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letter from australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

justice2

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

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

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

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

So now on to this weeks article.

Who is Apollo? What is Apollo?

Two Diamond Member Consumer Advocates offer their opinion

Up Down

By Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

Introduction by Irene Parker

June 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

advocate 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aussie Flag

From Justin Morgan Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

barbie

across-the-pond

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

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

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

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

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

You decide based on facts

By Irene Parker – February 22, 2017

Monopoly money

From Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following chart was also presented:

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

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

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

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

Diamond Resorts and Its Perpetual Mortgage Machine

The Chart obtained from owner lawsuits:

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

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

dollar graph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

group   Stay Informed and Seek Support

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

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

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

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

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

 

flags

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

Today’s article just happens to coincide with a rather important day in the USA, it is the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, so what has this to do with timeshare?

Well it is actually quite simple for those in Scotland, back in 2008 there were some very heated debates over Mr Trump’s plan to build an 18 hole golf course and resort in Balmedie Aberdeenshire. This met with considerable resistance from the local people, but eventually Trump won through.

The original plan was to build a 450-room hotel, a second golf course, 500 luxury homes and 900 timeshare apartments along with a second 18 hole golf course. In a recent article in The Guardian newspaper these plans now intend to double the number of homes and timeshare apartments.

According to The Independent Newspaper there appears to be a conflict of interest, although Mr Trump or should we say President Trump, has stated that his company will do “no new foreign deals” during his presidency. But as The Independent puts it he has left this “new” and “deals” open to interpretation.

The Independent article goes even further, it also brings in the fact this proposed expansion coincides with the need for the UK to negotiate a trade deal with the US after the Brexit vote. As The Independent puts it “who would deny a permit to the President of the United States?”

Well, we in the UK and especially those people in Aberdeenshire will just have to wait and see.

In Irene Parker´s article she explains the US side to the question what will happen under the Trump Presidency and the effect to owners.

Links to the Independent and The Guardian articles.

https://www.google.es/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=/amp/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-organization-golf-links-resort-scotland-aberdeen-conflict-interest-a7534596.html%253Famp&ved=0ahUKEwjEiL656M7RAhUGQBQKHVZkDe8QFghQMAY&usg=AFQjCNEGkuZV4A3k8BIvt65PzkVLNLQbHQ&sig2=oX4Sg73mYZ_Gfsi1hw9UJw

https://www.google.es/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/22/planners-reject-donald-trump-revised-plans-scottish-golf-resort&ved=0ahUKEwjSkM6q6c7RAhWCxRQKHVVfCfEQFghZMAc&usg=AFQjCNGSyvxRBMaAVBigvOxsbSyrpCkAKQ&sig2=sSbmK7N4TgzLUVG1YI-PHQ

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

By Irene Parker

January 17, 2017

Presidetial seal

There are a couple of movements under way in America, so why should Timeshare be different? Timeshare owners who have been victimized by rogue sales agents are as far apart from the actions of timeshare developers and lobbyists as Trump is from Bernie. Through covert action, timeshare owners have circumvented laws developers supported to jokingly protect our privacy, and began to contact each other. What we have learned from each other’s experiences is shocking.  

http://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/timeshares-refuse-to-share-owner-lists

Four Attorneys General have taken action to protect timeshare consumers and prospective buyers.  Noticeably absent from this list is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, considering Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The timeshare developer lobby organization ARDA will be quick to point out Bondi’s effort to shut down fraudulent timeshare resale scams – vibrant due to little or no secondary market for owners seeking to sell their timeshare. Bondi explains on a FOX Bob Massi Property Man segment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6bZDA6pL0o

Resale scam artists are like squirrels. Take out two and four more will arise tomorrow. I received two calls just this week. Of course shutting down 41 fraudulent resellers is a good thing, but did this just clear out the clutter for developers to have a clear path to “legitimate” transfer agents.

When a timeshare company refuses a request to surrender a timeshare contract, never fear! The beleaguered owner can go to a transfer agency with good names but questionable business practices like Redemption and Release and Resort Release. For sometimes as much as $5000 or more, transfer agents will offer a guaranteed “deed-back”, if legitimate, then bundle 25 to 50 contracts and sell back to the developer. Sound similar to the sub-prime mortgage business? It is.

On the other side of the FOX Celebrity fence are Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham endorsing Resort Release. In a FOX news interview Dave Ramsey said timeshare has a 98% dissatisfaction rate.

Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, offers her opinion in her Open Letter to Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham:

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

lecturnSo what does this have to do with Politics?

Pam Bondi made headlines with her handling of the Trump University investigation after asking and receiving a $25,000 donation.

Trump U victims are eerily similar to timeshare victims. CNN reporter Drew Griffin interviews top Trump U sales agent Dave Harris:

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/cnn-reporter-hammers-trump-u-instructor-is-that-called-ripping-off-an-old-couple/

There has been a noticeable shift in lobby efforts. Extravagant events designed to curry favor for legislative efforts used to be directed towards politicians and lawmakers. That’s changed. More and more, campaign contributions, lobby sponsored conferences and events are aimed at Attorneys General like Pam Bondi, as pictured, and reported by the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

However, efforts to influence politicians have not gone unrewarded. Timeshare owners and advocates were outraged over timeshare laws passed in 2015 making it more difficult for timeshare owners to be released from contracts.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html

Attorneys General working for us:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance following a probe of Diamond Resorts. A settlement of $800,000 has been awarded for restitution:

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

Other Attorneys General have come down on the side of timeshare owners, including:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann halted sales at The Manhattan Club in 2014 and is still engaged in an ongoing legal battle:

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-across-pond/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Alongside AGs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducts an ongoing investigation of Westgate timeshare as reported by Matthew Zeitlin at BuzzFeed:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.dwoQKVw3QQ#.doJ0ka1K00

Diamond Resorts default rate is the highest in the industry. The rate has increased to 19% over 13% from the prior year, according to National Mortgage News. Diamond credits this to lawyers targeting owners. I like to think of it being caused by owners talking to other owners.

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

So what side of the political fence stands the timeshare developer? Pictured to the left of our new President, the King of Versailles and owner of Westgate timeshare David Siegel:

Trump

Thank you to Inside Timeshare for providing a forum that now reaches from England to Australia and to our Diamond member sponsored Facebook page:

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

Globe flags

Inside Timeshare hope that this article has explained to our European readers the problems that US timeshare owners face, and what it may mean to them in the future. Your comments to this article are more than welcome.

If you have any questions about any company that you may be thinking of dealing with or have been contacted by, contact Inside Timeshare and we will find the answers for you.