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Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America with an update from our US contributor Tiffany Renee who explains Why the buyer is blamed when told lies by sales agents. This is a subject that has been covered on numerous occasions over the years, with many articles by Irene. This particular problem is not just confined to the sale of timeshare in America, it happens all over the world but is very much a serious problem in the US. Tiffany reached out to Diamond Resorts for comment. They responded placing the blame on Tiffany’s parents. This does make you question Mr Flaskey’s quote in Bernadette’s petition, “And they could have just called Diamond.” We have heard so many times Diamond’s response, “we are not responsible for what our sales agent say”. That as we know is lamest of excuses, they are your employees, they are selling your product and they are representing you, it is your “Responsibility”.

Why the Buyer is Blamed if a Sales Agent Lies 

STAY VACATIONED or else

https://blog.thunderquote.com/assets/uploads/2016/08/B-19.jpg

April 2, 2021

Update from Tiffany Renee

Last December Inside Timeshare published my article about how my parents were browbeaten for 11 hours until they were convinced they had no choice but to forfeit their two Gold Key deeded timeshares that they had loved for years. Their sales agent and Quality Assurance agent told them that if they didn’t give up their deeds my brother and I would suffer dire financial consequences should something happen to them – maintenance fees will increase dramatically – to over $6,000! Their Gold Key maintenance fees were $2,000. The transaction resulted in maintenance fees of over $6,000. My father collapsed when he received the notification. The “QA” agent made them wait while he called the developer of Gold Key to get them the secret special price …. You must buy today…. the special price time period has expired! 

How can this be happening to so many seniors in America?

The full story: https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-elder-abuse-and-timeshare-sales/

If there is no problem with Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey making claims that exit companies lied and took $10,000, $12,000, $14,000, $25,000 from Diamond members, then there can be no problem with my making the claim that Diamond agents lied and took over $85,000 in cash and deeds from my parents.

An interview with Diamond members Frank and Betty, ages 88 and 89, parallels the elderly couple interviewed in Mr Flaskey’s YouTube describing how they lost money to exit companies. Betty, a former librarian, said in a USA Today article that she has had insomnia and fainting spells from the stress and has gone to the hospital several times.

Michael Flaskey’s YouTube 

Frank and Betty’s YouTube

Diamond Resorts took approximately $31,000 from my parents and their two deeded weeks. The purchase price was around $88,000 of which approximately $57,000 was credit for their deeded weeks. 

Many years ago they paid $17,600 for a Turtle Cay 2 BR unit and $37,550 for a 2 BR Ocean Beach unit. It was not easy to piece together what happened from the mounds of paperwork, but as of November 28, 2020, it looks like after the up-sell they ended up with 32,500 points of which 24,000 points were credited for their Gold Key deeds. The purchase of 8,500 points is why maintenance fees increased. 

Frank and Betty lost $63,000 to Diamond Resorts and told them they were buying an “annuity” timeshare that would release a survivor spouse from the timeshare liability should something happen to one of them. After the transaction, their cumulative loan balance was $197,000 and annual maintenance fees $19,000.

For Betty and Frank and my parents, fear was used as the bait.  

Then and Now: Why Seniors Need Support 

(STAY VACATIONED letter received from Diamond Resorts March 29, 2021)

Unfortunately, if your account remains in default for 30 days from the date of this notice, the Association will take necessary action to collect the unpaid assessment fees together with late fees and interest…. These actions may include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Send the delinquent account to an attorney, which will result in additional legal fees; 
  • Engagement of a professional collection agency which will result in additional collection fees;

Michael Flaskey said on his YouTube, “They could have just called Diamond.”  

My parents are proof you can’t. 

Bernadette’s Petition

Bernadette in Oklahoma launched a Change.org petition March 7, 2021 asking Michael Flaskey to remove the YouTube in which he, the Missouri and Washington Attorneys General, and the former Arizona Attorney General, criticize deceptive practices by timeshare exit companies. Lawyers are called “storefront clowns,” yet the Missouri Attorney General’s Office recommended Bernadette retain an attorney. Please sign Bernadette’s petition after reading about her Diamond experience:

https://www.change.org/Michael-Flaskey-MO-WA-AG-take-down-YouTube

Our experiences are two of over 5,600 accounts from members of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook. The majority of our Facebook members joined to ask for advice about resolving disputes or complaints about Diamond’s sales and marketing practices. Volunteers answer questions as to how to file regulatory complaints. We know there are many who are happy with their Diamond membership and with the sales agents they worked with. Our Facebook consists of mostly members who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive sales and marketing practices. 

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

I initially filed a complaint with Seniors Vs Crime, a project of the Florida Attorney General’s Office. They mediate disputes and volunteers are seniors themselves. I was informed Seniors Vs Crime would not be allowed to help my parents. I was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.  Instead of being contacted by someone from the Florida Attorney General’s Office, I was contacted by a doctor Diamond retained who introduced himself as a consultant hired to arbitrate our “allegations.” He blamed my parents.

A staged so-called Quality Assurance contract signing session was recorded. I later learned my parents’ QA agent served four years in jail for burglarizing seven homes, among other charges, yet Diamond’s jury ruled my parents sounded just fine on the recording. 

If the buyer makes the mistake of believing their sales agent, thus not raising a question, the recording is used against the buyer. The buyer is not allowed to record the sales session, and the buyer is not allowed to listen to the recorded closing unless an attorney issues a subpoena. This is unfair. 

Many members have reported that the recording is routinely used against the buyer to dismiss complaints after being coached by sales agents to not saying anything because 1) it’s a new program, 2) I help you on my own 3) they don’t want you buying to make money, and so on.     

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said in Mr Flaskey’s YouTube “it is infuriating to see members paying money to companies that make them worse rather than better.” 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson warns, “They are preying on people with misinformation…Telling people things that are flat out not true and they are just trying to take as much money as they can from them.” 

Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey grieves for families who lost“$10,000, $12,000, $14,000, $25,000” to exit companies.

I am pregnant with my second child. I have a problem pregnancy and had to be hospitalized at one point during my first trimester. The stress Diamond Resorts brought into my life because of the financial loss my parents suffered has played a part in my baby’s problems. Timeshare medical distress now spans from prenatal to Betty and Frank, ages 88 and 89. 

I end where I began – but adding the other end of life’s spectrum. 

How can this be happening to seniors and pregnant moms in America?   

My motto is based on a concept of unjust enrichment that can be traced to Roman law and the maxim that “no one should be benefited at another’s expense”

“nemo locupletari potest aliena iactura or nemo locupletari debet cum aliena iactura.” 

There is a tendency to blame the victim. AARP Staff writer explains in his book why no one is “smart” enough to outsmart a con. 

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/afDrSe2gMaKdxWK4j3g7qZXTB9On0ezeP3Z2RFjWmVxL4tYEymOc05ZkK54YMANutYIfUR1ri3LlIZw4zh099_iMN2lMvQvzcYh-a4psrVzw9WJQDETd99NVfnbKxmgDajoDadB1

Understanding the artist behind the scam is a first step in protecting yourself and your loved ones from deceit. After conducting personal interviews with dozens of con artists and studying their personalities, Shadel has found consistent trends in the tactics they use to defraud their prey. What do they all have in common? For starters, a life filled with fast money and women, drugs and alcohol, and lots of lying and cheating. But the most successful cons are also masters of persuasion, using a sophisticated set of psychological tricks and tactics that work time and time again.

Think all victims look the same?  Wrong.  Outsmarting the Scam Artists explains how individual scams are carefully crafted and tailored to meet specific victim profiles.  

That is all for this week with Inside Timeshare, we hope that you have a great Easter weekend and will join us for more news and information on the murky world of timeshare next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

This week Friday’s Letter from America tells the story of army veterans Gad & Noreen Liebmann, it begins with an open letter to the Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey, then goes on to explain their experience. They are currently holding a protest outside Diamonds Daytona Beach Resort, the article was edited by Inside Timeshares Irene Parker.

First we have a quick look at Europe.

Yesterday Canarian Legal Alliance published in their news section a case study of a recent trial, nothing unusual there, except this had a rather different twist. This particular trial was dealt with at the pre-trial stage rather than the full trial, the venue was the Court of First Instance No 1 in Maspalomas, the lawyer representing the clients was Judith Diaz Pascual of CLA.

Judith Diaz Pascual (ICALP No 4480)

The pre-trial is a formality where the defending party may argue why the case should not be accepted, it is also a point where the judge will ask if there is a possibility of a settlement out of court. Usually the judge will then decree that a full trial date be set, with the defendants demanding the appearance of the clients.

As there was no agreement that day Anfi, the defendants, asked for a full trial to take place with the clients in attendance, CLA lawyers argued that this was not necessary as the case and infringements of the timeshare laws was based on documentation, so there was no need for a trial or for the clients give testimony. The judge agreed, he stated that he would issue a resolution after the preliminary hearing, three days later the judgement was issued.

The judge concluded that due to the infringements which included, floating weeks and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period, the contract was declared null and void. Anfi were also ordered to repay over 49,000€ which included double the deposit paid, the court also awarded legal interest.

Apparently this is now becoming more common, it is not the first case to be dealt with at the preliminary stage, it will only be a matter of time before more judges decide that this is the best course. After all the cases are based on the contracts and documents, if the timeshare company has sold floating weeks or points, the contract is longer than 50 years and any payment taken within the cooling off period, these are breaches of the law, so why prolong the issue with a full trial?

https://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/case-study-anfi-speedy-resolution-no-need-trial/

Now for our Letter from America.

Gad and Noreen Liebmann, Army Veterans

An Open Letter to Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey

April 20, 2018

We are one of 29 Diamond Platinum Member Families Up-sold alleging we were defrauded

A Diamond Daytona sales agent’s response to Gad and Noreen:

While picketing yesterday one of the salesman came down to talk to us. He brought some water and wanted to “thank us” for picketing. He claimed that our presence increased their sales. He also told us that we could have more effect by working as greeters at Walmart and using the money earned to help pay our dues.

Inside Timeshare has received 375 Diamond Resorts complaints from our readers, Diamond members alleging they were sold or up-sold by fraud. Families are devastated. Platinum member #29 contacted us April 16, 2018, a disabled Vietnam veteran, age 71. He says they were told by a Florida Mystic Dunes sales agent if they purchased additional points it would take care of maintenance fees. Now they too are forced to foreclose or walk away from their points. We hope AARP takes note.

A Diamond Vice President’s response to Joshua Parker:

“We are not responsible for what our sales agents say”4/5/18

The Diamond CLARITY TM Promise:

Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer

A Quote from CEO Michael Flaskey:

Clarity seeks to build on Diamond’s already impressive standing with its members. Almost 70% of the company’s sales are to existing members seeking to increase their Diamond resorts vacation memberships,” said Mr. Flaskey.

Mr. Flaskey, We are one of 29 Platinum member families alleging we were upsold by fraud. We have been Diamond members for 20 years, but we made the mistake of believing Brad Leslie at Daytona Beach Regency. So did Sheilah and Thomas Brust. We did not know about Diamond’s official policy, “We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say.” What kind of accountability, transparency and RESPECT for your customer is that? There are over 1,200 members on our Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook, many alleging fraud.

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

Gad and Noreen Liebmann protesting outside Daytona Regency – Sheilah and Thomas wish they were here but Sheilah is too busy with tax season.   

Sheilah’s article on how to file FBI complaints:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-14/

Josh Parker is an Iraqi veteran. Josh says he was told his points are an investment and would be easy to sell. Now, expecting twins, a high risk pregnancy, they have learned the truth, so will in all likelihood have to suffer through 180 days of endless collections calls. Josh is 90% disabled, a combat veteran. Josh’s YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezkJ7GlJN4U&feature=youtu.be

Our Diamond Experience

By Gad and Noreen Liebmann

My wife Noreen and I have been protesting outside Daytona Regency for the last month. We are Platinum Diamond members. We own 96,000 Diamond points only because we bought an additional 25,000 points to take advantage of a program that did not exist. We are not confused. Sheilah and Thomas Brust are not confused. Sheilah has an accounting background. Sheilah Brust does not get numbers confused.

We had purchased eight Diamond contracts over 20 years and had been happy Diamond members until Daytona sales agent Brad Leslie sold us 25,000 points November 22, 2017, we allege by fraud.  Brad told us that if we purchased 25,000 additional points for $70,000 we would get additional benefits. He showed us how using these benefits, we might not have to pay more maintenance fees if we used the same amount of vacation time. What Brad Leslie neglected to tell us was that we were already eligible for these benefits. He knew this. The calculations shown to us were false. Sheilah has a copy of Brad’s “Pencil Pitch” promising her double points. He also claimed that we could recover the cost of the additional points after 10 years. This was also false. Brad made it sound like these were new benefits that could only be obtained by purchasing additional points. Brad said that we would be even on the $70,000 within ten years if we only booked through Value Getaways. When we returned home we learned booking vacations using Valued Getaway and Point Saver were already available to us.

We appealed to the local DRI marketing VP. He was unsympathetic. A call to Michael Flaskey, CEO, who leaves his card at every front desk, got a response from a lady who offered to allow us to give back some of the points we purchased in the past, lowering the dues but not eliminating the latest purchase.  In other words, give back points we already paid for, requiring us to pay the company $70,000 after being sold points we didn’t need because of a convoluted scam. We may be older, but we’re not stupid.

We feel we meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch”, in addition to Elder Abuse.

Many Diamond members feel there is no timeshare enforcement in Florida. The Arizona Attorney General opened an investigation after receiving hundreds of Diamond complaints, just in Arizona, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. They did not turn Diamond members away because Diamond is not responsible for what Diamond sales agents say.”

Veteran Teresa Laird is planning to protest outside DRI Polo Towers. DRI sales agents tried to sell her dad, at age 83, in a wheelchair dozing off, a recipient of two Purple Hearts, $234,000 in additional DRI timeshare points.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-42/

There is little to no regulatory enforcement because the Attorneys General in Nevada and Florida dismiss complaints, also falling back on the oral representation clause, or in Nevada at the Nevada Real Estate Division, “You have no proof”, so there is nothing to stop timeshare fraud.

From the Florida Attorney General’s Timeshare Division DBPR

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations.  Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

We are veterans in our late 70’s and two of 40 active duty or veteran military and law enforcement timeshare members alleging we have been defrauded by timeshare sales agents. Several are in danger of losing their Security Clearance.

Whistleblowers of America, an organization headquartered in Washington DC, seeks justice for Active Duty military, veterans, and government workers. If families are made whole, we encourage a contribution to Whistleblowers.  https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

LICENSED timeshare resale brokers will not even accept a Diamond listing feeling it would be a waste of their time and your money, due to restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points LTRBA members feel are too restrictive. Sheilah and Josh contacted Florida LTRBA members. None would accept a Diamond listing. Scammers have no problem taking your upfront money.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Florida Timeshare Division, DBPR, and Diamond’s Transition department send members on a wild goose chase to contact a real estate broker, but legitimate brokers won’t accept a Diamond listing, because they are honest.

A Diamond member talked to a Diamond Transition’s specialist:

I tried last night to speak with someone in Financial Services with no luck.  I tried again today as well but the phone just rings and rings. I did speak with Tiffany Davis in Transitions and she said our maintenance fees would have to be paid in order to do the Transitions program.   She then said that I didn’t have to do Transitions – if I wanted to gain anything from my Timeshare that I should speak to a real estate agent to get it sold.   I said I was unaware this could even be done. Tiffany said “Oh, absolutely, if you don’t want to just relinquish it, you can sell it”.

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

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

Section 5 of the FTC Code states: “Unfair and deceptive business practices are unlawful.”

http://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2013/01/fraud-vs-lying-whats-the-legal-difference.html

A fraud is an intentionally false representation made with the intent to mislead the listener, and that the listener relied on “to her detriment.”

The first part means that fraud must involve an intentional lie. If you truly believe you’re telling the truth and end up being wrong, that doesn’t qualify.

That doesn’t excuse willful denial or ignorance of the truth. If you should have known the truth or could easily have discovered it before telling the lie, it could still be a problem.

The second part is about the liar’s intention. A lie that you don’t mean anyone to take seriously, such as a joke or hyperbole, wouldn’t constitute fraud.

When it comes to proving intent for fraud, courts often look at what the liar could gain if someone believes the lie. If the liar benefits from someone believing and acting on the lie, that tends to show intent.

The legal analysis will also rely on context. A lie while you’re trying to sell your house is more likely to result in a lawsuit than a lie told over drinks at a bar. Those are obvious examples, but there are many situations in between where the line isn’t so easy to see.

The third element is whether the lie actually caused harm.

If the listener believed the lie, acted as if it were true, and suffered some kind of injury because of that belief, then there may be some liability for fraud.

Injury can mean actual physical harm or financial loss. In general, emotional “pain” isn’t enough to build a case for fraud.

While fraud could potentially apply anywhere, it’s most commonly brought up in the area of contracts when one party lies about an important part of the agreement.

In general, anything other than a white lie (like how nice your spouse looks) should be avoided. Remember, a lie runs the risk of becoming fraud if you expect the listener to act on the lie. Keeping it honest isn’t just a good personal policy; it’s a sound legal strategy too.

For timeshare buyers, the customer is always wrong because they signed a contract. And no one cares. Inside Timeshare has heard from 131 Diamond members alleging fraud since January 1. The company does not respond to requests for comment.

Thank you Gad and Noreen, you have the support and thoughts of many timeshare owners not just in the US but also from across the great lake in Europe and beyond, also thanks to Irene once again for taking the time to edit these articles.

If you have any questions, comments or need to find information on any company mentioned here or that has contacted you then use our contacts page and we will point you in the right direction. Remember doing your homework saves you money!

Well the weekend is once again upon us and Inside Timeshare hopes that you have an enjoyable and relaxing weekend.

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

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

puerto rico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

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

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

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

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

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

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

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

argentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

money man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not alone

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

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