 resulting in an earnings decline from the prior earnings report. Since the merger was announced as an all cash $2.2 billion deal, I did not understand the comment about the raised interest rate.

advocate 1

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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Timeshare Advocate Michael Nuwer explains. I now understand what it meant when Diamond owners were informed Diamond is owned “by an affiliate of an affiliate of funds.” It’s pretty high finance.

Apollo Global’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts was organized as a “leveraged buyout”.  Here’s how the deal worked:

Apollo created a shell company called Dakota Parent. Four of Apollo’s investment funds own this company. Dakota Parent created a wholly owned subsidiary called Dakota Sub. Dakota Sub borrowed $2.2 billion dollars (a big chunk of it, $1.1 billion, from the four Apollo funds) and bought 100% of the DRI shares — 72.7 million shares at $30.25 each. Then DRI merged into Dakota Sub, changed the company name to Diamond Resorts International, and thereby took on all Dakota Sub’s debt. This is the way leveraged buyouts typically work. Former Diamond CEO Cloobeck used the same structure when he bought Sunterra in 2007.

Now that all is said and done, DRI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dakota Parent. The equity in Dakota Parent is owned by the four Apollo funds. Diamond has $2.2 billion debt on which it must make interest payments. The primary lenders are the four Apollo funds. They are in for $1.1 billion, $500,000,000 at 7.75% and $600,000,000 at 10.75%. The secondary lenders are in for $800 million, and another $200 million is secured by some DRI assets (I think they are consumer loans).

There are two ways Apollo makes money on this deal assuming all goes well. First, the four Apollo investment funds receive interest income out of DRI’s cash flow. They are guaranteed $103,250,000 per year. High profits or low profits, it doesn’t matter, Apollo gets paid. Further, the Apollo investment funds own a claim to all the equity growth of the company (that is all value over $2.2 billion). Thus, if they can sell the 72.7 million shares for $45 each, not an unreasonable number if all goes well, Apollo’s capital gain will be about $1 billion.

Aussie Flag

From Justin Morgan Australia

As a tax accountant, finance planner, part time private equity guy, I completely agree that the Apollo deal will only end in debt being laid upon Diamond members, for the benefit of those who arranged the details of a LBO merger that, when combined with the liabilities of the timeshare structure that utilized Association Board powers and targets them, it becomes a lethal mix that allows financial dealers to write their own checks bigger each year. It seems there is no end to how high they could simply raise their own salaries, pay-outs and ‘returns’ towards simply legally expecting members to pay their share of these increased contributions.

In the economy, we have certain protections such as Trade Practices Acts, Fair Trading Laws, financial regulation, monopoly laws…All this is designed to prevent abuse of market power. In my opinion, I would characterize this Diamond set-up as worse, because there is NO market that is anything other than what DRI, and the timeshare industry in general, allows. It is engaging in practices specifically designed to restrict the market to only it and its approved associates.

I feel this exploits consumers at near will, and I wonder where Apollo will set their ceiling …Looking at how the deal was structured, they see huge opportunity to lend to a membership base locked up in dubious legalities and unfair contracts. All this would not be legal in Australia. I’m amazed at how it turns out to be in the US. And I write this from Mexico, where it is well known what happens when dangerous cartels form and throw their money around here.

Circumstantial evidence is that the proof is in the pudding, but proving it in the US, where the banks and private equity already got away with much…well, I can only hope that the powers that be realize that it won’t get better if they keep allowing the average consumer and householder to be abused by what is, in my opinion, predatory sales and lending.

If the new DRI were to strip assets, it’d be left holding the large liabilities, but that is usually the reason why they then go back to legacy members warning of bankruptcy if they do not buy more points. It looks like the new DRI is just financially ‘creating’ this balance sheet to look exactly how it should look to siphon off more money from members. They already have their interest windfall. Next would be the stripping, and finally, the call for more contributions to boost management revenue…all this whilst the members are forced into more debt.

This is a strategic type play from the banking world, but DRI and private equity were some of the quickest learners out of the Great Financial Crisis. Many learnt how the banks do it. Private equity rushing into timeshare is the new rush to create financial instruments that creates only ‘liability’ for the timeshare owner. The financial guys profit from the creation of liability, which is their ‘debt-holding’. In a near zero interest rate environment, Apollo is looking to create the debt, then shift it across to the membership…effectively, they’ve already done it. Now they must get their $1.1bn back, and the result is just pure profit for the financial players. This could turn out to be a textbook case of why this must be stopped immediately. It will possibly play out over years.  Bravo Irene for taking a stand. I will support your efforts however I can. You’ve struck here what I believe is the actual core of the New Timeshare. The Old Timeshare was less sophisticated, but for those of us who know that private equity in this industry is licking its lips over several recent acquisitions, the old caveat of “buyers beware” may even be too late.

Teacher

Thank you to Michael and Justin for their reader responses which are possibly the most sophisticated reader responses in the history of Inside Timeshare. More and more timeshare Advocates are coming forward bringing their expertise and experience to the timeshare table.

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebooks or websites if you need timeshare assistance or can become an Advocate.   

So there we have it, another week over in the murky world of timeshare, Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for her efforts in bringing so many people together to share their views and experiences.

To our latest addition to the Inside Timeshare family, a very hearty welcome and we hope to hear more from those in the “Land Down Under”, who we do tend to forget share the same experiences as us in Europe and the US.

It’s Friday, the weekend is here, so break out the BBQ’s and let’s PARTY!!!!!!!!

barbie

einstein-1

“An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure” A Reader’s Response

Following on from last Friday’s article where we highlighted the case of a Filipino families experience with timeshare, a reader emailed his response. Irene decided that it was worthy of its own article.

This Friday we will publish another in the series of articles by Irene, this one will focus on “Resales and Rentals”, this will be part III of the series The Three R’s of Timeshare.

A Reader’s Response to “An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure”

A reader’s response poses more questions than answers

Question man

By Irene Parker

April 19, 2017

One of our readers emailed comments and questions about Friday’s “An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure” article. As I attempted to answer his questions, I realized the complexity of his questions and comments are worthy of an article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

I don’t understand the Monarch to Diamond transaction.  Is there an explanatory paper about the transaction?

The Monarch to DRI transaction is exactly like the ILX to DRI transaction. My husband and I were ILX owners. Monarch and ILX acquired owners are the most disgruntled because they received the greatest upheaval in maintenance fee increases. The Castle Law Group ran ads just because so many former ILX owners were in foreclosure.

“When Diamond Resorts International purchased Los Abrigados Resort and Spa in 2010, a pattern of rising maintenance fees began. Now, as thousands of owners have become delinquent, Diamond wants them to get current, or they will go into foreclosure.”

As reported at a Monarch annual meeting, “Of the 40,000 remaining Monarch owners, 33% have not paid their 2016 maintenance fees.”

The goal is simple and does not require reading ILX or Monarch to DRI acquisition documents. Sales agents are instructed to get the former deeded owners to give up their deed and convert to DRI points.

Deeded timeshare weeks are defined as real estate but points are “right to use” like a country club. No one says I am an owner at a country club. Points are much easier to “take back” as opposed to weeks which require an actual foreclosure process.

The murkiness started after Diamond acquired ILX. The article linked below is my mock interview with Scott Miller of Greenhaven Road Capital. ADW Capital and Front Four Capital are the two private equity firms that wrote a letter to Palmer encouraging the exploration of ways to “maximize shareholder value” because the Diamond stock price was in the doldrums. Former Diamond CEO David Palmer’s background is private equity. Mr. Palmer was urged to take the company private.

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

As you can tell from the tone in the article, there is no interest expressed in enhancing owner value. One of our Diamond Facebook administrators said that in listening to several Diamond conference calls with shareholders, not once did Palmer mention a benefit to owners. In fact, he boasted about how when Diamond buys a property, they “immediately add 15% onto every annual budget item and that is a 100% profit to shareholders.” Mr. Miller actually used the lack of a secondary market as a reason to buy the stock.

Shortly after acquisition Grand Beach Orlando owners received a notification stating “we will be raising maintenance fees 14.99%.” The increase is always due to the resort being in bankruptcy and therefore neglected. Odd expenses started popping up. I was sent a copy of an agreement stating, “Stephen Cloobeck is allowed 50 hours of annual use on the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet and the DRI flight crew for non-business use.” After the Apollo acquisition, DRI PR said DRI no longer owns or leases aircraft. This type of expense was not a normal ILX or Monarch expense. Palmer earned $19 million in two years and Cloobeck and other executives millions more.

Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond September 2016. Banker Leon Black formed Apollo after filing bankruptcy after the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond fiasco. Michael Milken went to jail. Note Diamond’s rebuttal.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

Many analysts reported on 11 quarters of consecutive growth but few financial analysts, with the exception of Pulitzer winner and New York Times financial journalist Gretchen Morganson, reported on this oddly coincidental 2Q earnings report explaining Diamond’s dismal 2Q downturn due to improper inventory valuations (that’s us) announced shortly after the $2.2 billion announcement. Earnings had to be restated back to 2014 and caused a significant drop in earnings.

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

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

There is mention of Monarch “equity” and Monarch “points”.  What is the connection?  

A fixed week deeded property can be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association for no upfront fee. The broker gets paid after the sale. Even points for any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts can be listed with one of the 64 LTRBA members. The members feel Diamond points are worthless on the secondary market due to restrictions the company has in place on use of points purchased on the secondary market more onerous than other timeshare companies.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Buying Diamond points so that you don’t lose equity is nonsense because we all know DRI has no resale value unless you can find a buyer that doesn’t care about resale value. One of the LTRBA members I spoke with said even the market for Diamond’s deeded weeks is soft. You can always sell to friends or family but the members I talk to would never sell their DRI points to a friend or family member as they are so dissatisfied with the program and alarmed at the rise in maintenance fees. Again, acquired owners are the most exposed. There are many Diamond owners who use and enjoy their points. The problems arise if a member needs to sell. One owner from Wisconsin checking out of Diamond’s Los Abrigados Resort in Sedona said to me while packing his trunk, “I tell my kids if they act up I will name them as beneficiary to my Diamond points. I attend sales presentation to annoy the sales agent and hang out by the pool to warn others. The sales agents just roll their eyes and say, oh, he’s just an ILX guy.” He had stayed five months at Los Abrigados so in all likelihood was a Platinum member.

How can Diamond justify their salesmen explaining to Monarch owners, the complexities of the Monarch/Diamond transaction at a dinner or short meeting?  

I can answer that! The dinner or breakfast or 55 minute group session is followed by a three to seven hour (so far the reported record is seven) high pressure brutal and demeaning sales experience as I reported happened in this article. Diamond has introduced a new Clarity program that is intended to tone down the aggressive nature of the sales experience. Diamond is certainly not alone in the high pressure department. It was the sales presentation I wrote about in this article that led to my writing to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, host of Business FOX Property Man. Our interview with Mr. Massi will be aired this Friday April 21on Business Fox at 8:30 PM EST.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Only a senior customer service person may know enough to explain.

We have a lot of high powered advocates that can explain better than a Diamond customer service representative as we know more than the longest tenured customer service person. They may not even own Diamond points.

Diamond should have produced a summary of the transaction that could be understood by the layman.  

Again, there’s no mystery. ILX and Monarch went bankrupt. Diamond bought them. Get the deeds and replace with ethereal points. Monarch owners found themselves not having access to resorts they had stayed at for years. Lawsuits resulted. This case led to the filing of a billion dollar class action in Nevada.

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/457692-diamond-resorts-class-action-says-elderly-targeted-abusive-sales-tactics/

Diamond would not do that because they are happy to confuse the Monarch owners and just want to sell Diamond points without truthfully explaining the consequences of doing that.

That is obvious if you read the first example in Friday’s article. I have used that example often as it is the most glaring but I have heard from about two dozen Monarch owners all reporting variations on the theme.  

The above are only a few of the aspects that I need to have explained to me before I can start to understand the issues.

The timeshare developer lobby ARDA has supported laws making it more difficult for owners to contact other owners. We can certainly see why. Laws are passed to protect our “privacy” but as we all know, we are bombarded with solicitations.

Thank you for these comments and observations. Our Advocacy group has been accused of “victimizing the uneducated”. Many are happy with their Diamond points, but those that get hit with one of life’s roadblocks, no longer able to afford the timeshare and up-sold for the wrong reasons, can face financial ruin when that day comes.

Other Apollo related articles by New York Times journalist Gretchen Morganson:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/business/wells-fargo-isnt-the-only-firm-that-needs-a-lesson.html?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/business/keeping-investors-on-a-need-to-know-basis.html

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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

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

A2A

Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Group if you have questions or concerns about your timeshare.

Once again Inside Timeshare would like to thank our readers for all their comments and contributions, keep them coming. If you would like to share anything with the rest of the world contact either Inside Timeshare or the Advocacy facebook page, this is where you will find out what is going on in the world of timeshare.

If you require any information about any company that has contacted you or you are thinking of dealing with but need to know more, Inside Timeshare is here help. If we don’t know the answer we will find it .

 

news1

Europe: Silverpoint News. US: News from Irene

Recently Silverpoint has been making the headlines due to the rulings against them not just at the Supreme Court, but all the lower courts on Tenerife have also followed suit.

Now it has been announced that Silverpoint has withdrawn its membership to the Resorts Development Organisation (RDO), this will come as a blow to the timeshare industry trade body, as Silverpoint was a major contributor. The CEO of Silverpoint, Mark Cushway was also on the board of directors.

Another announcement was from The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, (TATOC), only recently Silverpoint downgraded their membership from Platinum to Silver, now they have withdrawn their membership completely. Again Silverpoint was a major source of funding to TATOC. So the donation to them of $30,000 by ARDA has come at the right time. TATOC have also stated that the following resorts will remain affiliated members: Palm Beach Club, Hollywood Mirage Club and Beverly Hills Heights. We also have to remember, part of Beverly Hills Heights is being sold off, with many members being moved to other apartments or to the Hollywood Mirage.

beverly hills heights
Beverly Hills Heights

Silverpoint have also announced that they will no longer be selling “Timeshare”, well that is a surprise, as according to them in their own evidence to the courts, they sell affiliations to a club and “weeks to investors” and this was not timeshare. Fortunately the Supreme Court did not agree with them, this court stated they did sell timeshare, that the so called “investors” were in fact consumers of timeshare.

Many of these cases have been reported here on Inside Timeshare, for more information on this have a look at the Canarian Legal Alliance website news section. All the Supreme Court judgements have been published by them.

https://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/category/silverpoint/

So now the question has to be asked, what are they going to be selling if they are not selling timeshare?

Rumour has it, from very reliable sources, Silverpoint are going to be selling “Holiday Packs” and “Freehold Property”. Obviously, if they have withdrawn membership from the timeshare industry trade body, the “holiday packs” will not be coming under timeshare law, so what will that be regulated by?

On the “Freehold” side, is this going to be full freehold or is it going to be a rehash of Fractional?

Is this going to be regulated by Real Estate Laws?

Another question that needs to be asked is, could all this be down to the the courts now rejecting Silverpoints defence and finding at last in favour of the consumer?

Will the RDO and TATOC also now acknowledge the fact the law in Spain as laid down by over 50 Supreme Court rulings is correct?

Only time will tell, we will be keeping an eye on developments and report them here, as and when the news comes in.

Today we also publish another story from our US writer Irene, in this short article she announces the start of the new series from Fox News Property Man Season 3 with Bob Massi.

Bob Massi is a renowned Nevada lawyer with many years experience as well as a TV celebrity.

Irene and her husband Don will be on his show on 14 April, they recorded an interview segment some time ago with Bob Massi, on their own timeshare experiences. So Irene and Don have become “timeshare TV rock stars”. (I must get their autographs).

rock star cartoon

FOX News Property Man Season 3 Premiere airs Friday April 7

Follow up to first timeshare segment “How to Get Rid of Your Timeshare”

news paper

By Irene Parker

April 5, 2017

Season 3 of The Property Man with Bob Massi will begin airing this Friday, April 7th at 8:30 PM ET on FOX BUSINESS NETWORK. The show will continue to air on Friday evenings on Fox Business Network (FNC’s sister channel) at 8:30 PM ET.  We are looking forward to Season 3 in Arizona airing and wanted to thank all of you for joining us on the show.  I will send individual emails to all of you with the exact air dates for your segment(s).  We welcome all social media promotion and interaction:

Bob Massi Facebook: www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi

Bob’s prior Timeshare Segment featuring Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association Members:

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=bob+massi

Bob Massi Twitter: @RealBobMassi

In case you haven’t checked out Property Man website and clips,

http://www.foxnews.com/shows/the-property-man/index.html

http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/on-air-the-property-man/

calender sheets

My Vacation Plan has turned my life upside down. Let’s review the timeline.

July 2015 I attended a timeshare sales presentation where my husband and I were blatantly lied to. The same day I learned 4500 hundred promised exchange points were credited only 3000 the third year I used the program. I turned on the television and watched Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, host of Property Man air “The Queen of Versailles” about Westgate timeshare owners. I wrote to Mr. Massi and was selected for an interview because, out of a multitude of respondents, I was the only one who wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare, in addition to the negatives.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=peasant+of+venice

Second, advocacy efforts contributed to the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 settlement against Diamond Resorts and the issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=arizona+attorney+general

Last, but not least, one of the oldest law firms in Nevada filed a billion dollar class action against the company. A motion is pending, as reported by Irina Allen.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=billion+dollar+lawsuit

Diamond Resorts was acquired by Apollo Global Management. Apollo was founded by banker Leon Black. Mr. Black also founded Drexel Burnham Lambert of junk bond fame. When DBL declared bankruptcy, Mr. Black founded Apollo.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

Stay tuned to Inside Timeshare and FOX News Property Man for upcoming turns of events.

Advocacy Works!

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=advocacy

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

around globe

Related story: FOX Celebrities Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham endorse

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

 

So there we have it, Silverpoint no longer selling timeshare, the RDO and TATOC losing a major source of revenue and long standing member.

Consumers purchasing in Spain now being protected by the strongest timeshare laws in Europe, with massive payouts for past infractions of these laws. Let us hope that other countries will enforce the law to the same degree and protect timeshare consumers all over Europe, no matter where they bought. After all, that is what the EU Directives on Timeshare were put into place.

If you have any questions about this article or any published on Inside Timeshare, contact us and we will try to answer them for you. If we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you have been contacted by or are looking at dealing with any company and want to know more Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

flags

Friday Review: News from Across the Ocean

Inside Timeshare once again publishes the Friday article from across the Great Lake (The Pond to our American Cousins). Today a new contributor, Laurie Sabbagh, with additional notes from our senior writer Irene Parker, who is doing a great job in rousing timeshare owners in the US to work together and improve the industry.

Firstly, we are getting more and more information on that outfit operating out of Tenerife, the Litigious Abogados family. The latest addition which we reported on 14 March Abel Garcia, was very interesting. As we said in the article, the website was registered on 5 January 2017, the name of the “law firm” was never heard of, yet the court document showing “Keith Baker” being sentenced, is dated 17 January 2017. Well we have never heard of a case going to court and being adjudicated with sentence being passed within 12 days. Wow, these lawyers are good!

We have also heard from another reader who had dealings with Stephen Fairclough and Meredith Pritchard Claims Consultancy Limited, another figure of just under £6000 has been paid, given the details of Jose Dorta of D&M Lawyers, yet no case or anything. This reader also suspects that the elusive Stephen Fairclough is back in Portugal.

So now on to our new contributor.

A Diamond Resort Member Does Her Timeshare Homework

Timeshare Members Instructing Other Members

Board

By Laurie Sabbagh  

Notes from Irene

March 17, 2017

Diamond Resorts member Laurie Sabbagh is also a member of our Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebook Page. Our mission statement:

We seek to provide Diamond Resorts 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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Today Laurie educates prospective and current owners. Not many timeshare buyers comparison shop. Timeshare sales presentations are almost always same day sales. A timeshare sales agent named in the Colorado Attorney General’s investigation of Highlands Resorts explains why:

“According to Highlands Resorts” sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in the lawsuit, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

From Laurie:

I recently started reading the invaluable Inside Timeshare articles and web postings of timeshare advocate Irene Parker after joining the member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebook Group. In February I posted that I would soon stay at Diamond’s Los Abrigados resort in Sedona. Irene asked me to attend the “members update” to find out if sales agents were adhering to the Arizona “Assurance of Discontinuance” rules.

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

After more than ten years of dodging the member updates, (i.e., sales pitches), I reluctantly accepted the invitation from the concierge to attend a 55 minute presentation.First, a little background on my Diamond “The CLUB” membership:

My membership started in 2006, when I purchased 8500 points in the Hawaii Collection when it was part of Sunterra. This vacation ownership interest (VOI) gave me a right of use equal to one week at either the Point at Poipu in http://Kauaior the Ka’anapali Beach Resort in Maui that I could reserve 13 months out, plus have access to resorts in the US and California Collections. In 2011 I received notice of a special assessment (SA) for a water intrusion problem at the Point. I scoured the internet to find out what was happening and learned that Sunterra knew about this massive liability when I purchased my vacation ownership, but its salespeople most likely weren’t informing prospective buyers about the problem prior to DRI’s impending purchase.

http://www.tstoday.com/members/magazine/issue123/7-poipu%20point.pdf

I was able to absorb the cost of the SA and considered myself lucky compared to owners who were on the hook for around $6,000 per deeded week for the water intrusion project – as many as 500 owners defaulted on their units because they either couldn’t or refused to pay the assessment. By reading Redweek and TUG I learned that management companies can change the terms of the Vacation Ownership Interest VOI membership agreement at any time, for practically any reason. I also read posts about high-pressure and questionable sales tactics being used to get consumers to buy into the various Collections  – some Hawaii Collection members were being told to get out of that collection by buying more points to transfer into the US Collection to avoid future SA’s, and vice versa. Reading about other people’s’ experiences was a wake-up call that it was not in my best interest to buy any more points.

Note from Irene:

I have received several complaints from people who attended sales presentations (one at Daytona Regency) told they should not have bought Hawaii Collection Points because Hawaii maintenance fees were going to increase dramatically or were encouraged to transfer Hawaii Points into the US Collection because Hawaii real estate is valuable, Hawaii Collection owners only can rent Points and only Hawaii members’ heirs can refuse inherited Points. Each transfer requires the purchase of more Points.   

Now to Laurie’s member update:

Two people

The promised 55-minute update turned out to be about three hours. The first salesperson, with whom I spent most of the time, was courteous and not high-pressure, although she did advise me to buy more Points to bring me into the Silver loyalty level which is 15000 Points. But to upgrade to Silver they were going to charge me over $8.00 a point, which would have cost more than $50,000! She also said the Hawaii Collection maintenance fees were more expensive and that I should join the US Collection. However, the second sales person I spoke with said with my small number of points, it costs only about $100 more per year.

Note from Irene:

According to SIRF Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation, Diamond points historically have sold for an average of $3 to $4 a point through 2014, according to data obtained from lawsuits. In a prior article, we reported Apollo plans to raise the price per point to $10 and then $12 per point.

http://sirf-online.org/2016/03/07/27464/

Back to Laurie’s sales presentation:

The sale’s agent also said that Apollo Global Management, the owners of DRI, would freeze that price for me for 18 months, and that the price was likely to rise soon.

Note from Irene:

Apollo Global Management founder, banker Leon Black, also founded Drexel Burnham Lambert of junk bond fame. Junk bonds did have some value, but a Diamond contract becomes worthless the moment it is signed should an owner need to sell, unless a friend or family member is willing to buy the Points.

Laurie:

I was also told that DRI members can use Points like cash for items such as airline travel, hotels, luxury items, and guided tours and adventures.  For example, Diamond Luxury Shopping enables Platinum and Gold members to apply Points towards products that are 30% off the best market price. But at a redemption point of $.30 per Point, this seems exorbitant to me.

Note from Irene:

I tried to use Points for an airline ticket. The Points we bought for $4 were worth $.07 for travel awards (Platinum $.10) so for $2,300 in equivalent maintenance fees dollars I could buy one domestic US flight. Customer Service told me this benefit is for convenience, not value.

Back to Laurie

Another example is that members can use 1500 points to purchase America the Beautiful – the US National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass.  My 8500 Points cost $1,973 this year, which includes maintenance fees, The CLUB fee, taxes, and mandatory membership in Interval International. That comes to about 23 cents a point.  For me, 1500 Points for the pass equates to $348, not including the $10 processing fee for my “Valued” level of The CLUB membership. I paid $80 for the same pass at a National Monument we just visited. Seniors over 62 pay $10.

At the end of the presentation a third person asked me some questions, including if I was treated courteously. I said yes, but also said I was not interested in buying any more Points with DRI. I declined the $100 Visa gift card, since that was not my reason for attending the update.

All said my elderly parents and I had a wonderful week at Los Abrigados. I was able to secure the historic Stone House, an 1800 square foot property with four separate entrances for only 6500 points. I almost always book weeks for 50 to 75 percent off, within the 59 day discount period, and have experienced good value for my points.  Every year I’ve been forced to vacation or lose my points, and I’ve taken about 18 weeks of vacation at DRI resorts since I bought my membership. If I had not purchased this VOI, I never would have gone to all the places that The CLUB membership has enabled me to visit. However, I advise other members to only use points for timeshare use, not the auxiliary products or non-resort vacation experiences DRI offers.

Thank you to Laurie for sharing her knowledge and experience. Email us at Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare story you would like to share.

share

Thank you Laurie and Irene, once again Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contribute, either through writing articles or supplying information on possibly rogue companies. It is through your efforts that we can inform the timeshare world on what is going on.

On another note Canarian Legal Alliance has been nominated for the Canary Awards which recognises individuals and businesses that make a difference on the Canary Islands.

Canarian Legal Alliance has been nominated in the Real Gran Canaria category for their outstanding services to timeshare consumers and their efforts in the changing of consumer law.

In the Business Person of the Year category is Csilla Nazali, the operational manager of CLA for her outstanding work with all the clients.

Follow the link and vote for them, I’m sure they will appreciate it.

http://thecanaryawards.com/vote/voting-categories-page-1-of-2/

 

consumer protection week

Consumer Protection Week USA

Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.

In the UK, the Trading Standards Institute has an annual National Consumer Week, this has been running since 1989. It is a consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) and is usually at the end of November to the beginning of December.

Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.

There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.

In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.

In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.

As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.

It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.

Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/index_en.htm

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/practitioners/events/national-consumer-week
Consumer Protection Week March 5 -11

Who needs protecting? The elderly, the ill, the divorced, the unemployed, the Army and the Navy

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

Consumer Protection Week in the US is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.

Do Timeshare consumers need protecting? One need only review the 15 page Department of Justice report on Timeshare scams to answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare&op=Search&affiliate=justice

What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?

Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”

It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.

Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.

As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.

William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas.  Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.

“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service.  All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.

Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.

Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.

The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.

 “Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.

William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.

In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:

“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”

  1. We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
  2. We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
  3. We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
  4. We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
  5. We were told that this Timeshare was an INVESTMENT!

By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)

William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.

(Note: Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond in an all cash $2.2 billion deal September of 2016, as reported by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times prior to the acquisition.)

As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

Back to William and Mary:

navy

William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had.  At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.

“Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.

Where does the family go from here?

which way

“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”

Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.

Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.

Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.

Our Arizona Attorney General Assurance of Discontinuance article provides a blueprint for honesty and contains several items from William and Mary’s fraud checklist. Let us know if you think this family meets the definition of fraud.

Diamond has implemented a Clarity program in Arizona in response to the AOD.

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state. It’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.  The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial DRI Response has just been received:

“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:

Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund

A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.

Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.

An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.

Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.

On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.

With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?

When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.

 

across-the-pond

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

Many owners in Europe are also having some of the same problems as those in the US, that of constant upgrading when on holiday. One of the main tactics that has been used is the the price per point is about to go up, buy now and save money.

Many have been told the reason for the increase, is that it is to bring them in line with the price in the US. Some have even been told that today’s price will be frozen for them until their next holiday, or even they are entitled to last years price only if they buy today. All timeshare has in the past been sold on the “stack and drop” model, it gave the impression of the purchaser getting a bargain.

It must be said that in Europe things are changing, although there are some who still use the old methods. Unfortunately, the lack of a resale market is one of the biggest concerns, especially when clients are told they can sell, usually for more than they paid. The following article explains the problems in the US, many readers in Europe may have come across this here as well.

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

You decide based on facts

By Irene Parker – February 22, 2017

Monopoly money

From Wikipedia

Monopoly money is a type of play money used in the board game Monopoly. It is different from most currencies, including the American currency or British currency upon which it is based,

Diamond Resorts points, according to Diamond Resorts sales agents, should be looked upon as “currency” in that Diamond vacation points can be used for a variety of uses – just like real money.  But does a Diamond point equate real currency?

Diamond Resort owners rarely can even give their vacation points away should the need to sell arise. Seeking to sell our Diamond vacation points due to overly aggressive sales presentations, rising maintenance fees, and availability falling far short of what was promised, I contacted David Cortese of Magical Realty.

David Cortese is one of 64 Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers who will buy and sell any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts non-deeded points, as the LTRBA members feel the  restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary market points is so onerous, it renders the points worthless on resale.

My husband and I paid $3.06 per point for 6,000 Diamond points in 2012.

Imagine the dismay of a consumer presented with the following figures during a sales presentation – after they learn the points they purchased are worthless when they try to sell. Is the buyer informed of the lack of a secondary market? The prices below are easily the cost of a nice home. Who would buy a $400,000 home that became worthless on resale the moment the contract was signed?

What difference does the inflated price make to anyone but the selling agent and the company?

  • 2013 Price per point $5.06 to $7.50
  • 2014 Price per point $7.70 to $7.95
  • 2015 Price per point $8.11 to $8.20
  • 2016 Price per point $8.28 to $8.51

The following chart was also presented:

  • 8,500 points @ $72,420 ($8.52 per point)
  • 17,000 points @ $144,840
  • 25,500 points @ $217,260
  • 34,000 points @ $289,680
  • 42,500 points @ $362,100
  • 51,000 points @ $434,520 ($8.52 per point)

Our existing owner was told, if they buy today, and with approval from above, they can buy points today for $4.80.

What benefit is this to a consumer if the points have no secondary market?

In addition to our personal price history, Roddy Boyd of Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation included a price per point history in a price chart included in his article “Diamond Resorts and Its Perpetual Mortgage Machine”  showing the price per point trending down to the $2 to $4 point range until 2014. Diamond did review the article pre-publishing.

Diamond Resorts and Its Perpetual Mortgage Machine

The Chart obtained from owner lawsuits:

http://98zo02bh3v9r369dtffl01cj.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/DRII_points_lawsuits.pdf

The Kroll Bond Rating Agency, as reported by National Mortgage News, offered the following warning, concerned with Diamond’s default rate:

dollar graph

http://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/secondary/newly-private-diamond-resorts-tests-securitization-market-1090005-1.html

Since the timeshare operator (Diamond Resorts) completing its previous offering, in November 2015, losses on the loans it makes to customers have been rising, primarily because more borrowers are seeking legal representation, according to KBRA. (Kroll Bond Rating Agency)

The ratings agency’s pre sale report attributes this to “a handful of [law] firms, targeting certain timeshare borrowers” and to borrowers’ use of “cease and desist” letters. The presale report does not elaborate, but TheStreet and The New York Times have reported that the company is battling two lawsuits over its business practices.

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

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

These reportedly include pressuring owners to upgrade their membership in order to obtain benefits that do not materialize or are not as represented.

According to KBRA, the legal actions have dropped from their peak in the first half of 2016, but remain high compared with historical levels.

The ratings agency has the subordinate tranche of notes issued by a deal completed in July 2015 are under review for a possible downgrade.

Defaults reported by the deal, Diamond Resorts Owner Trust 2015-1, are zero, but only because the sponsor has been exercising its right to repurchase defaulted loans or substitute them with new loans. The company has the right to do this for up to 15% of the defaulted loans. However, it is not obliged to do so, and KBRA does not assume it will do so when it rates the bonds.

Diamond has also undergone a change in ownership. In September, the company was taken private by Apollo Global Management, which acquired it in a deal valued at $2.2 billion.

KBRA notes that, while other timeshare operators, including Wyndham, are experienced higher losses as the result of legal actions, “Diamond seems to be most affected.”

The presale report also notes that Diamond has made several changes designed to address the issue, including communicating with borrowers and attorneys on loans when possible and revising its sales and marketing training.

Bottom line: KBRA has increased its default expectation for the latest transaction considerably. Its base case is for gross losses of 17.9%-19.9%, compared with 13.05%-14.05% for the November 2015 transaction.

Roughly 99% of obligors are domestic and the weighted average FICO score is 732. However, the weighted average seasoning of seven months is approximately three months higher than in the previous transaction. The average loan balance remains high, at just over $25,000, which KBRA attributes to Diamond targeting obligors with higher FICO scores and incentivizing existing customers to upgrade into higher points programs.

Wells Fargo Bank will act as the “warm” back-up servicer in this transaction should the company experience deterioration in performance and be terminated as servicer.

At the very least, a timeshare buyer’s greatest advice:

group   Stay Informed and Seek Support

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.

Buyers should also beware a Diamond point at $8.52 is worth only pennies used for travel awards.

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

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Irene for the article, it has certainly shed some light on these practises. As we said in the opening, Europe is changing the way timeshare and points are sold, it still has a long way to go, but it is heading in the right direction.

Your comments and stories are always welcome, just contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.

 

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