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The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker: Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, in this article Irene Parker looks at the Marriott Vacation Club and the law suit for racketeering.

First some recent news fro the Supreme Court in Madrid which came in this morning, this is the 73rd ruling by Spain’s Highest Court.

Another Silverpoint contract has been declared null and void with the British clients set to receive over £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

No details are yet available, but as with other cases the main infringement is likely to be a contract over 50 years. The one important factor is that these contract contravene the Spanish Timeshare law 42/98.

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

Part I – The Manhattan Club and the possible dismantling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker/

Part I describes how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club timeshare members after a battle that lasted almost three years. ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, seemed to be on the side of the TMC developers. In today’s article we look at ARDA’s involvement in the Marriott Racketeering lawsuit filed May 2016. Timeshare members should research ARDA ROC before making their voluntary donation which appears as an “opt in” or “opt out” donation on their maintenance fee invoice.

In the Marriott racketeering lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Anthony and Beth Lennen, challenged Marriott’s points based system. Once again ARDA’s lobbyists are at the forefront.

“This was bigger than a lawsuit,” Hunter says. A negative ruling “could have a consequence of being devastating, conceivably, to the industry.” Florida Trend

I can imagine slave traders and slave owners making the same argument ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter makes in opposition to the challenge to the points based timeshare product.The legal structure of the points based timeshare product is complex. It seems the points based programs are not products that should be associated with real estate. It would be as if a country club charged me closing costs for joining their right to use program. Bluegreen seems to employ a similar model. As usual, I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group if he agrees with me.

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” Mike explained

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

Is timeshare deemed real estate when it comes to charging buyers fees associated with actual real estate, but not real estate in matters having any control over the property? Is this a case of having your cake and eating it too?

I asked timeshare member and economics professor Michael Nuwer to review the amended Marriott lawsuit complaint filed October 25, 2017 by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Newman Ferrara LLP. The complaint suggests suspicious legislative maneuvering intended to circumvent the lawsuit. The amended complaint addresses the Marriott-forced law changes in 2013 and 2017. The recent (2017) amendment to the Florida Timeshare Act purports to exclude pre-existing weekly owners as “interest holders” and pre-existing Condo Declarations as “encumbrances” with regard to sales of multisite timeshare plans that use pre-existing timeshare estates. According to the complaint,

“It allows massive profit-making – including administrative fees, closing costs, recording fees, transfer taxes, maintenance, assessments, and title insurance premiums.” Amended Marriott complaint 6:16-cv-00855-CEM-TBS

“As far as I know, none of the trust fund based timeshare systems “convey real property interest,” said Michael. “Ownership is a “beneficial interest” in the trust fund, although a recent ruling in Canada found the Diamond Resort Embarc members don’t even have that.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

“If Florida law requires a real property conveyance, then I think there could be a problem,” Michael added.

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and timeshare advocate, circulated a similar argument at the last two Nevada legislative sessions, proposing greater disclosure, but again ARDA’s lawyers fought against the members. The legislation proposed would have allowed better disclosure as to the lack of or limited secondary market and the fact that timeshare today has nothing to do with real estate. Timeshare agents typically inform buyers during their presentations that they are real estate agents, further enhancing a false security that the buyer is protected by real estate rules and regulations.  Even the name reflects the change. Fixed week timeshare buyers were “owners”. Points based buyers are “members.”

I have been researching timeshare since attending an astonishingly deceptive sales presentation July 2015. Like peeling an onion, I discovered at timeshare’s core, the points based system provides a recipe for deceit. As the Lennen complaint describes, point programs began in 2008 when timeshare developers did not know what to do with aging, foreclosed or repurchased inventory.

Inside Timeshare has received 216 US timeshare complaints from our readers, the majority concerning points. Not one of the 216 members understood, at the time of purchase, the difficulty selling their timeshare. Of the 216 complaints, 201 allege deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. Of the 216 complaints, only two came from a Marriott member. It saddens me to see Marriott singled out when the entire industry may be guilty of selling a product that is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

The Marriott racketeering lawsuit was first reported by Paul Brinkmann May 2016 at the Orlando Sentinel

Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS

According to the suit, Marriott (NYSE: VAC) timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate. Despite not actually being real estate owners, the lawsuit says, buyers are still paying closing costs, recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

Marriott has argued, in its motion to dismiss the case, that “plaintiffs have misread the statutes that they assert have been violated” and “the allegations are without merit and the MVC Plan fully complies with applicable law.”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-rico-20160524-story.html

Except it seemingly did not fully comply with applicable law, so ARDA lobbyists and industry executives forged ahead to initiate legislative changes that would change the definition of “beneficial interest” so that Marriott would comply.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-comptroller-marriott-rico-20170113-story.html

The following excerpts are from a November 23, 2017 Florida Trend article. The full article is linked below. In bold is my emphasis.

“Engineering the Law” Politico

However, Marriott began fighting the suit on another front. The company turned to the Florida Legislature, acting through the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry. At the time, ARDA’s chairman was Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacations’ president and CEO.

In both provisions, the lobbyist, Gary Hunter, of Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee, included extra sentences saying the changes were meant as “a clarification of existing law” — an effort to ensure Marriott could use them as a retroactive defense in the Lennen lawsuit.

ARDA sent more than talking points and issue briefs. A few days after Hunter sent in the additions to the bill, the organization gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and another $25,000 to a committee controlled by Senate Republican leaders. In April — on the same day that both the House and Senate scheduled the legislation for floor votes — ARDA gave another $10,000 to the state Republican Party. (ARDA, which represents a heavily regulated industry and works on legislation every year, is a reliable source of money for the state GOP, which controls all levers of state government. The organization gives more than $100,000 to the party and its affiliates every year.)

The legislation passed both chambers in late April, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law a month later. After the legislation passed, ARDA gave another $50,000 to the fund controlled by Republican Senate leaders.

Two weeks to the day after the bill became law, Marriott went back in court in Orlando, alerting Judge Mendoza to the new Florida law whose provisions “go to the very heart” of the case. “These clarifications of existing law … decimate much of the complaint,” Marriott’s attorneys wrote.

A spokesman for Marriott declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the legislation. But Hunter, the lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association who worked the bill, says the goal of the legislation isn’t just to help Marriott defend itself. It is, he says, meant to protect the entire timeshare industry from similar attacks in the future, should a judge, who is unlikely to be familiar with the history and intricacies of timeshare law, interpret state statutes in a way that no one in the industry ever intended.

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23307/engineering-the-law-marriotts-class-action-timeshare-battle

Florida Republican Representative Mike La Rosa, Oceola County was one of the lawmakers behind the amendment along with Republican Senator Travis Hutson, St. Johns County. Representative La Rosa is a member of ALEC. Senator Nan Orrock of Georgia has described ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.”

https://www.alec.org/person/mike-la-rosa/

After the legislative amendment was made, Mr. Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel once again picked up the thread:

A third-party observer, Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the timeshare law changes are suspect.

“It has the appearance of unethical influence, the appearance anyway,” Wilcox said. “The question would be, does it represent misuse of office or conflict of interest? Is it meant only to benefit those corporations and change the rules of the game?”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-legislation-20170719-story.html

Legal Dept
It’s not unusual for Florida to spearhead legislation that ultimately gets rolled out nationwide. Like the 2017 Florida amendment, in 2015 Florida passed a bill that alarmed advocacy groups. Advocacy groups felt the 2015 bill made it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts. This new amended 2017 bill is also expected to be rolled out nationwide. ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter is instructing Senator Hutson to remove language from the proposed 2017 Amendment that provided that the law applied only to Florida properties. He called the language “non-substantive” clearly intending to broaden the reach of the amendment to cover properties from single-site timeshare plans outside of Florida (which make up the bulk of MVC Trust properties).

Timeshare, in my opinion, is virtually an unregulated industry. There is no federal enforcement, and some Attorneys General may be influenced by lobby dollars. Florida is a timeshare Mecca with billions of tourist dollars flowing into the state. As mentioned in Part I, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014.   

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

How will it end? I fear big money will get its way at the expense of middle class timeshare buyers, even it means labeling a duck a goose.

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member sponsored self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share.

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 helped with this article, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group for his legal views, this will certainly be of interest not just to those across the Great Lake, but also those owners in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments on this article or any other timeshare matter, please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to help.

 

$1billion Law Suit against Diamond Resorts International!

Spain has been at the forefront of enforcing timeshare laws in Europe, so far the Supreme Court has made 42 judgements in favour of the consumer, these are now part of law and all courts must abide by them.

It has cost the industry millions of euros in payouts with many more in the pipeline. All this because for years they have ignored the laws put into place in 1999, which are there to protect the consumer.

But this now pales into insignificance with the latest lawsuit in America.

In a class action filed in Las Vegas, Diamond are being sued for $1billion. Yes, that is correct a whopping $1billion!

Irene Parker has sent in this report on what this lawsuit is all about.  According to this document a trial by jury has been demanded, along with the law firm leading the action who have a very good reputation, it has the hallmarks of a long and fierce battle.

According to our sources this lawsuit is not just for those in the US, but it could possibly be left open for Europeans who purchased in the US to join the action, especially any purchaser who was 60 years or over when signing. We are waiting confirmation of this as there may just be statute of limitations in place.

But this could be good news for many.

Billion Dollar Lawsuit Filed against Diamond Resorts International

Law Firm: Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Case No. 2:17-CV-00248

Filed in Las Vegas Federal District Court

By Irene Parker:  February 1, 2017

Lawsuit

 The law firm of Stoddard Warnick & Albright filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Diamond Resorts International January 29, 2017. The lawsuit alleges Diamond Resorts (DRI) ensnared thousands of elderly consumers in its deceptive and fraudulent scheme to sell points-based timeshare memberships.

According to the complaint, which was filed on behalf of lead plaintiffs Ilona and Lester Harding, along with thousands of other elderly consumers, buyers typically spent tens of thousands of dollars or more for upfront Membership fees and upsold Membership levels. Memberships were accompanied by hefty annual assessments that continue in perpetuity.

Several plaintiffs were named in the lawsuit. Among those named:

Of particular note to Diamond Resort Owners is the absence of any “collection” except the US collection. Other Diamond Resort collections not named in the lawsuit include Hawaii, Premier Vacation Club, California and Monarch Grand Vacations Collections.

Former CEO David Palmer served as President and/or Director (and sometimes as both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; Jared Finkelstein serves as Secretary and/or Director (and often both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; and Lilian Luu serves as Treasurer and/or Director (and sometimes both) for at least six of the Defendant entities.

The law firm Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright is one of the oldest law firms in Nevada, in existence for 40 years. According to the firm’s website, they have represented clients in many high profile and complex bench and jury trials in Southern Nevada, in both state and federal court, representing contractors, lenders, and owners on large commercial projects. The firm successfully defended a general contractor in a bench trial, which lasted intermittently for well over a year, arising out of the construction of a major Strip hotel. At the time, it was the longest bench trial in Clark County history. Included among the firm’s numerous institutional clients are American Express, Wells Fargo and Hard Rock Café International.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit alleges the elderly were targeted because of their vulnerability and time available to travel. Elderly is defined as anyone 60 years or older at the time of purchase. The elderly were induced to purchase vacation memberships in a same day sale without being advised as to the lack of a secondary market by intentional design. Memberships were accompanied by, at times, dramatically escalating maintenance fees.

Inside Timeshare has written numerous articles supporting such claims.

cartoon IreneCartoon Charles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mr. Ralph Marbles, an elderly buyer diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase, but denied a surrender until the television reporter contacted the company. Mr. Marbles’ maintenance fees increased from $200 a year to $684.

While Diamond Resorts boasts that 70% of sales come from existing owners, there are thousands of complaints filed by existing owners, as detailed in previous Inside Timeshare articles. In addition, existing owners are often encouraged to purchase additional points as a way to reduce maintenance fees through a non-existent buy-back program and are not told points are worth only pennies on the dollar when used to pay maintenance fees. The Saldana and Olds families are cases in point.

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/#more-1397

I have intervened on behalf of several families whose financial lives and retirement savings were decimated by their Diamond Resorts vacation plan. The Hurleys are a retired Canadian army family currently working with Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy in the hope of saving 40 years of retirement savings representing their entire life savings.

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

As a result of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800000 settlement and “Assurance of Discontinuance”, Diamond is rolling out a new Clarity (™) program that seeks to address deceptive and fraudulent business practices that the Arizona Attorney General alleges violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

http://insidetimeshare.com/opcs-europe-usa/#more-1518

It’s not all doom and gloom though!

fourmen

I have recruited, well drafted, several of those I have helped to pay it forward by becoming Appointed Special Timeshare Advocates (™) as a bridge between their vacation nightmare and resolution. We are working with the newly formed Diamond employed Consumer Advocates. Already, we have achieved positive outcomes, or at least provided straight answers, for what an owner can and cannot expect.

Not resolved are the plight of high volume owners whose accounts have been suspended or issued a “cease and desist”. For years these owners were encouraged to buy upwards of 100000 to 200000 vacation points in order to be able to rent out enough points to cover maintenance fees. In recent years points have sold from $2 to $4 per point. Changing rules and regulations and acknowledgement forms signed in an upsell have eliminated rights contained in their original contracts. Irina tells of her vacation nightmare:

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

That about covers the first 20 pages of the 55 page complaint. There’s only so much vacation burden a writer and reader can handle at once.

“Diamond Resorts is still looking into the facts surrounding the lawsuit; therefore, it has no comment at this time,” according to DRI Public Relations spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you’ve had a positive or negative vacation experience you would like to share.

Would love to hear from you!   telephoneman

 

So there we have it, a huge battle is about to take place in the world of timeshare. This is one story we will be keeping a very close watch on, although it may be some time before the trial actually takes place. The wheels of justice are slow to turn.

NEWS JUST IN!!!

CLA Logo

Canarian Legal Alliance has just informed Inside Timeshare of yet another Supreme Court judgement, this is against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. That makes 5, yes 5 rulings in against this company in under 2 weeks.

The British client has been awarded over £62,000 including legal fees and legal interest. We believe this ruling covers lack of information in the contract, perpetuity and once again the client is recognised as a consumer not an investor.

If you have any questions regarding any article published or about any company you may not be sure about, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be please help.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, it is yet another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” by Irene Parker involving yet another Veteran, this story is on that will make your blood boil! But first for some news from the Spanish Courts and more disasters for the timeshare industry.

Anfi were yet again on the receiving end on the 18 September, They had to deposit into the court the sums of 48,735.82€ and 16,222.68€ in respect of sentences issued in the favour of clients. In two days that brings the sum Anfi have had to payout to a massive 184,650.14€.

On the same day, the Courts of First Instance in Masàlomas issued another sentence against Anfi, at the same time in Tenerife, Silverpoint had two sentences issued against them. In all the total awarded is a massive 215,000€. All contracts were declared null and void and all clients received back double the deposit paid which was in breach of the law forbidding the taking of payments within the cooling off period. One of the sentences against Silverpoint was issued by the High Court in Tenerife.

In another case which was held last week, the Judge at the Court of First Instance number 5 in Arona, decided that the case would not be sent for a full trial, he decided that as the case was in flagrant breach of the timeshare laws, he would issued the sentence in due course. On 19 September that sentence was issued, the contract with Silverpoint was declared null and void, with the client being awarded more than 23,000€.

Good news also came from the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, The judge presiding over Court Number 3 had several pre-trials this month, he then decided that these cases need not go to a full trial and he would issue sentences in due course. That now make Courts numbers 1, 3 and 4 no longer sending cases for a full trial, this is obviously good news for the clients bringing the cases as it now speeds up the judicial process.

All these cases were brought on behalf of clients from none other than those determined lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, so congratulations the lawyers and their clients.

One of our readers contacted Inside Timeshare to inform us that an ex sales Rep from Silverpoint had cold called them regarding getting them out of their Silverpoint contract with a view to gaining compensation. How did our reader know he was an ex-sales rep, simple, he was one of those that sold them the Silverpoint in the first place! The Caller stated he was from Harlow Consultants SL, so another new company has appeared.

Now for our Letter from America.

A Fourth Vietnam Veteran, Agent Orange Disabled, Fights a Timeshare Battle

By Irene Parker

First Draft September 16, 2018 for Friday September 21

Inside Timeshare has heard from 587 U.S. timeshare members, all but a handful alleging unfair and deceptive trade practices. Of the 587, 78 are veterans, active duty military and law enforcement. Many of the vets are disabled. Four, like Mr. Gomez, are disabled from Agent Orange. The volume of timeshare complaints submitted by readers has established the following facts and opinions:

  • Fact – Many of the 584 families are financially devastated by their decision to buy a timeshare. I have listened to many tears.
  • Fact – All but a few complaints have been dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”
  • Fact – All the complaints sent to the Nevada Real Estate Division and the Florida Timeshare Division, DBPR, have been met with the above defenses.  Other states have taken complaints seriously, based on the volume of complaints and the similar nature of the complaints.
  • Fact – There are several repeat offending sales agents, with three to six identical or similar complaints.     
  • Fact – Not one of the 584 families knew their timeshare had virtually no secondary market.
  • Fact – A significant number have been ripped off by a timeshare exit company.
  • Opinion – Lawyers with no timeshare experience have no business taking a timeshare case.
  • Fact – The dollar amounts of many complaints lost to timeshare exit scams pales in comparison to the dollar amounts lost believing timeshare sales agents, according to member reports.

One resort has accused me of creating complaints. In other words, if the member had not talked to me, they would not have had a complaint. In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Gomez, this is true. I’ll explain. We will not name the timeshare company, hoping they will help the family, but the Gomez family said they would like their story told. Mr. Gomez is 71, Mrs. Gomez 63. They are Arizona residents.

Like George Yamada, from last week’s article, Mr. Gomez is a Vietnam Veteran, disabled from the effects of Agent Orange.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Let-s-Honor-our-Veterans–by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180908-59.html

Mr. Gomez is 100% disabled. Mr. Gomez earned two Purple Hearts. He has been informed his pancreatic cancer is terminal.   

   Vietnam soldiers

Mr. Gomez called a week ago and said he was struggling with a $28,000 timeshare mortgage. After listening to his comments, I concluded there had been no deception. A timeshare mortgage is just like a home mortgage in that you can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say, “I can’t afford this.” Mr. Gomez said he had switched some old points into a newer category of points. At the end of our conversation Mr. Gomez mentioned his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I advised him to request a release based on medical hardship.

That night I woke up with one of those lightning bolt 2 A.M. moments. I called Mr. Gomez first thing the next morning and asked WHY had he switched from the old points to the new? He said it was because his resort had gone bankrupt.

I know for a fact that it is not mandatory to switch from his old points to the new. Mr. Gomez went on to tell me the sales agent in Las Vegas knew he had pancreatic cancer because he had explained to the agent why the four hour presentation was so tiring. He was suffering the aftereffects of his treatment. “They said our maintenance fees were $2,200 for 2018 and would go up to $3,000 January 1, 2019 if I did not convert, but if I upgraded to the next loyalty level I could turn in 10,000 points to pay $2,000 of the $2,500 maintenance fee,” he added. This is nonsense of course.  Mr. Gomez’s maintenance fees will go up more than $2,500 because of the additional points he purchased. Maintenance fee invoices have not been sent, but I seriously doubt the increase in his prior points will increase this dramatically. I own the same points.

So yes, you could say I created this complaint. Without my informing Mr. Gomez it was not necessary to switch from one set of points to the new, he would not have been aware of the deception. Only at the highest loyalty level can maintenance fees be paid with points (at pennies on the dollar).    

Whether this complaint is resolved or not resolved, it doesn’t change the turmoil this timeshare has caused the Gomez family by believing they had to transfer from one program to another. Mr. Gomez has been accepted for Hospice.

Mrs. Gomez called me. I had already surmised Mr. Gomez is an easy going person. His reaction seemed more disappointment than anger when I told him he could have kept his prior timeshare with the $6,000 loan balance, as opposed to the $33,000 purchase with $28,000 financed and $4,500 charged to a credit card. Mrs. Gomez reaffirmed my suspicion of Mr. Gomez’s easygoing nature saying,

Leo is a very easygoing person. But I’m a teacher!” A common complaint we hear, “I don’t like being made a fool of.

We encourage member accounts of their timeshare experiences, good or bad. We hope consumers and the industry will listen to the voices of those who wish to be heard.

So there we have it, another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this is probably one of the worst that we have yet come across, it makes you wonder if these sales agents and company directors have any moral bone in their bodies.

Stop press

Inside Timeshare received the following email from Wayne C Robinson, Author of Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale. We asked him if we could publish and he was more than happy for us to do so, please share this on you facebook pages and other social media.

Timeshare Author Challenges Diamond Resorts CEO Flaskey to “Do The Right Thing.”

I am not sure how to react when Mike Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts International, views my profile on LinkedIn.

But, whatever his reason, I would like to share a few words with him, now that I have his executive attention.

My purpose in writing the book is not to attack companies such as Diamond to gain something in my own corner. I am merely pointing out areas that I feel require your attention to improve on customer relations.

These areas have certainly been highlighted with the multi billion dollar lawsuits against Diamond Resorts, and the level of customer dissatisfaction from the people who befriended and trusted your OPCs, sales reps, and VLOs. Remember, your members are the people who provided you the privilege of representing a company that has so much potential.

Rather than spend millions of dollars hiring fancy lawyers to help improve on customer service, you hire them in an attempt to destroy a woman in her 70s who is spending the remainder of her life helping families get their lives back on track for the damage your company has allegedly caused.

Were you aware of 83 year old retired Marine Raymond Mori, a two time Purple Heart recipient who has been battling with Diamond Resorts with a serious heart condition?

Were you aware of Roy and Angele Simmons, a U.S. Navy veteran whose mortgage to your company is $2,700 monthly with Maintenance fees of $4,780, and their social security check goes to pay Diamond? Just in case you didn’t see it, here is their story. https://youtu.be/j_nca6lMA4U

Shame on you, Flaskey for focusing on how to keep afloat your ship while the likes of Marriott and Disney and other reputable resort chains are watching you.

I am asking you to “man up,” and be the leader that your company and the general public can respect and appreciate by “doing the right thing.”

Spend your money and time trying to improve your customer relations and presenting your company as something Americans can be proud of, or find somebody else who can do the job.

As far as viewing my profile, I appreciate your interest in me and my book project. I also viewed yours. Congratulations on getting the position. Now that the world is watching, what are you going to do with it?

Well that’s it for this week, remember if you have any questions or comments about any article, company or just need some sound advice, then use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have a great weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

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

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:

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

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

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

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.   

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

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Cameron House on the banks of Loch Lomond, a luxury 5 star spa resort, which also has timeshare interest at Cameron Lodges, was the scene of a tragic fire yesterday. Details of how the fire started have yet to be determined.

It has been reported that two people have died, they had only just married on Friday, it has also been reported that their young son was rescued by a firefighter.

Inside Timeshare and our readers offer our condolences to the family.

Judge Rules in Favor of Diamond Resorts in Billion Dollar Lawsuit

Plaintiffs did not opt out of the arbitration clause

Top Producer Sues Diamond in Hawaii Court:

Mary Bowling: An Accidental Whistleblower  

dollar gavel

By Irene Parker

Tuesday, December 19

A federal court judge in Nevada ruled in Diamond Resort Internationals favor in a lawsuit alleging thousands of elderly consumers were sold by deceptive and fraudulent means. The ruling is a lesson to consumers on the importance of opting out of DRI’s arbitration clause within thirty days of signing a Diamond timeshare contact. According to several lawyers I contacted, DRI has one of the only timeshare contracts that contain a class action ban, forcing arbitration. Arbitration rulings are binding and private.

Attorneys for Plaintiffs Ilona and Lester Harding argued the contract language, stating buyers could opt out of arbitration, was ambiguous, as the Harding’s contract stated they had 30 days to opt out, but the contract did not state when the 30 days began. After the lawsuit was filed, Diamond amended their contract. It now reads, “Buyers can opt out of arbitration 30 days from the signing of the contract.” An appeal is being considered. Our February 1, 2017 article describing the lawsuit:

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Arbitration clauses made headlines recently when Congress, in a tight vote, reversed a July 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Ruling that would not allow arbitration clauses to bar consumers from joining class-action lawsuits.

In an October 24 Inside Timeshare article we examined arbitration. Taken from Chris Parker’s City Pages article, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said, “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. City Pages “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

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

Former DRI Top Producer Mary Bowling Sues Diamond Resorts 

In a separate lawsuit filed in Hawaii District Court November 17, 2017, Diamond fired former top selling agent (#2 nationally) Mary Bowling due to customer complaints, but Ms. Bowling alleges she was fired for refusing to travel from Kauai to Florida to receive an award. Due to her disability, she could not endure such a long flight. Ms. Bowling states in her complaint, there were customer complaints directed against other sales agents, but they were not fired. Inside Timeshare (as of December 16) has received 231 Diamond complaints from our readers of which 221 allege they were sold a timeshare by agents employing deceptive practices, so Ms. Bowling’s allegations do not come as a surprise to Inside Timeshare. Over and over the complaint begins:

“Oh, you should have been invited to a dinner!”

“Oh, you should have received a letter!”

Navy computer technicians George and Amanda Jones have allowed us to use their Diamond experience as an example, but first, here are excerpts from the lawsuit filed by Mary Bowling. Ms. Bowling alleges deceitful practices are endorsed and encouraged. It is the opinion of Inside Timeshare Diamond is not alone in employing such tactics. We have received complaints directed against several major timeshare companies.

Interestingly, Mary Bowling is suing, not because of deceptive sales, but because she was terminated when no one else was. She applied for FMLA 2-12-16 and was terminated 2-15-16.

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court

Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

us navy

By George and Amanda Jones, Navy computer technicians

We contacted Irene Parker at Inside Timeshare because we are angry about what the sales agents in Virginia and Orlando told us about refinancing. We are asking both of our loans be cancelled and all monies refunded. We knew we could not afford this vacation product at the interest rate being charged.

January 2017 we purchased 7500 Diamond points at Virginia Beach Ocean Air

Purchase price $28,200

Loan Balance is $24,163.36 and the interest rate 15.99%

Sales agent Tony Jones said we would be able to refinance the loan. He told us there were refinancing companies that specialize in timeshare. We have since learned banks don’t finance timeshares. We had questions and planned to refinance but decided to wait until the orientation. We had a bunch of questions but Tony never answered the phone.

(Note from Irene: In bold are statements George and Amanda say were made to them, supporting Ms. Bowling’s allegations. Diamond’s response, identical to other timeshare companies, was to produce their initials and signatures found throughout the contract, allowing timeshare sales agents to say anything under the sun to sell points.)  

In Virginia Tony said the price we paid was the normal price. We paid $3.76 per point.

We went to an orientation in Orlando at DRI Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017

Sales agent Jonathan Pineda (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda)   

4000 points purchased for $15,732

Loan Balance $13,271.16 at 18.6794%

Like Tony told us, Jonathan said both loans could be refinanced and combined because other companies specialize in refinancing timeshares so it would be no problem to contact one of them after we made our first payment. When I asked for the name of a company, Jonathan said we could just google it.

We were told we were buying the second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price point from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  Jonathan said if we did not buy that day we would lose out on this price and we would go from $2.85 price points to $10 from that day on if we did not buy that day. From this point forward if we ever went to an annual update without the intention to buy we would have to pay $10. He said don’t go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died so the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price. He said DRI broke the points up into smaller portions.

Jonathan said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points, which still depleted our savings.

We did not have our member number so we could not even get online (Numerous complaints made by DRI and other timeshare company members, illustrate how the rescission period is dodged.)

Thank you to George and Amanda for sharing their story and to Mary Bowling for coming forward. Inside Timeshare has heard from six active duty or retired military. Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, is in law enforcement. Scotty also alleges he was duped by a DRI sales agent. Scotty is one of our advocates. He forwarded Mary Bowling’s complaint to Inside Timeshare. These are people who put their life on the line for us. When service members are forced into foreclosure it can jeopardize their security clearance.

US military

Inside Timeshare did not realize we were launching a new Timeshare Wars series when we published former Marine Jeff Diehl’s “Grandview at Las Vegas” Vacation Village story or former Army Terry Carter’s “Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare” Bluegreen experience. Thursday retired army Samuel Melendez and disabled veteran Karen Varten share their story.   

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

Inside Timeshare has also interviewed or heard from three former DRI sales agents, one manager, and two senior managers supporting Ms. Bowling’s allegations. This former Diamond timeshare agent shares her experience:

“Another reason people don’t leave the room is because in many instances the sales agent has used influence/manipulative tactics to build trust with the customer. One sales manager at another timeshare company told me to order a copy of The CIA Document on Human Manipulation. Many times the sales agent does not even know what is in the contract or how the program really works and is just repeating the jargon given to them by management to get the deal done. In my opinion, management is well aware of the deceit preying on the goodness of people. These corporate contracts, protected by the oral representation clause, are like putting a baby in with a lion.”

Inside Timeshare reached out to Diamond Resorts for comment. The company did not respond.

Social Media is allowing members to talk to other members. If you have a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

united

Thank you Irene for that very informative article.

Now for some latest news from Canarian Legal Alliance, who have announced another two rulings against Anfi from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas.

Their clients contracts have both been declared null and void, with one client being awarded over £16,000 including over £5,000 in maintenance fees and legal interest. The second client will receive over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

As you are all aware the CEO of Anfi José Luis Trujillo has been sending letters out to members in an effort to discredit CLA, below are some figures showing the number of new cases with what has been paid out and what is waiting to be executed by the courts.

  • 430 new cases against timeshare resorts in 2017
  • 107 of them against ANFI
  • 77 SUPREME COURT victories against various timeshare  resorts (Spanish legal History ),  32 of the SUPREME COURT victories are against ANFI
  • 1,210,169.11€ in pay-outs already received  by our clients from ANFI
  • 5,516,694.81 €-  already won in the courts against ANFI and ready for executions

It just seems ridiculous that the CEO can deny that Anfi is losing in the light of these figures which are verifiable from the courts themselves.

If you require any further information about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to help.

Just in from Madrid Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has just ruled for the 78th time, on this occassion it has been against the Tenerife company Silverpoint. The court has declared the contract null and void, awarding over £7,000 plus legal fees and interest to a British client.

 

Timeshare and Barlcaycard in the US

The Barclay MasterCard and US Timeshare Lending

By Irene Parker

May 17, 2017

Inside Timeshare published an article about Barclays Bank and the predatory nature of timeshare lending. Author Charles Thomas asked me to provide some input on how timeshare credit card lending works in the US.

Barclays Bank article by Charles Thomas May 11, 2017

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

Linked in the article, Money Marketing reported the following March 2017:

Barclays Bank consumer credit arm Clydesdale Financial Services is being sued for more than £1.5m by 106 consumers over a holiday home timeshare scheme.”

According to Consumer Affairs, the Barclay Card is rated one star out of five based on 63 ratings out of 585 reviews (May 15, 2017).

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/credit_cards/barclays.html

Charles provided the following figures as an illustration of how imprudent it is to finance a vacation at 17%. The cause: Sales agents extremely well trained and consumers suffering from a relaxed vacation brain.

These are the figures from one loan agreement over 15 years Inside Timeshare has been given for a 1 week timeshare, it is from Barclays:

Cost of the timeshare                   £10,900.00

Credit facility fee                           £65.00

Interest                                             £18,465.00

Total amount payable                  £29,430.00

Interest rate                                    17.6%

APR                                                     17.7%

 

Timeshare is certainly not the only industry that has led consumers into credit card debt up to their eyeballs. As a former investment representative working with approximately 1200 families, looking back, I would say about 10% of the families I worked with managed their money properly. Certainly, rule number 1 should be:

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION AT 12% TO 19%

Wyndham and Diamond both use the Barclaycard as a means to finance a timeshare. Just to compare ratings, Consumer Affairs gave Club Wyndham a one star rating based on 74 ratings out of 495 reviews.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/wyndham_vacation_resorts.html?page=3

As if the interest rate isn’t bad enough, consumers also must worry about falsified information used to open the card.  Lisa Etienne, a Diamond Resorts buyer, found herself in hot water claiming the company added a 1 before her actual annual earnings, as reported by Amanda Porterfield, CBS58 Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

http://www.cbs58.com/story/35376892/milwaukee-woman-says-timeshare-company-scammed-forged-her-documents

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare owners claiming the Barclaycard was used in a predatory fashion. Actions speak louder than words, so I took the time to review the complaints we have received. Out of about 70 complaints, almost half involve a claim of deceptive and predatory lending. Most said they purchased because they were offered buyback or maintenance fee redemption programs that do not exist.

Michael Nuwer, on our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Facebook, posted the following in answer to one member’s query. Over and over we receive complaints about a 30 cent per point maintenance fee redemption program that does not exist. Members are upsold, told they have to be at a higher loyalty level, often through the Barclaycard, in order to gain access to the nonexistent program. Historically Diamond points have sold for $2 to $4 per point.

“Platinum members can pay a portion of their maintenance fees using their points from November 1 through to the annual bill due date at the current redemption rate of $.04. The non-refundable processing fee is $100.00.” (Page 23 Benefits Guide)

This is an excerpt from the very first complaint I read. Stunned, I vowed I would do something to warn consumers. Since this first complaint, Inside Timeshare in the US and the EU has received dozens of complaints concerning the same tactics described below. Dozens may not sound like a lot, but given how difficult it is for members to contact other members, clearly a pattern exists as you will see later on.

“I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options due to their (Monarchs) bankruptcy. I have been looking to get out of Monarch for over a year. They said that was not an option and as an owner, I was proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. I am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now. I am really scared though. Please help!”

As Diamond is not able to be sold through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, and relinquishments are evaluated “case by case”, members find themselves stuck, running in the “hamster wheel” timeshare trap. The member is foreclosed and points are then resold to the next consumer at full value. Even if a relinquishment is granted, when the purchase is recent, but regretted due to abuse of the oral representation clause, families can find themselves financially devastated.

I revisited the cases of members who contacted Inside Timeshare. We have many complaints about the tactics used at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort in Las Vegas. Diamond has resolved issues for some of the members, but we continue to receive complaints about this sales center. Sales agent Rick Casper even made the RipOff Reports in 2015.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/diamond-resorts-international/las-vegas-nevada-89123/diamond-resorts-international-rick-casper-vacation-counselor-we-were-told-that-we-would-1269511

Other Complaints

Plaintiffs Gisele Fournier and Rejean Fournier of Riverside County, California May 12, 2017. Their credit card was allegedly charged $2,000 for the membership upgrade, and the upgrade caused their monthly membership dues to nearly double, according to the Diamond Resorts class action lawsuit. They claim they were pressured again into purchasing a membership upgrade and were reportedly mocked by Diamond Resorts’ agents because they did not bring a credit card to the meeting.

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/670995-class-action-diamond-resorts-pressures-buyers-timeshare-contracts/comment-page-1/#comment-439596

Kathie Olds on December 6, 2016 reported being told she could redeem points for 50 cents a point to pay maintenance fees. The sales agent promised the Olds they could open a Barclaycard to pay maintenance fees without explaining the reimbursement was on only 1.5%.

barclaycard1

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

Fast forward to May 12, 2017 Kathie reported:

Yesterday in St. Martin sales agent Riza Young and her manager said that through travel services we could cash in 20,000 points for $.30 per point to pay for $6,000 in maintenance fees. We were also told at Grand Beach Resort in Orlando that if we bought 10,000 more points for $38,000 we could cash in 20,000 points for $10,000 to totally cover our maintenance fees of $8500 +. Both are total lies! She told us she “hates it when agents lie to us.”

Oddly enough, the Better Business Bureau rates Barclays Bank Delaware an A+, given out of 43 reviews, three were positive, one neutral and 39 were negative. There were a total of 988 complaints.

https://www.bbb.org/delaware/business-reviews/banks/barclays-bank-delaware-in-wilmington-de-22002677/reviews-and-complaints

Our readers warning other readers

Inside Timeshare Chronological Articles

Marjorie Menacker – Marjorie says her Diamond timeshare sales agent said she would not have to pay maintenance fees anymore thanks to a one day secret offer.

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

Eron Grant May 12, 2017 reported she was told about a non-existent 30 cent buy-back program.

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

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017 reported she was not aware until she returned home $17,000 had been charged to a Barclaycard to buy $143,000 of Diamond vacation points. She said she was told to open the card because it would help pay maintenance fees. Polo Towers Resort

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

A Filipino Family April 13, 2017 reported they are in foreclosure.  At a meeting, the sales pitch was, we need to completely get rid of our Monarch points by buying more Diamond points in order to prevent the increase in maintenance fees due to less and less people owning Monarch. Four Barclaycards were opened. Cancun Resort in Las Vegas

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

A Military Family March 6, 2017 reported “Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same”.

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

Irina Allen January 13, 2017 reported she must pay $2,400 a month in mortgage payments at 18% and $29,000 in maintenance fees while her account is suspended. She was accused of posting an ad on RedWeek to rent her points. She was also accused of opening an AirBNB accounts. Irina has never had an AirBNB account.

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

Sylvia Saldana October 25, 2016 reported being told to open a Barclaycard to pay maintenance fees and to buy more points. The Saldana’s gave back $60,000 worth of points and still have a $33,000 home equity loan which their sales agent advised them to take out to reduce Diamond’s high interest rate.

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

The Hurleys, a retired Canadian military family January 25, 2017 reported their struggle with maintenance fees having been convinced to invest their entire life savings thinking they were buying something better than a second home.

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

Related articles

The Arizona Attorney General issues an “Assurance of Discontinuance”, essentially placing Diamond under state supervision March 1, 2017  

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

Our Diamond Member Sponsored Advocacy Group February 15, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/owners-coming-together-help/

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/

Chicken Soup for Timeshares Soul February 7, 2017 on how to file a complaint

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Billion Dollar Lawsuit filed against Diamond Resorts February 1, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Shawbrook and Barclay Bank Inside Timeshare July 11, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/shawbrook-bank-announce-irregularities-timeshare-loans-similar-activities-usa/

Sometimes it is hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel like they are lost and alone to let them know Inside Timeshare and our Advocacy Groups are there for them to reach an outcome, whether positive or negative, through the 3Rs or F of Timeshare – Resolution – Relinquishment – Refund – Foreclosure –

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

Once again thank you Irene, this article is just one in a long line of how the banks are colluding with timeshare developers and sales agents to line their own pockets at the expense of you the consumer. This type of lending does and has caused endless misery and financial difficulty for many.

In some respects, we believe that this is verging on the criminal, with no thought or concern for those who are affected.

If you have been a victim of this type of operation contact Inside Timeshare or our Facebook Advocacy page.

advocate 1

 

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

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

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

3 men

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

Chicken soup is used as a remedy whenever anyone is ill, I remember as a kid if I was under the weather mum or gran would ensure I had a bowl of hot chicken soup. Whether it did any medical good is not clear, but it did make me feel better.

The chicken soup for timeshare is a cacophony of abbreviated names, which many of us cannot work out what they stand for. I will not go for the ones on mainland Europe, for one simple reason, I don’t speak the myriad of languages we have. So here are the ones we have in the UK if you have a timeshare or consumer problem.

Firstly the timeshare ones: we have the RDO, Resorts Development Organisation, this is the trade body for the industry and represents only the industry not the consumer.

TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, this is supposed to represent you the owners, but as we know they are funded by the industry for the industry. Also they are in deep trouble as we saw in yesterday’s article.

Non timeshare organisations:

BIS, Business Innovation and Skills, this is a government department, in the past they are the ones who closed down several “dodgy” holiday clubs.

They also work very closely with TS, this is Trading Standards. Each county council has their own trading standards office, again they have been instrumental in closing down rogue companies.

CAB, this is the Citizens Advice Bureaux, this is an agency run mainly by volunteers who offer advice and information on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately when it comes to timeshare they will refer you to TATOC.

FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority, they deal with anything within the finance world, it is they who lay down the regulations for how businesses such as debt collecting agencies operate.

FOS, The Financial Ombudsman Service,this is a government body who is the last resort in any dispute on financial matters. For instance problems with loan agreement, credit card refunds, including complaints against debt collecting agencies.

There are plenty more but my soup pot is only small, so I cannot fit anymore in, Irene in the her article today explains the numerous ones in the US, this will be of specific interest to those in Europe who have bought in the US. You also have the right to lodge complaints there, even if you live in Europe.

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/surveying-administrative-remedies-for-timeshare-consumers-seeking-relief

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

Who are they? How can AGs, CFPB, FTC, or the BBB Help Us?

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

Many timeshare owners have little or no understanding as to how to go about fostering change when business practices have degenerated to the point such practices become harmful to consumers. This article takes some of the mystery out of governmental and nongovernmental agencies offering a blueprint for consumers to follow.

Given recent actions taken by such agencies, and in light of today’s timeshare climate, we look at what’s happening and examine where we can go from here.

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.bqeQAdL7#.whk6BDr5

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

Clearly, timeshare needs to change, so I reached out to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group in an effort to understand how regulatory agencies work. Mr. Finn describes his writing style as “lawyerly”.  In order for me to understand an article found on the Finn Law Group “Learning Center”, I have to rewrite it. This serves as some source of consternation to Mr. Finn, but he on occasion graciously allows me to redact one of his papers so that my fellow peasants can understand the topic.

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

The Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914 to prevent unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, but provides information about the next steps a consumer may take to resolve an issue.

The FTC looks at fact patterns in an industry. Several (the key word is always several) complaints may indicate a pattern of fraud and abuse which may lead the FTC to investigate and eliminate those unfair practices.

We begin with the FTC, because many states have enacted a portion of this federal act into state law.

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

If a consumer encounters a rogue sales agent in the timeshare industry, the experience can be described as a vicious cycle or circle that begins with the oral representation clause used and abused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. Consumer complaints beginning with “the salesman said” are sadly told the timeshare developer is protected by the oral representation clause.

In some cases, as in the case of Ralph Marble, maintenance fees escalate so fast the timeshare owner can no longer afford the fee. Mr. Marble was never able to use his vacation plan because of being diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase. His maintenance fees increased from $200 to $684 over eight years.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Voluntary Surrenders are on a case by case basis. If a timeshare owner is denied a voluntary surrender, they are often driven into the nets of timeshare “listing” or transfer agents. Some transfer agents are bogus which means the owner thinks they have unloaded their timeshare but have not. If the transfer agent is “legitimate”, the surrendered contracts are bundled 50 to 100 contracts and sold back to the timeshare developer, who in turn resells for full price. Thus the circle is complete.

After a four to seven hour timeshare sales presentation, the beleaguered buyer is poorly equipped to read the mile high stack of documents they are about to sign.

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is one of the newest government agencies created in July 2010 partly in response to the mortgage crisis in the late 2000s. The goal of the CFPB is to watch out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. The timeshare industry utilizes various financing tools in its sales practices and presentations.

The CFPB told me consumers should choose the mortgage option when filing a timeshare complaint, even if there is no mortgage. Timeshare is somewhat new to the CFPB. If the owner does not want to file a formal complaint, there is an option to “Tell Your Story”. I tell the CFPB stories almost every week.

The CFPB does publish the subject and data of the complaint, feeding its Consumer Complaint Database. Most importantly, the CFPB will report to Congress with the purpose of enforcing federal consumer financial laws and writing better rules and regulations.

As more credit card transactions involving timeshare purchases are generated, the credit card financing aspect should not be overlooked for consumers seeking a monetary resolution to their timeshare purchase issues, assuming a credit card was utilized. Diamond Resorts offers a six month 0% interest rate “Barclaycard” offer if the credit card is used to purchase a timeshare. More and more timeshare developers are acting as new credit card originators for third party financial provides such as Bill Me Later (a division of PayPal) Barclay Bank, Bank of America, and a couple of credit unions.

Unlike other regulatory agencies, companies must reply to the CFPB’s complaints or inquiries. Consumers should file their complaints with the CFPB, but expect only a modest resolution and an opportunity to be heard. However, the more complaints the CFPB receives regarding a company, practice, or industry – the more likely those complaints will be presented to Congress. Congress has the power to create new rules and regulations that can improve the market for consumers when Congress reviews and enacts new laws.

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

An Attorney General (AG) is a publicly elected position. Every state in the US has one. The AG is charged as the chief legal officer for their respective state. The AG’s Office proclaims to protect “timeshare owners by investigating business practices” relating to the sale and resale of timeshare interests.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division has the civil enforcement authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division is additionally responsible for the enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act,(“RICO”), which punishes businesses and “enterprises” conducting patterns of illegal activities within a state.

Notably, the AG by law cannot represent private citizens in legal disputes. When a complaint is filed by a consumer, and the AG investigates the alleged misconduct, the AG does not represent the consumer on an individualized basis, but rather the interest of consumers in their state as a whole.

As in the case of the $800000 settlement the Arizona AG reached with Diamond Resorts, if the Division investigates and is successful in prosecuting or settling the action, there is a potential for recovery.

Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) state regulatory agency – Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”)

Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The DBPR is an extension of the executive branch of the Governor, and is charged with licensing and regulating all businesses and professionals within the state. The DBPR subdivision relating to timeshares is known as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”). The Florida Timeshares Division licenses and regulates timeshares through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.

The Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of this division represents the interests of Florida residents and does not represent individual complainants. In most cases the Department, even with successful prosecution, does not typically recover money that a consumer has lost. Many consumers rightfully wonder what the likelihood of success would be if they take the time to file a complaint.

Statistically speaking, from April, 2014 through April, 2016, the Florida Timeshares Division received 2,360 complaints. Of those complaints, only 110 resulted in action by the Florida Timeshare Division – less than 5%!

The Better Business Bureau BBB

The Better Business Bureau is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues.

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

The National Timeshare Owners Association is a social purpose organization dedicated to educating, advocating and protecting ownership interests. For nearly 20 years, the NTOA has worked to ensure owners have access to resources available to them. As the oldest and largest member based association, NTOA works closely with other industry associations and stakeholders such as CRDA, TBMA, TATOC, CARE and FTOG. NTOA’s extended relationships include 12 domestic and international developers, HOA‘s and management companies. The NTOA seeks to find solutions to some of the industry’s most complex issues.

Summary and Conclusion

What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 to $100,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 14% to 19% annual interest rate accompanied by a lifetime and beyond maintenance fee obligation? A thriving resale scam industry exists due to the limited and sometimes nonexistent secondary market.  

It’s not until long after the contract is signed, or if the family experiences a life crisis, they learn that the purchase contract often contains no way out. In all likelihood, the perpetual contract was signed in a same day sale, after a sales presentation that lasted for hours. The elderly are targeted, according to several lawsuit allegations.

success

Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.  

GET INVOLVED!

To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well-organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment.  Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more about organized efforts to reform an industry badly in need of reform. Thank you to timeshare companies working towards a safer and owner friendly timeshare industry.

We would like to thank all contributors to this article especially Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group.

Inside Timeshare is here to bring you the latest news on what is happening in the world of timeshare, at present we are very much focused on Europe and the US. We are however working on collaborating with writers in Australia, this will bring you the news on a worldwide scale. We would also like to hear from any owners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can contact Inside Timeshare through our comments section or email direct to [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

Exclusive Breaking News: The Truth Behind Silverpoint Exposed (Part Three)

Welcome to Part Three of Silverpoint and the truth exposed, in the first two parts we explained the history of the Trotta family fortune adeptly handled by the financial fixer Kwang Boon Sim. This story certainly has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood Blockbuster movie on organised crime of epic proportions, in some respects if this went to a producer they would more than likely say that it was a pure work of fiction and could never happen in real life. Well, unfortunately, it is all too true!

In this episode, we now see that it is time for sheer greed to take over, with the Trotta children and a jealous wife who has been cut out of the will to begin their fight over the ill-gotten gains.

Kwang Boon Sim

After selling the hotel in Italy for 0ver 40 million euros to a wealthy Asian company, the true picture of the issues begin to emerge. Having extracted over 15 million for Bob and his family in the run-up to his death and the stripping of the cash flow from the company, Kwang Sim now found it difficult to replace the funds, along with the consumer promises to fulfill along with the various other obligations around the world, the trust and the family brought in Alvarez and Marsal of the Cayman Islands to see what could be saved. There was also another motive, they needed to see what options were open to them to avoid spending their inheritance.

What happened next is incredible and almost more deceitful than the 100 million that was extracted and moved around the group without the various local governments taking their rightful and lawful share.

It is a fact that no one likes having to pay tax, but Kwang Sim is a mastermind in this field and would put the people involved in the Panama Papers to shame. It is fair to say that Kwang Sim knew full well about how much trouble he was in with the arrival of Alvarez and Marsal, he began frantically covering his tracks and began the process of going into hiding.

Alvarez and Marsal is a large insolvency company, also known for asset stripping, which is the process of breaking down companies and stripping them of any value. In essence, they are just corporate debt collectors in thousand dollar lawsuits, earning millions in fees while breaking up companies with people losing their jobs!

They were employed by the bank and the Trotta family in order to create as much wealth for the family as possible, regardless of the consequences to people who had placed their hard earned money into the company and purchasing their products over the years.

The team at Alvarez is led by Alex Lawson, an Australian living in the Cayman Islands, this is another well-known haunt of many international tax avoiders as well as big-time criminals. The Cayman Islands is also a base for many small private banks and the Caymans is very widely regarded as a base for depositing billions in ill-gotten gains.

Alex Lawson

It is no surprise then that Alex Lawson chose to base himself there and set up the branch of Alvarez in early 2019. His position as managing Director now put him at the forefront of the process and the Trotta deal was his first big assignment. In order to make a name for himself, he sat with Kwang Sim and planned on how to break up the company with the sole purpose of saving the Trotta family fortune, regardless of who would suffer.

It was up to Kwang Sim to explain to Lawson how he and Bob Trotta had run the global finances. Bob Trotta’s empire by this time spanned the globe with businesses in Spain, Malta, Italy, Thailand, Singapore and the USA. It was employing hundreds of people around the world along with tens of thousands of owners and members. The plan created by Kwang Sim and Alex Lawson was truly a master plan of deceit and deception. Just like all illusionists, the plan was to create local “fall guys” while at the same time protecting those who put the plans together and executed them in painstaking detail. All the time trying to avoid obligations that existed with hundreds and thousands of innocent consumers.

This was a decision made by the bank who owns the trust along with the endorsement of the family which was then ruthlessly executed by Kwang Sim along with Alex Lawson and his team.

Kwang Sim made a deal with Alvarez and Marsal that he would not be dragged into any issues in return for helping Lawson to execute the plan. Having assessed the obligations which existed, Alex Lawson and Kwang Sim started the liquidation process, the means of which was the use of intercompany debts to justify the placing of the companies into liquidation, thus cheating consumers out of their rightful returns or the ability to use the products they had purchased with their hard earned cash.

Limora Investments was the first of the companies to be placed into liquidation. In a move that can only be described as incredible, money that had been sent “TAX-FREE” as a loan to the parent company and ultimately to the bank, was now being used as a “DEBT” in order to induce the liquidation process.

This is an obvious case of corporate manipulation being endorsed by what many would consider as a “reputable bank”. Inside Timeshare sources explain that the leaders of the bank are absolutely terrified that the truth will be exposed showing their complicity which could have the potential of them losing their banking license and the individuals who are running the trust being charged with very serious crimes.

The one thing that is certain is that they are desperately trying to cover their tracks and placing the blame on the people running the business of mismanagement.

As with all illusionists this fraud is using sleight of hand techniques and this is something that they are very adept at doing. The bank itself is no better than those people you see on the streets of London or any other city tricking the unsuspecting tourist into finding the ball under one of the cups!

A recent affidavit which is full of inaccuracies and downright false statements is an attempt to cover up what Kwang Sim, Alex Lawson and his team are doing have not taken into account the investigative journalists at Inside Timeshare to uncover the truth for their readers and expose their devious plan.

We mentioned earlier that we believe we have uncovered a recurring pattern of how Kwang Sim has moved money around the world, with much of that money being “loaned” from one company to another without any plans for repayment.

Unless these “loans” are repaid with market rate interest, the authorities will see these as dividends but Kwang Sim’s complex web of offshore companies have made them very difficult to track. In the end, this group of companies have around £50,000,000 yes that is correct 50 million pounds of intercompany debt and Alex Lawson with his team are working their way through a myriad and tangled web of companies, taking over directorships and then declaring them insolvent.

This means that Lawson and his team assess the company’s ability to repay its obligations of the loan and finds them unable to, however, the debt is just to themselves!

This means they are in control of the company that is owed the debt, but on the one hand, they call in the loan and on the other they claim they are unable to pay. Then we have the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle, Alvarez and Marsal appoint themselves as the liquidators in order to strip the companies of all assets while also avoiding any debts to anyone else that is not part of the “family!”

So that is the end of Part Three, a story that many will believe is a script for Hollywood, join us again on Monday for Part Four in this unbelievable tale of intrigue, manipulation, deceit and fraudulent money laundering.

If you have purchased any product from Silverpoint, be it standard timeshare, investment packs or the company participation scheme and want to know your legal rights in retrieving your money, then use our contact page and we will get back to you and show you what options are open to you. Now is the time to do this for tomorrow may be too late.

The Tuesday Slot: Manifesto Part 1

After we published our interpretation of Florida HB 435, Inside Timeshare received the following Manifesto written by an Industry Insider. Part I examines the history of exit companies. Of note is the mention of the role private equity plays in today’s timeshare industry. Private equity firms played a major role in the junk bond debacle of the 80s and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 90s, so it is of no surprise to find private equity firms directing timeshare today. A junk bond or a subprime mortgage had some value for the borrower, but a timeshare contract, often adding up to $100,000 or more, is worth next to nothing should the borrower need to sell.

We look forward to Part II in which today’s author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Florida HB 435 addresses timeshare exit services

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

MANIFESTO

Timeshare Exit Companies and the Future of Timeshare

WHAT DO THIRD PARTY TIMESHARE EXIT COMPANIES (“TPE”) TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY?

Part 1.

By Anonymous.

Our Questions;

 

  • Are Third Party Exit (“TPE”) companies selling a product that is largely undeliverable?
  • If the product is undeliverable are all remaining TPE’s simply exhausted Ponzi schemes awaiting implosion and bankruptcy?
  • How many Customers in the last 12-48 months have paid thousands of dollars for services yet remain unresolved, un-exited, un-refunded, and are still on the hook for their timeshares?
  • How large is this Exodus?

 

In this manifesto we shall attempt to break down into layman’s terms the causes and effects on the Timeshare Industry at the hands of the so-called third-party timeshare exit companies or “TPE’s” and eventually in Part Two, draw public comment for a new business proposal to remedy and resolve some of the issues.

We shall also reminisce at some of the more notable examples of earlier ill-fated timeshare exit businesses, all of whom reveal the starkest of similarities. In doing so, we will also be commenting on the chest-beater from the Industry in the form of a Sept 17th 2018 public release. Sadly, we shall also be debating the unconventional elephant that still sits in the room.

  • Why is there such resistance to owners exiting a Timeshare?  
  • Why is there no organized, unionized, “brand supported” exit & secondary market offering that satisfies the disposal needs of owners who are aged, retired, unwanted beneficiaries of, no longer travel or are on Federal poverty levels?  

 “On Sept 17th 2108 the Timeshare industry, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), have united to stop the misconduct of those deceiving timeshare owners into paying for illusory timeshare exit services through fraudulent means”.

I applaud the Industry on the use of the word “illusory’ as defined as: based on illusion; not real.” In what appears to be a long overdue case of karma, the timeshare industry is altruistically defending its long suffering, desperate “exiting and cancelling” owners from paying for illusory exit & cancellation services.  

(We don’t know who is more naïve; the Resorts for expecting that no one can ever get out of a Timeshare, or the deluge of Owners who paid upfront to try to get out!)

We speculate that in the last 36 months a crescendo aggregating to millions of owners had the audacity to want to end their Timeshare experience and as a result many hired Lawyers and Advocates and spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to get rid of their timeshares. Most of these fees were paid upfront, and most were promised that fees were 100% refundable if the exit contract expires and one still owns one’s timeshare assuming the Lawyer or Advocate is actually still in business!

Customers are asked to pay $7500 or more ‘upfront’ to be represented or advocated. Most marketers claim that there are magical back passages into resorts that take back the timeshares quietly in a forbidden black market open to only the special few. Marketers support this notion by suggesting that if the resorts were to publicly announce that they take back timeshares there would be an immense exodus of cancellations. No present evidence supports this tall tale.  

The Timeshare Industry is familiar with the exiting, canceling or generally getting out of a timeshare scam. As we can see Timeshares are complex and very sticky to get rid of. The Industry continues putting TPE lawyers and advocates out of business and into bankruptcy, yet the Industry cannot find a solution to the real problem – an evident immense Exodus.

Nothing, other than Moses leaving Egypt could be compared to the TPE Companies assault on popular branded timeshare owners in 2015 – 2018. All the major brands had rolled out vacation club programs with all types of new generation upsells and exchanges. Publicly traded companies in the hotel, recreation, leisure and timeshare industries had begun curiously separating their timeshare divisions into new public companies. Yet at conventions, the Resort Owners, Lawyers and Administrators all reported that their biggest headaches were the Exit firms. Their disruptive activities caused added administration issues, defaults, millions in lost revenues, angry customers all dealing with these flimsy cancellation letters from dozens of Lawyers and hundreds of Advocates interrupting contractual obligations and communication with the customers. They all knew where this would end…owners were paying thousands upfront for services that weren’t going to happen. Owners were routinely signing and notarizing Powers of Attorney to exit companies like they were signing Christmas cards! This wasn’t a cottage industry any more. It was an epidemic that had to be eliminated.

Apollo Global Management, owner of privatized Diamond Resorts (who as Merchant Bankers were possibly the first well-known brand to recognize the sudden disparity in results and the probable cause), began aggressively suing TPE Lawyers & Advocate Company’s in 2015. Apollo has made it known that they are preparing to re-IPO Diamond Resorts

  • The cause; The Timeshare Developer/Owner HOA true concerns are the financial effect that an immense Exodus of Owners and the sudden loss of payment of residual annual fees would have on the bottom line.
  • The effect; The Timeshare Industry has adopted a widely “illiquid” stance based on the capture of customers annual fees. The Timeshare industry survives in a very large part from customers annual maintenance fees.

Where did this idea of how to bilk the Timeshare Industry come from?  

In 2004, Uri Fried, an Israeli businessman and so-called inventor of the Third-Party Exit (TPE) business sent millions of postcards to timeshare owners inviting them to get rid of their timeshares for an upfront fee. Uri had formed over 50 straw buyers LLCs and began transferring thousands of unwanted timeshares per month into his LLCs. For several years Uri’s activity went relatively unnoticed by developers and resorts. Along the way Uri sold timeshares on eBay for $1 thus cementing the perceived market value of second-hand timeshare at one-dollar. None of Uri’s LLC’s ever paid a cent in maintenance to any resorts. Uri ended up serving a couple of years for $1.9m tax evasion.

In 2017 Uri settled all misrepresentation charges with the State of Wisconsin for $132,000 and received a lifelong ban from ever handling timeshares again. None of Uri’s ill-gotten gains were ever recovered.

Uri Fried woke the Industry up to the vulnerability of the Viking Ship LLC exit scam. The Resorts & HOAs were so fragmented. Collectively, they had no clue what Uri was up to. Uri’s customers owned everything and anything. Uri knew he was never going to pay a penny in dues or maintenance, so he stuffed them all into his defaulting LLCs. If the Resorts grew suspicious of the LLC name(s) Uri would simply create new ones.

Eventually the resorts smartened up and unilaterally responded by refusing to honor or acknowledge transfers to certain suspicious names and eventually certain transfer companies. The Developers had falsely believed that some level of organic secondary market had been occurring. As the industry is so hugely fragmented the major developers were fooled for a while.

As we shall see, the Viking Ship LLC model grinds slowly to a halt when the resorts block or refuses customer re-registrations and transfers. However, the TPE’s marketing machines continue “in almost every case” to sell new Customers on getting rid of their timeshares, in order to continue to collect thousands in what surely become ill-gotten fees, thus becoming a Ponzi scheme; whereby new monies pay off older refunds.

After the failure of Uri Fried’s business, an alternative Viking ship business became strongly marketed; Attorneys claiming to ‘cancel’ a timeshare.

On behalf of Owners who retained the firm, Castle Law (and others similar) wrote to the HOA’s and Resorts and in some cases Lenders, a series of scalding, lawyerly stamped, heavily embossed, important looking letters accusing and maligning the Resorts with allegations of much malfeasance, misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.  

Owners were claiming any or all of the following:

  • Told that this offer is good for today only.  
  • Told that timeshare is in hot demand
  • Told that timeshare is a great investment
  • Told that timeshare – like all real estate will appreciate over time.  
  • Told the timeshare presentation is only going to be 90 minutes.
  • Told the timeshare is in such demand it could always be RENTED for a profit.
  • Told that you are buying pre-construction and this timeshare can be SOLD for a profit after the next “phase.”  
  • Told that this week/resort is such a valuable week to all of the exchange companies that you can trade for “anytime, anywhere.”  
  • Told that this maintenance fee will not increase over time
  • Told you will be attending an “update” to discuss questions (also called a policy change, owners update, etc.… – later it was actually a sales presentation).  
  • Told that this is not timeshare but Vacation Ownership or Vacation Property.  
  • (You) were subjected to high pressure sales tactics or felt that you could not leave the presentation without purchasing timeshare.
  • The timeshare sales agents plied you with champagne (or other alcohol or drugs).
  • The timeshare sales agents assured you, you could cancel if we had second thoughts/buyer’s remorse.  

Attorneys and Advocates, armed with Limited Power of Attorney, filed cease and desists on behalf of owners. Attorneys were demanding that the Resort have no communication with the aggrieved customer (s). Simultaneously, customers were instructed not to communicate with their resort, and to forward any communication from the resort to the attorney or advocate.

It wasn’t long before far less scholarly ‘advocates’ caught on to the jolly wheeze and suddenly millions of timeshare data records were for sale and hundreds of thousands of robo dialed calls an hour were being made to every timeshare owner looking for people who wanted to get out of their timeshares.

Unbelievably, millions of owners wanted out.

In the words of ReedHein dba Timeshare Exit Team CEO & timeshare exit Advocate Brandon Reed;

The reality behind the recent litigation is that resorts are leaving millions of consumers with no other options. Timeshare Exit Team exists because the resorts have created a problem without providing a solution. We hear countless stories from customers who were unable to even give back their ownership. Others have found that their timeshare investment was actually worthless when  they tried to resell it. Owners must have a way to safely and legally end their ownership when it no longer fits their lifestyle. Until that happens, we want to make it clear that we will not be dissuaded from continuing to advocate for consumers.”

Reed Hein are the guys advertising on TV. Estimates show that ReedHein is now the largest timeshare cancellation firm in the USA. We wonder what ReedHein is doing differently from Uri Fried, The Macmillan’s, ACC and other notable predecessors.       

Ok, why isn’t there a secondary market for Timeshare?

The Timeshare Industry publicly abhors any notion of a secondary market almost as much as the Wicked Witch of the West abhors water.

Why? …It’s so simple.

Let’s say you buy a Westgate ‘second hand’ at 90% off current Westgate prices from eBay.

  1. Westgate gets no new dollars from that exchange, Westgate gets a new Customer, the perception of “secondary market” timeshare true value is realized,
  2. Westgate takes on the risk that you will or won’t pay its annual fee’s.

Unlike the auto business, the timeshare core product is the same in “both Primary & Secondary Markets,” the most glaring disparity is price.

All the frontloaded exorbitant sales commissions, fees, marketing expenses and popping champagne are in the primary market versus a vast global array of venue choices at huge discounts available in the Secondary Market.

Sadly, developers use punitive measures to hamper and deter secondary market purchases of Points based/Club, Right to Use contracts by restricting further points accumulation (s), restricting booking access or exchange, restricting access to deed back and contract back programs, voiding visiting guest rental certificates and other contractual privileges. Certain developers’ restrictions have been described as downright draconian!   

The Industry publicly states in countless SEC filings that a Secondary Market would cut deeply into the Industries profitability. We can see why they would be worried.

In SEC filings:

  • “…the resale market for VOI’s (vacation ownership interests) could adversely affect our business” (Bluegreen)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market could negatively impact our sales” (Wyndham)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market by existing owners could cause our sales revenues and profits to decline” (Starwood)

Source – EDGAR.

In loosely translated SEC language that means the entire industry agrees with the notion that a secondary market should not exist, and they will stamp on the windpipe of any attempt to conjure a secondary market.  

This cannibalistic, illusory industry has a bone through its nose! As the industry makes sweeping, ubiquitous, cannibalizing, business decisions we urge serious consideration to the real threat to the future bottom line. As the Industry has discovered, there is a serious flaw to timeshare. Having built these lavish, illusory, granulated palaces, one must continue to sell to new mug punters who are still naive enough to sit through a bruising several hours long presentation and then when sufficiently punch drunk, pick up a pen and sign complex contracts that one has never read nor had the opportunity to do so, nor to many if read would actually comprehend. This is the sales model of the Primary Timeshare market? Is this the best they’ve got?

Possibly that’s the reason behind the aforementioned public company players in timeshare creating new public companies for their Timeshare only assets. Maybe they also see the writing on the wall of this woeful sales channel and are protecting their other core assets from devaluation.

After all, how many mug-punters could there possibly be?   

In a 2017 Orlando Sentinel News story, Mr. & Mrs. Morrison stated they are horrified by what they did on their last vacation to a Wyndham Resort in Orlando. They paid $25,000 to buy a timeshare, after a four-hour sales pitch that wore down the couple’s resistance and skepticism. Now they’re being hounded by people promising to get them out of the contract — if they pay an up-front fee. They don’t want to pay out any more money and aren’t sure who to trust. “We can’t afford this,” said Morrison, 69, who lives near Ottawa, Ontario. She says Wyndham offered to put them in a program that will eventually allow them to sell their timeshare, but they aren’t sure how long it will take. “Why won’t someone help us and put a stop to this?” she said. Wyndham didn’t respond to questions about the Morrisons’ case.

As if the Industry abandoning its aged, non-using, beneficiary owned and generally unwanted/unaffordable owners wasn’t bad enough, the Industry thwarts every attempt to stop an immense Exodus creating a need for Lawyers, Advocates and evidently miscreants and swindlers.

If Timeshare is an investment in making memories in people’s lives then shouldn’t it know when it has outstayed its welcome?

This of course is all karmically comical as the Timeshare Industry has cut its teeth on brutally sharp practices of high-pressure selling techniques, flogging its wares in well documented grueling four or five hour long “90” minute information breakfasts.

The Industry is undeniably infamous for pitching heat. Sales offices manned with trained professionals are often well trained in manipulative sales techniques. These timeshare hit-men pitch to the giddy, all too often inebriated, vacation-minded unaware prospects. It has been alleged that commission driven sales people often misrepresent overly complex customers contracts, agreements, loan documents, mortgage addendums all of which are tragically packaged by Closers, TO’s (Take Overs), Hail Mary’s and Managers at a table somewhere in a Timeshare sales room. Their only compensation is the commission from a sale.

Can you hear the champagne popping corks now?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips, founder of the Castle Law Group, on a myriad of charges relating to consumer fraud complaints. In the past few weeks, Castle Law Group has ceased business operations following federal lawsuits brought by developers against Castle Law Group and those acting in concert with the firm.

Wyndham’s pursuit of American Consumer Credit (“ACC”), ACC’s principal, Dana Micaleff and attorney, Michael Saracco, resulted in ACC filing bankruptcy on September 7, 2018. Attorney Michael Sarocco, stated that Canadian entrepreneur Micallef always had “good intentions”, however things fell apart when developers and resorts wouldn’t allow ACC’s clients to break their contracts.

Castle Law & Judson Phillips were among the pioneers of the timeshare law firm and the cancellation business. Castle law had dozens of tertiary businesses who were marketing Castle Law services. These marketing firms fed Castle Law with thousands of desperate owners who were willing to pay $7500 or more “upfront” to exit their contracts.

In order to understand the scale of timeshare in the USA, the Timeshare Industry does about a $9billion a year in gross revenue. About 9.4million ownerships exist. There are approximately 1600 resorts. Average maintenance is approximately $900 a year. The Industry aggregates approximately $8.5billion from maintenance annually.

A typical single resort’s simple deed math would look like this:

  •         Typical Timeshare Resort – Individual Condo Units Per Resort: 500 units
  •         Weeks for Sale Per Unit: 50 weeks 500 x 50 = 25,000 Weeks for Sale
  •         Average sales price per week: $ 25,000
  •         25,000 weeks’ x $25,000 = $ 625,000,000 developer receipts
  •         Plus 25,000 weeks x $900 maintenance p/a = $22,500,000 per year.

In a new improved version of Uri Fried’s Viking LLC scheme; David and Cindy Macmillan sent millions of solicitation postcards and letters to Timeshare owners enticing them to attend informational meetings that led to “exiting their timeshare with 100% money back guarantee.”

The MacMillans ran a bunch of Viking Ship LLCs and their own transfer company in a timeshare transfer operation that resort owners alleged was bilking the industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of about nine years.

In 2008, spurred on by a failing economy and the USA housing crisis, the MacMillans operated over 65 straw buyer LLCs claiming that in exchange for several thousand dollars upfront, owners could be released from any timeshare contract. The MacMillan’s prize-winning company based in Torrance, California held sales meetings for owners by the bus load. Hundreds would cram in waving their credit cards in readiness. The MacMillan’s charged $6000 or more and allegedly mishandled over 120,000 timeshare contracts before becoming the target of the Attorney General of California. RICO allegations from Plaintiff Wyndham Hotel & Resorts proved undefendable. The MacMillans were banned from the business. They didn’t pay a single cent to the resorts in maintenance. Most of MacMillan’s eager customers found they were still on the hook for their timeshares. David MacMillan filed bankruptcy in 2016. Once again millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains went unrecovered. In a karmic twist of fate, Macmillan’s own transfer agent transferred thousands of the Macmillan’s Viking LLCs timeshares back into the original owners’ names before leaving the scene of the crime and left the Macmillans to take the fall.          

By 2014 Timeshare Exit marketing companies had mushroomed up all over central and south Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Most of the new crops were marketing firms owned and run by seasoned telemarketing recidivists or by ex-timeshare sales people, some of whom had access to valuable owner data. The marketers, mostly acting as advocates, fed a variety of attorneys and both shared in the customer fees.  

In call center parlance this new business represented a new ‘data’ vertical. Call centers that had previously run ‘data’ looking for mortgage consolidation or debt relief were suitably adaptable for Timeshare Exit marketing. The busted timeshare Resale/Rental telephone scams that had left many recently unemployed in south and central Florida simply redeployed themselves. Some sales people told sad stories of repenting for all the lies they had told while selling Timeshare.    

In Phillips’ case, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Phillips after reviewing upwards of 18 client complaints, many of which made similar allegations of fraud, highlighting a pattern and practice of misconduct. In its ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Central to the series of complaints were allegations that Phillips and his business partners misled and/or defrauded consumers by taking exorbitant fees from timeshare owners for purported timeshare exit or cancellation services based upon fraudulent and misleading representations.

The ACC case is based on various legal theories, some of which are founded in Federal law, known as the “Lanham Act of False Advertising”. The case remains pending against Micaleff, individually, and Saracco, individually, although an automatic stay has been issued relative to ACC in the U.S. District Court action as a result of the bankruptcy filing. That, however, has not deterred the prosecution of the case. As of today, there is a motion pending against Micaleff and Saracco to punish them for, among other things, failing to appear for a deposition.

The Industries press release further commented;

“The constant pressure that our member companies, owners and federal and state agencies are putting on disreputable timeshare exit companies has again produced a positive result for the consumer,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of,” said Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations.”

Diamond Resorts implemented an aggressive litigation strategy in pursuit of third-party exit companies for their nefarious and unlawful conduct in an effort to protect the interest of their members who were promised outcomes that could not be legally accomplished.

The number of customers who “wish to exit” an owned, fully paid up timeshare is an immense Exodus. Far higher than was ever imagined or projected by the industry. The elephant in the room is that there is still no safe exit from unwanted timeshares and no robust market with which to capture and reposition the unwanted timeshares.

In light of the recently filed Florida House Bill 435, one must question the fates of the remaining exit and cancellation firms including; Resort Release LLC, The Newton Group & Reed Hein AKA Timeshare Exit Team amongst others.   

It is obvious by the recent advertising budgets expended on TV, Radio and all other assorted media, along with the number of employees and general expenses to run these TPE’s that there are probably millions of Owners who have already paid Fees to exit or dispose of a timeshare in the last 12-36 months that are as-yet unresolved and may begin actions suing for refunds. The Term of a TPE’s contract generally offered is 12-18 months. We are sure many contracts have now been extended far beyond their legal limits. All the previously named TPE’s and Law firms offered a 100% refund upon eventual nonperformance, assuming they were still in business.

By monitoring the largest TPEs on social media and by paying particular attention to present and past customers reviews, it is evident that satisfaction is extremely low and that refunds are aggressively being sought. How many hundreds of complaints like these does it take before another AG steps in or another exit company gets driven to bankruptcy by an aggrieved resort or the FTC?

Here’s what we know.

Exit firms can’t get rid of your timeshare unless the resort ‘wants them back.’ Most Timeshares are indeed worthless. All timeshares come with some form of annual cost. In light of 2018’s vacationing and travelling popular habits, the notion of paying an annual fee is not popular or appears economically attractive.  

It may well be true to say that all TPEs charge upfront fees for truly illusionary services because they now know within a moral certainty that their customers will get nothing for their money.

One would have imagined that Timeshare Developers, being an enterprising bunch, would have figured out how to ‘selectively take in’ enough exits & cancels to quell this Exodus problem. This sensible move would have made the TPEs redundant and quickly ended the third party exit business by allowing worthwhile and fitting exits for owners, for a small fee.  

This, however, further highlights the possible size of the immense Exodus problem.

Thank you to our new contributor, at some point he will reveal himself, but we look forward to Part Two of the Manifesto.

Remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain or upgraded after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

 

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