Plaintiffs argue they should have received lower interest rate
By Jesse J. Holland
Washington — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that three families cannot sue a mortgage company for allegedly charging them a loan discount fee without giving them a lower interest rate.
The high court’s decision tosses out lawsuits filed in 2008 against Quicken Loans Inc., in Louisiana by three families who claimed they paid the fees without receiving anything in return. The Freeman family paid $980 and the Bennett family $1,100 in loan discount fees but allegedly did not get lower interest rates in return. The Smith family allegations focus partly on a loan origination fee of $5,100, which they claim was a mislabeled loan discount fee.
A federal judge threw the lawsuit out, saying the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act made the lawsuit improper. That decision, which was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The law says no “person shall give and no person shall accept any portion, split, or percentage of any charge made or received for the rendering of a real estate settlement service in connection with a transaction involving a federally related mortgage loan other than for services actually performed.”
The argument is over whether that law “prohibits the collection of an unearned charge by a single settlement provider, or whether it covers only transactions in which a provider shares part of a settlement-service charge with one or more other persons who did nothing to earn it,” said Justice Antonia Scalia, who wrote the opinion.
The court’s decision was unanimous. “In our view, [the law] is unambiguous,” Scalia said. “It covers only a settlement-service provider’s splitting of a fee with one or more other persons.”