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The Tuesday Slot: Diamond v Aaronson Trial

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker reports on days 2 and 3 of the Diamond v Aaronson Law Firm trial, which ended 3 days earlier than expected with a settlement.

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published the article about the Modern Honolulu Hotel and the redundancy of workers, this has already prompted many comments from our readers. The one factor they all share is their disgust at the lack of compassion and sheer greed of Diamond Resorts. Well, this is a fact we are all too well aware of at Inside Timeshare, as our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories have shown.

So now for Irene’s report on the trial that has kept our readers in suspense.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Lawsuit Resolved by Settlement

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial:  A Summary

By Irene Parker

May 7, 2019

Day 1: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-48/

The lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against Austin Aaronson resolved by settlement Thursday, May 2nd on day three of what had been anticipated to be a six-day trial.

The crux of the lawsuit seemed to focus on a man in a grey suit that appeared in a video on Austin Aaronson’s website alleging that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. Diamond Resorts owns 10 to 15% of outstanding points. Currently, there are over a billion points outstanding. Members own approximately 85% of the outstanding points. Mr Charles Meltz, attorney for Mr Aaronson, presented the following figures:  

Member assessments budgeted: $141 million

Actual member assessments paid: $146 million

Developer assessments budgeted: $8.6 million

Actual developer assessments paid: $4.8 million

Plaintiff’s witnesses included Steven Wolf who testified that he conducted a forensic examination of 120 Diamond members who had stopped paying loans and maintenance fees. Diamond sells timeshare points as Collections. Diamond’s US Collection, Hawaii Collection and Diamond Resorts International Points were examined, in addition to an examination of maintenance fees and Club Fees that had not been collected.

Each group was broken down into three periods of time:

  • Period A consisted of the period of time from when a Diamond member had retained Austin Aaronson, going forward to July 31, 2018
  • Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson, and
  • Period C, the period of time beyond 30 days, prior to retaining Mr Aaronson.

For example, concerning the US Collection:

Period C beyond 30 days: $242,365,904 in uncollected funds

Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson: $295,455 in uncollected funds

Period A from the time Mr Aaronson was retained: $2,365,904

Total for the four groups in uncollected funds: $4,578,838

Judge Dalton asked if this amount had been reduced to summary judgment. It had not. He ruled that this amount was speculative.

Plaintiff’s witness Steven Wolf is with Capstone Advisory Group, LLC

http://www.mondaq.com/p/873000/Steven+Wolf/Capstone+Advisory+Group%2C+LLC

Mr Wolf’s firm was paid $250,000 for the forensic analysis and $475 per hour to observe the trial from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 30 and May 1 through his testimony that continued through Thursday morning May 2.

Three former Diamond members testified as witnesses for the Plaintiff.

Witness 1 testified that buying additional points did not improve availability. He had purchased a total of 26,500 points. Diamond had sued witness 1 for $170,000, which included arbitration fees. The judgement against witness 1 was wiped clean in exchange for his testimony. Witness 1 confirmed that he was aware of Mr Aaronson’s website that stated the firm had leverage over Diamond resorts due to misappropriated maintenance fees and a breach of fiduciary duty.

Witness 2 testified on behalf of his mother about his contacting Aaronson Law Firm and that he was told Aaronson Law Firm had leverage over Diamond because Diamond was not handling maintenance fees correctly.

Witness 3 was role played, reading a prior deposition. The wife had testified at an earlier deposition. Her husband was retired Army, 100% disabled, exposed to Agent Orange. He suffers from PTSD. She testified that they went to a Branson sales centre and purchased 3,000 points for $16,030.  They wanted to learn how to use the system but were told to come back within 90 days for an orientation. They attended an orientation in November 2015. At the orientation, they were told by Branson sales agent Kimberly that they had not purchased enough points. They ended up buying 27,000 additional points for $72,850 which they could not afford.

This brings to five, the number of Agent Orange disabled veterans harmed by their decision to purchase Diamond points:

  1. 70% Disabled Agent Orange exposed Army Veteran George Yamada who reported he purchased Diamond points as an investment. George is a pension administrator. https://www.opednews.com/articles/Let-s-Honor-our-Veterans–by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180908-59.html
  2. A 100% disabled veteran, up-sold by a Diamond sales agent Inside Timeshare has received 21 complaints against. This veteran was issued a $170,000 1099 C after his loan was terminated. We pointed him in the right direction so his CPA could resolve the 1099.
  3. Leo Gomez was told he must switch from Premier Vacation Club to US Collection because his resort went bankrupt. Leo only had 30 days left to live when he contacted me, suffering from pancreatic cancer. He did not call to complain. He wanted to know what he could do about the loan. It was not true Leo needed to switch from PVC to US Collection. I own the same points. Leo was 100% Agent Orange disabled. His last words to me were, “I want my story told.” Leo earned two Purple Hearts. https://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Fourth-Agent-Orange-Vete-by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180917-513.html
  4. A 100% disabled Agent Orange veteran earned a Purple Heart because he had been shot in Vietnam. His dispute has been resolved.

These veterans put their life on the line to protect me. I will do all I can to do my part to reform timeshare because of the 806 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare, 103 veterans and active duty service members. Five Agent Orange veterans so stressed because they purchased too many timeshare points are five Agent Orange disabled veterans too many.

Attorney Charles Meltz asked about the likelihood of someone age 88 meeting the obligations of a ten-year loan.

Diamond’s attorney Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder responded,

“Are old people allowed to take vacations?”

This comment follows recent publications describing how the Lusk family, nearly 90, were sold $150,000 worth of timeshare points, as reported by USA Today and Diane Burkhardt’s father sold $250,000 worth of Diamond points between the ages of 86 to 88, after Diamond refused to take back the timeshare that her father had purchased and paid for free and clear at age 85, reported by Consumer Affairs.

Inside Timeshare has heard from way too many seniors who purchased a timeshare from several developers. These seniors are stressed beyond words. Most have maintained a high credit score their entire life, now bracing for timeshare foreclosure. They signed off on high-interest rate loans and sometimes higher interest rate credit cards.

Seniors don’t need this.    

Lawsuit details:

Diamond Resorts International Inc, Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how Diamond maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points.

After Thursday’s lunch break, Judge Dalton would not allow Diamond’s next witness to testify. After a consultation, attorney Richard Epstein announced that they had reached a settlement. He then asked Judge Dalton to instruct me not to report details of the settlement. Judge Dalton kindly said to me that I could report that the lawsuit was resolved by settlement.

Two additional Plaintiff witnesses had testified. The first was Kathleen Wheeler, who serves on several Diamond Resort Boards. She is one of four asset managers. The second was Lisa Levere, VP of Operations and Financial Services. Both testified as to the audited care and attention taken to ensure maintenance fees are not misappropriated. Due to the settlement reached, the defence did not have an opportunity to call any of their witnesses to support their allegations that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. I was looking forward to hearing how witnesses called by the defence were to support their claims.

I was employed by CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in foster care. For three years I wrote court reports and edited our volunteers’ CASA reports. I attended all hearings and trials. I miss Family Court, so I have to admit I am a courthouse buff. Following are the trials remaining for the rest of 2019:

Westgate v. Mitchell Sussman, Esq. – 6:17-cv-1467 (MD FL)

July 1, 2019 trial before Judge Dalton (cross-MSJ’s pending)

OL v. RHA 17-cv-1542-Orl-31DCI (MD FL)

August 5, 2019 trial before Judge Presnell (cross-MSJ’s pending)

Wyn v. Totten Franqui Law Firm 9:18-cv-81055 (SD FL)

September 10, 2019 trial before Judge Middlebrooks

I will be there

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you, Irene, Inside Timeshare and our readers really appreciate you giving up your valuable time to attend the hearing and covering this story. One thing is certain, Inside Timeshare will continue to report on Diamond Resorts and any other timeshare company, we do this in the interest of our readers and all consumers. We make no apology about it and do not really care if it upsets the industry!

If you have any comments on this or any article published, please use our contact page, we welcome and value them.

Have you had a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” if so, we would love to hear from you. If you would like your story to be shared with our readers lets us know and we will be happy to publish.

Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

In today’s article from Irene Parker, we take another look at the Arizona Attorney General’s settlement with Diamond Resorts. It is a simplified version on the 37 page  “Assurance of Discontinuance”, It also goes on to explain who is eligible for thesettlement and gives details on how to claim. It also include the date of the deadline.

This article is a prelude to one that will be published later on “Consumer Protection Week” which is starts on 5 March and ends on 11 March. So watch this space.

An Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

Is the AOD a Blueprint for the Timeshare Industry?

March 5 – 11 is Consumer Protection Week

By Irene Parker – March 1, 2017

objectives

The following Facebook groups are reaching out to those eligible for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts. Given the success of the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocate Facebook, assisting Diamond owners who face legitimate concerns, other Advocates have come forward to launch a Timeshare Advocacy Group Facebook available to all timeshare owners.

These groups go beyond helpful posts to actually intervene and assist those unaccustomed to interacting with governmental regulatory agencies and loss mitigation departments. Most are owners struggling under the burden of maintenance fees they can no longer afford.

In 2010, the board of Diamond’s PVC (Premier Vacation Club) amended the Membership Plan to allow an increase to a maximum of inflation plus 25% per year from the original maximum of inflation plus 10% per year.

Diamond’s US Collection has capped Maintenance Fees increases to 25% per year. A15000 point example and history of Maintenance Fee increases provided in the Assurance of Discontinuance:

$1,214 – 2007

$1,348.50 – 2008

$1,686 – 2009

$1,850 – 2010

$1,923.50 – 2011

$2,018.50 – 2012

$2,045.50 – 2013

$2,330 – 2014

$2,404.70 – 2015

Buyers sign a perpetual contract with virtually no secondary market.

Sales are made same day without being allowed sufficient time to comparison shop, as one would if buying a car or house. Certainly the expense and upkeep of a timeshare is equivalent to that of a major purchase.

Owners facing legitimate timeshare issues should consult the following:

Timeshare Advocacy Group

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

A Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook was launched for Diamond Members with legitimate concerns so they can seek help without fear of censor.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook

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

Both Facebook groups provide updates on legal and legislative issues.

arizona-ag-seal

A time sensitive issue concerns Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” due to the complaint filing period which ends the end of April.

Not everyone wishes to wade through a 37 page “Assurance of Discontinuance” (AOD) so we have generalized and summarized the key points. To the best of our knowledge, this Assurance of Discontinuance is the first document of its kind to offer a prospective blueprint for timeshare as a whole. In an effort to promote timeshare reform, we encourage ARDA, lawmakers, and timeshare developers to make this a blueprint for the industry.

The actual Arizona Attorney General press release, link to filing a complaint and link to the Assurance of Discontinuance:

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

Who is Eligible for the Arizona Settlement?

A Consumer who files a written complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Arizona Attorney General, another law enforcement agency, the Better Business Bureau, or the Arizona Department of Real Estate after January 1, 2009 that is received by the Attorney General’s Office prior to the Effective Date or during the Filing Period. The Filing Period is expected to end by the end of April.

The provisions of the AOD are limited to Consumers who did business with Diamond at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentation with Diamond outside of Arizona.

Our Blueprint Proposal

Meeting chart

A Quality Assurance Program – Independent from Sales and Marketing

Timeshare sales agents may not deviate from Sales Materials;

Timeshare sales agents may not make oral representation at the point of sale inconsistent with purchase documents:

  • Pertaining to the use of Points to book travel arrangements such as flights, rental cars, or cruises claiming such arrangements are comparatively lower in cost than if the Consumer would spend cash for the same travel arrangements, unless such representations are accurate; 
  • Claim a non-deeded timeshare interest such as Points is a deeded property or may be considered an investment in real property;
  • Claim Points appreciate in value;
  • Claim Points may be used to pay Maintenance Fees or that Maintenance Fees will be reduced by the purchase of additional Points, unless such representations are accurate;
  • Claim Consumers may rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public unless such representations are true;
  • Claim the company will buy back Consumer’s Memberships unless the company offers a buy-back program;
  • Claim there is a secondary market for the sale of Points, and that such secondary market has a certain level of sales volume, or provides Consumers with the ability to re-sell Points, unless such representations are accurate.
  • Represent to Consumers that the sales agent would assist them with selling their Membership, unless a resale program exists.
  • Claim Consumers will be able to obtain a loan from a private lender to refinance a loan.
  • Claim interest paid on a points based product is tax deductible unless such representations are accurate. Vacation membership products are not considered “qualified home” according to IRS Publication 936.
  • Provide any information that may be construed as tax advice;
  • Represent to Consumers that Sales Presentations typically last 90 to 120 minutes if the norm is several hours.
  • Call a sales presentation an “informational meeting” to learn about changes to a resort if such meeting includes a Sales Presentations for the purpose of upgrading or up selling the consumer.
  • Overstate availability

What happens to the sales counselor when they do not adhere to the above?

How will Consumers know if sales agents violating the above declarations are reprimanded, suspended or terminated?

This can only be accomplished by forming viable and vibrant consumer groups reaching out to other owners. One such Diamond Owner sponsored Facebook was formed by the original owners of Club Intrawest acquired by Diamond, now known as Embarc.

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

How do Diamond owners get released from their timeshare contract?

What is the “Relinquishment Program” and is it different from Transitions?

“Transitions” is Diamond’s relinquishment program publicly announced by Diamond on May 4, 2016. Unlike the AOD “Relinquishment Remedy Program”, Diamond’s Transitions or Relinquishment Program is offered, on a case by case basis, at Diamond’s discretion and does not constitute an obligation under the AOD.

writing thoughts

Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some, especially if English is the Member’s second language. We’re here at Inside Timeshare and all owner groups to listen, educate, disseminate and advocate. Contact us!

Whether you are in Europe or the US, Inside Timeshare and our associates at the various facebook groups, would love to hear from you. It is only with your experiences are we able to inform others that there is help and hope.

Timeshare could be a great product, but we need to let the industry know that it has to change, by putting the members first. We call on the industry to listen and learn from your concerns, work with us to make the change.

 

$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.