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letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to December’s first Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker examines Non-Disclosure Agreements in timeshare and should they be permitted. But first we have a look at what has been in the news in Europe.

Last month we ran the article on the court case involving Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they both pleaded guilty to some very serious charges at Birmingham Magistrates court. Their case has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing in January, it has now been reported that they will be back in court on 15 December. Whether they will be sentenced then we will have to wait and see, but if they are, they may be having Christmas dinner behind bars.

Yesterday we published an article with an opposing view of the Los Claveles saga, this has prompted some rather heated comments. It would seem that each side is accusing each other of telling lies, this is not the way forward, there will always be a difference of opinion, just because one person does not agree does not make it a lie!

Just having opposing views does not mean you cannot work together, it is your resort and that is what counts not the bickering or personal animosities.

 

The courts once again have been busy, with no less than three Supreme Court ruling this week.

tribunal-supremo

After publishing last Friday’s article it was announced that the Supreme Court had made another ruling against Silverpoint, the court awarded the client over £42,000, plus £3,000 which is double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period. The client will also receive back their legal fees and legal interest.

On Monday 27 November, the Supreme Court again ruled against Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void and awarding over £23,000 including the return of legal fees and interest.

On the same day they issued another sentence against Silverpoint. The contract was declared null and void with the return of more than £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

It was the turn of the Court of First Instance in Tenerife on Tuesday 28 November to issue a sentence against Silverpoint, the judge following the Supreme Court rulings ordered the return of over £11,000 and declared the contract null and void.

On Wednesday 29 November the Tenerife Courts again found against Silverpoint with the return of £11,000 and the contracts declared null and void.

The same day from Madrid the Supreme Court announced yet another ruling against Silverpoint, contract declared null and void with the return of £7,000 plus legal fees and interest.

Other cases this week saw rulings from other courts around Spain which included the return of all payments and contracts being declared null and void against Anfi, Blue Bay and Puerto Calma

Now just to rub it in, as if Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly havn’t got enough problems the list also included a sentence against EZE Group!

The total amount being returned to clients this week alone is a staggering 403,336.25€

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, with this week’s Supreme Court rulings bringing their total to 74, another record for the legal history books!

law

So on with this Friday’s letter

Timeshare Non-Disclosure Agreements

When they are fair and when they are not

 cloud

By Irene Parker

December 1, 2017

High school civics classes must be having interesting and lively class discussions about American politics today. Sexual harassment accusations have taken over the media and are raising questions about the damage caused by non-disclosure agreements (NDA). Sexual harassment settlements require the victim sign an NDA agreeing not to disclose what happened.

New Jersey lawmakers are proposing NDAs be banned in cases of sexual harassment. As NJ.Com reported, “Corporate boards of directors keep on approving settlements to cover executives who then go on to commit the same offense.”

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/harvey_weinstein_scandal_has_nj_dems_ready_to_ban.html

Timeshare members should lobby for a similar prohibition, especially when a member receives nothing in return after surrendering timeshare vacation points that can easily cost $100,000 or more. Out of 220 timeshare complaints voiced by our readers against multiple developers, 115 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch, some just days after purchasing. Members have reported on the many ways sales agents and their companies can avoid the rescission or cancellation period. Especially in these cases, an NDA seems harsh.

The most common allegations of deceit reported by our readers include:

  •  The ability to sell or rent vacation points
  •  The ability to pay maintenance fees with points
  •  The need to always buy more points in order to have adequate availability
  •  Agents from the same company accusing each other of selling the member the wrong product. The member is told to buy more points to change from one product to the next only to be told by the next agent, they still bought the wrong points! The member is required to sign an NDA even when all they did was buy more points.    

One lawyer I spoke with, who asked not to be identified, said he is shocked by the use of NDAs in timeshare. He explained that as a litigator he saw large settlements awarded without a non-disclosure, but in timeshare even members who receive nothing in return for surrendering vacation points must sign an NDA.

When Inside Timeshare publishes an article about a member’s complaint, we no longer feature the article if the resort helps the member resolve their issue. We do maintain a complete list of all member articles for regulators and law enforcement and have compiled a 90 page complaint summary. With over 200 complaints, patterns emerge. Repeated complaints against certain sales agents point to repeating offenders. Comparing notes with law firms across the country, we have learned certain timeshare sales agents are household names at their offices as well.

Inside Timeshare published Deneice’s article September 29, 2017.

lady

 Inside Timeshare has received 23 reader complaints concerning Diamond Resort’s Las Vegas sales centers. Deneice Vargas alleges she was fraudulently up-sold in Las Vegas. Eight of the members reported a positive outcome working with Diamond Resorts to resolve their complaint.  

Initially, the DRI advocacy agent Deneise worked with seemed to agree with Deniece and had asked for supporting medical documentation about her husband Louis’s diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. Relieved, Deneice submitted the information only to learn the customer service agent who had been helping her quit and the new agent seemed to dismiss Bell’s palsy as if it were a common cold. I personally felt the loss because the hospitality agent who quit called me about my complaint over two years ago. We did not always agree, but I felt she had a moral compass.   

Deneice reached out to us recently to let us know how things were going. She was shocked to receive a call from one of Diamond Resort’s advocacy hospitality agents. According to Deneice, when DRI Consumer Advocates are not advocating, they make collection calls. “They called at 6:50 AM! Isn’t there a law that says you can’t do collection calls outside of normal business hours? I suspect the advocacy department called demanding payment because I was not answering the phone from the collection agents,” said Deneice.    

If there were no loan, I’m confident DRI would allow Deneice to surrender her points for resale, but Deneice’s situation is complicated by her allegations of deceit and bait and switch and the outstanding loan. We reached out to Diamond for comment, but there was no response. Deneice’s original article:  

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-21/

If Deneice’s resort does decide to help her, she will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, agreeing not to say anything disparaging against her resort. One benefit (for our advocacy efforts) is that Deneice will not have to sign an NDA if she forecloses. We lose a lot of advocates because of the NDA. I’ve gotten to know Deneice and feel she will be of great benefit to our team of core advocates determined to stop or at least reduce the “pitching of heat” prevalent in timeshare today, bolstered by points based programs that offer easy deception. One of our advocates is a Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover.

As a non-lawyer, I often rely on NOLO for legal advice. An added benefit of NOLO is somehow they prevent timeshare exit scam artists from posting ads all over their articles.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nondisclosure-agreements-29630.html

When I looked up nondisclosure agreement on NOLO, the site connected me to Richard Stim. I submitted this question to Mr. Stim at http://dearrichblog.blogspot.com/

I write for Inside Timeshare. We are receiving a flood of timeshare complaints. If someone who feels they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, spending $95,000 for a timeshare, convinces the resort to take the timeshare back with nothing in return, should they have to sign an NDA? Thank you for your help.   

ballchain

What property would anyone buy, be it a boat, home or car, financing a loan at 12% to 18%, knowing the product they were buying could not be sold?  Not one of our 220 readers knew, at the time of purchase, they could not sell their timeshare. There is a limited secondary market for some timeshares. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out how your timeshare fares on the secondary market or if you are stuck with a product you don’t want, can’t afford, and can’t sell.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Thank goodness for Social Media. Here are some self-help member support groups offering good advice and a shoulder to cry one when one finds themselves caught in a timeshare trap.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all who contribute to these articles, they are certainly bringing new information to members / owners in the world of timeshare.

Inside Timeshare once again reminds all readers to do their due diligence when deciding which companies to do business with, as always, doing your homework will prevent the loss of your hard earned cash. If you need help in checking who to trust contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good relaxing weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

 

stop press 1

Just as we were about to publish, this came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, another Silverpoint contract declared null and void with this particular client being awarded over £90,000 plus legal fees and interest. That is now 75, yes, 75 rulings from Spains Highest Court!

After publishing this also came in.

The High Court in Tenerife found against Silverpoint yet again. The judge has declared this contract null and void with the return of over £74,000 plus legal interest.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

gavela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cla-brochure

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

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

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

Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds – The Developer vs the Member

wall st

By Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer

November 17, 2017

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

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

Introduction by Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Morgan’s analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Nuwer

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

chart1

Membership is down 9% since 2013

chart2

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

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

So what happens when someone buys timeshare points?

Let’s look at this example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

trust earned

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

Timeshare self-help Facebook groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

friday dog

 

vulture

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

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

puerto rico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

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

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

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

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

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

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

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

argentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

money man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not alone

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

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

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

abogados-ag-250

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

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

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

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

See the full letter below, pdf.

Abogados AG

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

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

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chat

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

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

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

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

 

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

friday cat

class action

The Tuesday Slot with Mike Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, on with today’s article.

CLASS ACTION LITIGATION

Misunderstood by Timeshare Consumers

post it

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

October 31, 2017

Part I – Arbitration – The Question Timeshare Buyers Never Ask

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

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

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

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

Essentially, they committed themselves to a lifelong obligation!

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

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

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

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

magic box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other class cases are currently pending. View:

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

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

law book

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

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

 

questions

The Tuesday Slot: Arbitration

Today we feature excerpts from  Chris Parker, a writer from City Pages and his article called The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection

Continuing on yesterdays topic of “Bogus” claims companies and “Fake” law firms, Mindtimeshare  has also highlighted another company, European Liquidations.

Again this company uses the @consultants.com email address, which as we have said previously it is just a free email provider just like gmail and yahoo.

europeanliquidationsltd@consultant.com

The telephone numbers provided are:

0203 384 3999 and Fax – 0872 751 6998

Unfortunately, Mindtimeshare has very little information and we have been unable trace any company with this name at company house. But it is important to inform readers of all companies that crop up along with telephone numbers and their email address, after all to be forewarned is to be forearmed!

As this article was being prepared Canarian Legal Alliance issued another court ruling, this was from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas against Palm Oasis (Tasolan). In this judgement the court ordered the return of over 15,000€ plus all maintenance fees and legal interest, the contract was also declared null and void.

The court ruled that the contract infringed Law 42/98 in that it was for a period exceeding 50 years, Contract to be valid must be for a period of between 3 and 50 years, this should also be specified in the contract and explained to the client before the contract is signed. It is clear the Supreme Court rulings are having a severe impact on all contracts that do not follow the stipulated laws.

Now on with today’s article.

Part I – Questions a Timeshare Buyer Never Asks

Does this timeshare contract contain an arbitration clause?

arbitration

By Irene Parker

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

Friday’s Letter from America

Tuesday October 24

Excerpts from “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

By Chris Parker

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….” “Though arbitration may sound preferable to the expense and anguish of court, it hands a major advantage to companies. The costs savings aren’t much: Arbitrators usually charge $300-$400 per hour minimum, and some bill into the thousands of dollars. But arbitration clauses typically bar the consumer from joining class-action suits. The strategy has emboldened fraud on a massive scale.” “In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruled that arbitration clauses can’t bar consumers from joining class-action suits. The GOP Congress intends to repeal the rule.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told the Wall Street Journal that such clauses are “a windfall for the companies, in terms of how you settle their cheating.”

“Even when someone does challenge them, arbitration rulings are usually private, with no appeals and little documentation. Like a tree falling in a vast forest, Wells Fargo’s customers didn’t hear the millions of other victims, and the press remained none the wiser.”

“With consumer protection increasingly whittled away by keen lobbyists and cunning corporate lawyers, the idea was to build an agency whose sole mission was protecting consumers.”

cfpb1

“During its brief life, the bureau has established itself as the only Washington agency more responsive to consumers than to lobbyists. Since 2011, it’s handled 1.2 million complaints, returning over $12 billion to consumers.”

The CFPB and Timeshares

By Irene Parker

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has also been the first line of defense for timeshare buyers alleging they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch. Given the staggering number of reports of deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the timeshare sale, if the CFPB is regulated out of existence, widely predicted, many timeshare members feel the only court that will be left available to them is the court of public opinion, warning unsuspecting consumers as to the minefield of ways the evolution of right to use timeshare points has opened the doors for unscrupulous timeshare sales.

Our standard disclosure is that not all timeshare sales agents are deceptive and not all timeshare companies are predatory.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

I asked ever assessable timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group which timeshare developers have an arbitration clause. Diamond Resorts is the only major developer that I’m aware of that has the arbitration clause,” explains Mike. I spoke with other attorneys who say the same.

Banks and other lenders can pick arbitrators. As Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson expressed –

shark

“We heard from arbitrators that were blackballed and essentially told, ‘You’re not going to be an arbitrator anymore because you’re ruling for the consumer,’” she says. “That’s one of the problems with arbitration. The court system is paid by the taxpayers. Judges are neutral and their funding comes from the public.” City Pages “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

A common comment on complaint sites and from 170 Inside Timeshare readers reaching out to us for assistance is, “Let’s get a class action going!?” Timeshare members typically confuse the term and substance of a class action. We’re all used to class action ads on television say, for example, a medical device failure. The difference with timeshare is that damages are not uniform, which is necessary for a class action. Some lawyers may call a lawsuit a class action on behalf of only one or two plaintiff class representatives but they are more like individual lawsuits. Real Class Actions involve hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs. More later,

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group this Friday’s Letter from America

Why will timeshare developers not acknowledge the flawed business model?

Out of 170 complaints received, 155 of our readers allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. The contract is perpetual, accompanied by rising maintenance fees. With some of the more gestapo orientated companies, the member cannot sell or give back their timeshare. The problem is magnified when the buyers succumbed to high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

We believe Social Media and media outreach is the tortoise chasing the hare. Timeshare default rates are rising and original buyers (like me) are not getting any younger. Inside Timeshare continues to be there for members and advocacy Facebook pages and websites are on the rise – helping members through the 3Rs or F of Timeshare – resolution, when possibly the member just did not understand how to use the program, refund, relinquishment or foreclosure. In America, there is no debtors’ prison, except in the case of refusing to pay child support.

We ask timeshare developers – What would happen to the primary residential home market if home buyers could not sell their property?

think about

Self-help Facebooks

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and Chris, also a big thank you to Tammy for proof reading and editing these articles.

As always if you have any comments or would like to share your experiences, Inside Timeshare welcomes them, contact us through our contact page.

If you need help or advice on any timeshare matter do get in touch and we will point you in the right direction. Remember before engaging with any company do your due diligence and your homework, it will save you a lot of bother in the end.

diligence

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.

All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.

The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.

The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time Andrew Cooper was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola, so Andrew Cooper had nothing to do with it all.

On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.

We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.

Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.

Do right to use point programs offer more protection?

In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.

I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.

Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?

Finn

Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
  • Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
  • Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)

This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.

  • Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

Finn-Law--Main-Logo

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.

As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.

There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –

  • How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
  • Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.

To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.

The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”

Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).

With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.

Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.

Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.

Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.

That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

weekend

Tide-Is-Turning-300x251

The Tuesday Slot with Irene, Plus some news about Butlins.

In this Tuesday’s article by Irene Parker, she explains how timeshare members fight back, this is a rather timely piece as we have recently received some disturbing news. It would appear that not is all well at Butlins.

In previous articles we praised Butlins Blueskies timeshare as one that was sold correctly and seemed to have very few complaints from members. That had now changed, Butlins is ending Blueskies.

blueskies

According to some of the posts on the Blueskies, Butlins, members facebook page, members are not happy about losing their timeshares. They were told that if they did not accept the offer to terminate the club, then their maintenance fees would rise significantly.

According to some of the posts on the facebook page, Butlins have also been hiring out apartments to non members, which goes against what they were sold. One member posted the following:

“Blueskies was sold to most of us as an exclusive club, it was not to be hired out. Therefore Butlins Blueskies broke the contract with us as members when they started hiring apartments out without asking/informing us the members.”

It also looks like there are many complaints about the standards of the apartments and the service, that everything seems to have gone down hill. Repairs not being carried out, with comments on damaged floor tiles and windows.

But the vast majority of the comments surrounded the vote, which gone in Butlins favour and the club is to be wound up. It also appears that the vote was done on points, rather than just votes, the more points, the more votes. Which makes the vote in Butlins favour not surprising, as they will own the points not sold. We have seen this before at other timeshare resorts, where the vote has gone in favour of the developer or management company.

Many members are calling to band together and take legal action, as they feel they have been cheated. It is a sad day when a company like Butlins, which did have a relatively good reputation in the timeshare industry suddenly falls from grace. We wish the members all the best in their fight to right a wrong.

Follow the link to the Blueskies Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Blueskies%2C%20Butlins%2C%20members

Now on with Irene’s article.

Lions and Cats

How Timeshare Members Fight Back

Lion

By Irene Parker

October 17, 2017

A timeshare insider recently asked me, “Why is Timeshare Advocacy Group™ so successful?”  “How do you do it?”

Most timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare and timeshare advocacy Facebook pages are confused, angry, and overwhelmed. Members face a battle pleading with a timeshare company, demanding a refund or loan be cancelled, knowing they may be forced into foreclosure if they are denied. If the member feels they were sold or up-sold by deceit, the conflict is magnified. The automatic denial from the resort leads to more anger and frustration as rebuttals ensue. We take pride in the number of members we have steered away from fraudulent transfer companies charging hefty amounts for so called guaranteed exits.

The predator turned prey

Something clicks inside a person when they have had enough, be it a victim of domestic abuse, child abuse, or predatory timeshare sales. Our goal is to turn the sound of the caller’s scared and desperate voice into a confident voice by providing the member with the resources needed to take action and advocate.

Three of Timeshare Advocacy Group’s leaders

3 trees

Irene “Irina” Allen is our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ administrator

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

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

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

Eron Grant is an educator who has volunteered to be our “go to” person analyzing ARDA’s Code of Ethics. After a member submits a report to us, Eron identifies how a timeshare developer has violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics. The report is forwarded to ARDA’s General Counsel and Lobbyist. So far there has been no response. We feel if an organization says they have a Code of Ethics, the Code should be enforced. Here is how Eron describes how ARDA’s Code of Ethics was violated in the case of her family. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association. The code can be found in Eron’s article.

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

Advocacy groups have been encouraging timeshare members not to make a voluntary donation to ARDA ROC, feeling the $4 to $5 million a year raised is used to lobby against timeshare owners when an issue is at odds with developer interest. It’s doubtful most owners know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.

“Owners donated $5.5 million this year, through voluntary contributions on their maintenance fees, to support ARDA-ROC, the independent Resort Owners’ Coalition that teams up with ARDA on consumer and legal issues that impact owners. The top two givers were owners at Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen Vacations, each of whom contributed $1 million for ARDA’s representation.” RedWeek April, 2017

According to Dr. Amy Gregory, University of Central Florida, who presented at an ARDA World Conference,

“A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their (timeshare) purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.”

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

ARDA worked to pass legislation in Florida making it more difficult for timeshare members to be released from contracts due to non material errors. A high percentage of buyer’s remorse, coupled with a perpetual contract, little or no exit, and rising maintenance fees have left frustrated timeshare members no place to turn in an industry that is virtually unregulated. Lawmakers, influenced by lobby dollars, turn a deaf ear. Advocacy groups were outraged by the Florida bill.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

Karen Garello

Karen Garello is our Secret Shopper coordinator. Karen is one of several members who allege they did not know, until they returned home, a credit card had been used to purchase a timeshare product. Marsha Young also was unaware she had been charged for the same timeshare product, but Marsha received her money back, told the person who sold it to her had been fired. The resort said he had been the top selling agent of this particular product.

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

Inside Timeshare and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ developed a step-by-step plan a member can follow if a resort offers no assistance. Through regulatory filings and media outreach members are helping other members while also contributing to timeshare reform. Other advocates, working behind the scenes, focus on legislative actions. Time, patience and diligence are necessary.

Many of the members reaching out to us have health issues. Out of 166 complaints received, diagnoses include cancer, dementia, concussion, kidney disease, Bell’s palsy, financial loss caused by loss of employment or divorce, and grief over the loss of a spouse or loved one. Developer attorneys say hardship is not a legal defense.

Many life events cannot be foreseen, so consumers thinking about buying a timeshare need to think about whether it is prudent to buy anything for $25,000 to over $500,000 that does not have a secondary market, is perpetual, and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Some timeshares have a limited secondary market. Members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can give you an idea of what your timeshare may be worth on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints (157 out of 166) by timeshare members alleging they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. We are learning there are many ways to dodge the rescission period.

Timeshare member Tammy Arkley only realized this happened to her because she was able to access the booking site because her friend was already a member at a higher loyalty level. Tammy said she was told she would need fewer points to book stays if she upgraded to the next loyalty level, but when she went back to her room and logged onto her friend’s account, already at that loyalty level, she saw the reservation took the same exact number of points. She received her money back, but what did this experience do to change the image she had of this company?

In other words, there are some promises and claims that cannot be discovered until the buyer has access to the booking site, long after the cancellation period.

Similarly, others have been told they would need to wait six months before selling points after upgrading to the next loyalty level. By placing a six month wait on the false claim, the complaint is old when reported. Too many of our readers are highly educated professionals and were not alone when they attended the presentation. There are so many almost identical complaints – we can sometimes guess the name of the sales agent.

Timeshare members have had enough. Social Media now allows timeshare members to contact other members to find out they are not alone. Members include professionals offering their skills to help other members. We are hoping one day, if the timeshare companies themselves will not acknowledge the problems, lawmakers will pay attention.

My husband Don, and first read editor, asked me as I was writing this article, “Why does Disney have so few complaints?” Disney, I said, is a company backed by generations of little critters enmeshed in a corporate culture and brand that will not allow deceit but does allow a secondary market. It does not seem to have hurt their bottom line. Zacks estimates a year over year growth estimate of 11.27% forecasted for 9/20/2018 with an impressive 1.66% allowance for doubtful receivables 10/1/2016.

https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/DIS/detailed-estimates

Walt Disney Co.’s allowance as a percentage of current receivables, gross declined from 2014 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016.

 https://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Walt-Disney-Co/Financial-Reporting-Quality

Bad-Debts

Contact Inside Timeshare to share your news and views or one of the available self-help groups. Our success is not measured in dollars. While many have received resolution or refunds, relinquishments, or loan cancellations, others brace for foreclosure. It’s about the “3Rs or F of Timeshare” – getting a bad decision in the rear view mirror supported by other members who care and bring their expertise from all walks of life into our Timeshare Advocacy Group™.

create

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

We now share some more news from the courts in Spain, the High Court in Tenerife yesterday announced another crippling verdict against Silverpoint. The judge has declared another client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £40,000 plus legal interests. Once again the courts are finding in favour of clients as per the rulings of the Supreme Court.

So no matter what the industry claims, they are losing the battle, consumers are protected by the law, at least as far as timeshares sold in Spain are concerned. It now needs the rest of Europe to follow suit, giving the protection that the EU Timeshare Directives promised. The industry must acknowledge the fact that they have for too long run roughshod over consumers in their quest for easy money.

 

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