DOB: Preferred Law, PLLC - FFCL & Order



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IN THE MATTER OF:

PREFERRED LAW, PLLC

     ("Respondent")

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FINDINGS OF FACT,
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
AND ORDER


                     

 FINDINGS OF FACT 

1. On December 2, 2014, the Banking Commissioner (“Commissioner”) issued a Temporary Order to Cease and Desist, Order to Make Restitution, Notice of Intent to Issue Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Impose Civil Penalty and Notice of Right to Hearing against Respondent (collectively “Notice”).  The Notice is incorporated by reference herein.  (Tr. at 4, 9; Dept. Ex. 1.)*
2. The Notice was issued pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of Section 36a-52 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, subsections (a) and (c) of Section 36a-50 of the General Statutes of Connecticut and Section 36a-671a(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  (Dept. Ex. 1.)
3. The Notice alleges that Respondent engaged in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license, which constitutes a violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Notice advised Respondent that such violation forms the basis to issue an order to cease and desist against Respondent pursuant to Sections 36a-671a(b) and 36a-52 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, issue an order to make restitution against Respondent pursuant to Sections 36a-671a(b) and 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, and impose a civil penalty upon Respondent pursuant to Sections 36a-671a(b) and 36a-50(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  (Dept. Ex. 1.)
4. The Notice advised Respondent that if a hearing was not requested within the time period prescribed or Respondent failed to appear at any hearing, the Order to Make Restitution shall remain in effect and become permanent against Respondent, and the Commissioner will issue an order that Respondent cease and desist from violating Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, and may order a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation be imposed upon Respondent.  (Dept. Ex. 1.)
5. In the Order to Make Restitution, the Commissioner ordered Respondent to make restitution of any sums obtained as a result of Respondent’s violation of Sections 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, plus interest at the legal rate set forth in Section 37-1 of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Order to Make Restitution ordered that within thirty (30) days from the date the Order to Make Restitution becomes permanent, Respondent shall:  (i) repay Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600) to the Connecticut resident identified in Exhibit A attached to the Notice; (ii) repay any other Connecticut resident who entered into an agreement for debt negotiation services with Preferred Law, PLLC on and after October 1, 2009, any fees paid by such Connecticut resident to Preferred Law, PLLC, plus interest; and (iii) provide evidence of such repayments to Carmine Costa, Director, Consumer Credit Division (“Division”) of the Department of Banking (“Department”).  (Dept. Ex. 1.)
6. The Notice was sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to Respondent.  (Tr. at 4, 9-10; Dept. Exs.1, 2 and 3.)
7. On December 15, 2014, Attorney Benjamin Horton requested a hearing on the Notice on behalf of Respondent.  (Tr. at 4, 10; Dept. Exs. 4, 5.)
8. On December 19, 2014, the Commissioner issued a Notification of Hearing and Designation of Hearing Officer stating that the hearing would be held on January 8, 2015, at 10 a.m. (“Hearing”), at the Department and appointing Attorney Paul A. Bobruff as Hearing Officer.  The Notification of Hearing and Designation of Hearing Officer also stated that the attorney representing the Department is Doniel Kitt, Principal Attorney.  (Dept. Ex. 5.)
9. On December 22, 2014, the Notification of Hearing and Designation of Hearing Officer was mailed to Respondent by first-class mail.  (Dept. Ex. 5.)
10. On January 5, 2015, the Hearing scheduled for January 8, 2015, was continued to February 3 due to the unavailability of the Division’s witnesses.  (Tr. at 4, 8, 10; Dept. Ex. 6.)
11. On January 30, 2015, the Hearing Officer continued the Hearing to February 25, 2015.  (Tr. at 8; Dept. Ex. 6.)
12. On February 25, 2015, a Hearing was held at the Department.  Attorney Kitt represented the Division, and Benjamin Horton, Esq. (“Horton”), appeared on behalf of Respondent as an officer of Respondent.  (Tr. at 4-5, 10, 71.)
13.
The Hearing was conducted in accordance with Chapter 54 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, the “Uniform Administrative Procedure Act”, and the Department’s contested case regulations, Sections 36a-1-19 to 36a-1-57, inclusive, of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.  (Tr. at 6; Dept. Exs. 1, 5.)
14.  Respondent is a Utah professional limited liability company, registered with the State of Utah on October 26, 2011, with a principal place of business at 2825 E. Cottonwood Parkway, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, Utah 84121.  (Tr. at 4, 11-12, 6; Dept. Ex. 7.)
15.
At all times relevant hereto, Horton was the attorney and manager for Respondent.  Horton is also the registered agent for Respondent.  He is an attorney and member of the Utah State Bar, but Horton is not a member of the State of Connecticut Bar.  (Tr. at 4-5; Dept. Exs. 4, 7, 8.)
16. In July 2013, a Connecticut resident (“Borrower”) responded to a radio advertisement that he heard for a company that could negotiate a loan modification for mortgage loans for people who were struggling to make their mortgage payments by calling the telephone number provided in the advertisement.  (Tr. at 18-20, 107, 128.)
17.  The Borrower had a first and second mortgage loan secured by real estate located in Connecticut.  The Borrower’s first and second mortgage loans were both held by the same entity (“Mortgagee”).  (Tr. at 47-48.)
18.  The Borrower called the telephone number provided in the radio advertisement and spoke with Rivera (first name omitted) about his mortgage loans.  The Borrower understood Rivera to be a representative that handled the initial intake of the Borrower for Respondent.  Rivera did not inform the Borrower that he was not employed by Respondent or that any other entity other than Respondent would be involved in seeking a loan modification for the Borrower.  (Tr. at 19-20, 22, 45-46, 49, 83-84.)
19.  Rivera helped determine whether individuals with a mortgage loan were qualified to seek a loan modification but he did not deal directly with lenders.  (Tr. at 89, 107, 137.)
20. Respondent asserted that Rivera was not employed by Respondent, but was an employee of Modification Review Board, LLC (“MRB”), and that MRB’s role was to determine if someone is qualified for a mortgage loan modification.  MRB did not contact the Mortgagee. (Tr. at 89, 106.)
21. On July 21, 2013, Vasquez (first name omitted), a legal assistant for Respondent, contacted the Borrower and told him that she was the Processor assigned to his case.  In electronic communication sent by the legal assistant to the Borrower, the legal assistant identified her position as “Legal Assistant, Preferred Law, PLLC”.  She provided the Borrower with a list of documents that she needed the Borrower to gather for his application in order to continue working on the Borrower’s case and get “you placed in review with your lender”, and attached forms, including a “Borrower’s Authorization”, that she requested be returned “within 48 hours if possible, so I am able to get started on your modification” and provided the Borrower with a blue-print for the loan modification stages.  (Resp. Ex. A.)
22.
The July 21, 2013 communication from Vasquez specifically advised the Borrower that:
To help provide a blue-print for the stages, we will be going through the next steps as follows:
1.  PRE-STAGE (Collect your documents and items and send via facsimile or overnight a cease & desist order to your lender.)
Must have the borrowers authorization form to send the cease and desist.  It takes up to 72 hours for the lender to process the request.
2.  QUALIFIED WRITTEN REQUEST-STAGE- (Specific instructions that we have provided to your lender to follow the proper loan program setup for your situation.  Lender has up to 30-days to comply.)
3.  INTERNAL AUDIT STAGE- 10-15 Business days (Preferred Law auditor details your income, expenses, documents that we will use for your file.).
4.  PREP-STAGE 10-15 Business days- (Preferred Law processor reviews the setup to double-check for correctness and packages your file in 1 complete packet to send via facsimile or overnight to lender and confirm it with lender that it has been received.  The lender has up to 5-7 business days to assign to a representative.)
5.  LENDER REVIEW-STAGE (Lender goes through loan program guideline procedure step by step.  Lender has up to 90-days to comply.)  Negotiator team should contact within approximately 5 business days after a lender representative is assigned to the file.
(Resp. Ex. A.)
 
23. Respondent and the Borrower’s lender are the only entities indentified in the July 21, 2013 blue-print for the stages as having roles in the loan modification process.   The blue-print steps omit any mention of another entity requesting a loan modification on behalf of the Borrower or the involvement of a separate mortgage assistance relief service.  (Tr. at 4, 20, 47; Resp. Ex. A.)
24. On or about August 1, 2013, the Borrower executed a “Borrower(s) Authorization” printed on Respondent’s letterhead which includes Respondent’s logo on the top of the page (“Authorization”).  The Authorization appointed “Preferred Law PLLC, acting by and through its employees, staff and agents, as the authorized agents of the undersigned [Borrower], and to negotiate and act on behalf of the undersigned with respect to avoiding foreclosure of the following real property:  [Borrower’s residence in Connecticut.]”  (Tr. at 4, 18-19, 125; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
25.
The Authorization specifically authorized Respondent, acting by and through its employees, staff and agents, to:
1. Communicate with . . . [Borrower’s] creditors, home lender and financial institutions to obtain any and all information regarding . . . [Borrower’s] accounts or debts that . . . [Borrower] may owe . . . to allow . . . [Respondent] to evaluate and formulate settlement, modification relief services, or payment offers on . . . [Borrower’s] behalf, [and]
2. Make good faith settlement or payment offers on . . . [Borrower’s] behalf.
(Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
 
26. The Authorization also listed individuals who are “authorized REPRESENTATIVES” of Respondent, including:  Horton, Attorney; Hanley; Collins; Moncayo; and Moncayo (first names omitted) and provided one telephone number where all of the individuals listed as authorized representatives of Respondent, including Horton, could be reached. (Tr. at 115; Dept. Ex. 10.)
27. Some of the individuals listed in the Authorization as authorized representatives of Respondent worked on Borrower’s loan modification.  (Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Ex. A.)
28. On August 9, 2013, Moncayo (“Moncayo”) contacted the Borrower electronically, identifying himself as the Borrower’s case manager and informed the Borrower that the Borrower’s file was in his office and that he would be overseeing the Borrower’s case for the remainder of the modification process.  Moncayo also informed the Borrower that if the Borrower had any other issues that were not clarified by the Borrower’s processor, that the Borrower could contact him at the e-mail address, fmg@preferredlawteam.com.  (Resp. Ex. A.)
29. Respondent contends that Moncayo is a liaison between a Utah not-for-profit corporation named American Home Loan Counselors (“American”) and Respondent, and that he was an employee of American.  Respondent acknowledged that it paid for the loan modification work that Moncayo performed on the Borrower’s file, but claims that it paid American, not individuals, for this work, and that Respondent’s payment for the work performed was done gratuitously.  (Tr. at 88, 94, 101-102, 117-120.)
30. Moncayo and other individuals identified themselves as employees of Respondent, and did not mention or identify American, in their communications with the Borrower or Mortgagee regarding the Borrower’s loan.  Moncayo specifically identified himself to the Borrower as “Case Manager Preferred Law, PLLC” and Collins identified herself in an e-mail to Borrower as Respondent’s Negotiation Manager.  (Tr. at 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 33, 41, 45, 49, 69, 77-78, 83-84; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Ex. A.)
31. Moncayo assisted the Borrower in completing the application process and submitting all the required paperwork to Respondent prior to Respondent’s submitting it to the Mortgagee.  (Tr. at 26, 39-40; Dept. Ex. 14; Resp. Ex. A.)
32. The Borrower was not aware of any entity other than Respondent performing any work on his loan modification.  (Tr. at 21-22, 27-31, 48-49, 83-84; Dept. Exs.10, 14, 16; Resp. Ex. A.)
33. The Borrower submitted all of the required paperwork, including the Authorization and Hardship Letter requesting assistance in the form of a loan modification, to Moncayo, Preferred Law, PLLC.  (Tr. at 21, 32-42; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
34. On August 15, 2013, Respondent transmitted correspondence via facsimile to the Mortgagee which consisted of a two page letter on Respondent’s letterhead from Benjamin R. Horton, Attorney, Preferred Law, PLLC and a Qualified Written Request, which was also on Respondent’s letterhead from Benjamin R. Horton, Attorney, Preferred Law, PLLC.  The Qualified Written Request also listed “Enclosures-LM Package”.  (Tr. at 81, 102-103; Dept. Ex. 16; Resp. Ex. D.)
35. The August 15, 2013 correspondence from Respondent to the Mortgagee indicated, among other things, that the Respondent represented the Borrower regarding the referenced property loan and enclosed the formal verification of Respondent’s authority to represent the Borrower in this matter.  Respondent’s facsimile  stated that “Preferred Law, PLLC makes this request pursuant to federal law, only including the Truth in Lending Act, (TILA) 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et. seq., the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), codified as Title 12 § 2605 (e)(1)(B)(e) and Reg. X §3500.21(f)(2) of the United States Code.”  The August 15, 2013 correspondence from Respondent also stated that Borrower would likely be requesting a loan modification through MRB, but went on to state that “Modification Review Board is requesting this loan modification on behalf of Borrower”.  The August 15, 2013 facsimile from Respondent to the Mortgagee also included a Qualified Written Request.  (Tr. at 102-103; Dept. Ex. 16; Resp. Ex. D.)
36. Despite Respondent’s reference to MRB requesting the loan modification on behalf of the Borrower in the August 15, 2013 correspondence to the Mortgagee, MRB had no role in contacting the Mortgagee regarding a loan modification. (Tr. at 33-42, 47-49, 88-89, 112-115; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Exs. A, D.)
37. On August 23, 2013, Moncayo advised the Borrower that he had completed a financial review of the Borrower and that they needed to reduce the Borrower’s expenses and show at least Three Hundred Dollars ($300) in disposable income in order to receive an offer a loan modification and provided the Borrower with a couple of suggestions on how to reduce his expenses.  (Tr. at 24-26; Dept. Ex. 14; Resp. Ex. A.)
38. On August 29, 2013, Moncayo advised the Borrower that he had figured out how to submit the Borrower’s expenses to the Mortgagee.  (Tr. at 25-31; Dept. Ex. 14.)
39. On September 5, 2013, Respondent sent the Mortgagee sixty-two pages by Facsimile, including a one page facsimile cover sheet on Respondent’s letterhead.  The facsimile cover sheet stated in part “[a]ttached is the Loan Modification Submission for . . . [Borrower] Loan Number . . . .  Please consider for the Home Affordable Program “HAMP”.”  (Identifying information redacted.)  The Borrower did not submit anything directly to the Mortgagee (Tr. 34-38; Dept. Exs. 10, 15.)
40. All of the documents submitted by Respondent to the Mortgagee on September 5, 2013, with the exception of the facsimile cover sheet, were provided by the Borrower to Respondent.  The documents included the Authorization, Request for Modification Assistance Form, Dodd-Frank Certification, Hardship letter, Tax information, Pay Stubs, Bank account statements, Home Owners Association Statement Letter, a Monthly Income Worksheet, and Monthly Expenses Worksheet.  (Tr. at 32-34, 37-38, 112-113; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
41. The Documents sent to the Moortgagee regarding the Borrower’s loan modification request were on Respondent’s letterhead and representatives that contacted the Mortgagee on behalf of the Borrower were identified as representatives of Respondent.  (Tr. at 37, 47, 78-79, 112, 125-126; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Ex. D.)
42. The documents, e-mail messages and facsimiles sent to the Borrower and the Mortgagee regarding the Borrower’s loan and loan modification, all identify themselves as being sent by Respondent and do not mention American.  The Mortgagee and Borrower addressed their communications regarding the Borrower’s loan and loan modification to Respondent and not to American or MRB.  (Tr. at 20-22, 37-42, 49, 69-70, 77-78, 81, 83-85, 125-126; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Exs. A, D.)
43. On September 11, 2013, Moncayo notified the Borrower that “we submitted the package to your lender on Friday 9/06/2013 and we already confirmed that it has been received.”  (Tr. at 93; Resp. Ex. A.)
44. On September16, 2013, the Mortgagee responded via facsimile to Respondent’s September 5, 2013 correspondence to the Mortgagee concerning the Borrowers account.  The Mortgagee sent the facsimile to Respondent “PREFERRED LAW Attn: . . . Vasquez” (Respondent’s paralegal) utilizing the facsimile number provided by Respondent.  The letter identified the Borrower and his loan with the Mortgagee and stated that “[t]he loan modification request and updated documents were forwarded to the appropriate department for review.”  The letter also provided the numbers of two of the Mortgagee’s Account Representatives who could be contacted directly for assistance.  (Ex. 15.)
45. On October 8, 2013, the Mortgagee sent approval of a Trial Period Plan for a modification of the Borrower’s first mortgage loan to the Borrower.  (Tr. at 96; Resp. Ex. C.)
46. On October 16, 2013, the Morgtagee’s approval of a Trial Period Plan for a modification of the Borrower’s first mortgage loan was faxed to Respondent.  (Tr. at 96; Resp. Ex. C.)
47. The Qualified Written Request submitted to the Mortgageer by Respondent was instrumental in the Borrower’s obtaining the loan modification Trial Period Plan.  (Tr. at 103; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16; Resp. Ex. D.)
48. Moncayo contacted the Borrower and discussed the Trial Period Plan offered by the Mortgagee with the Borrower.  (Resp. Ex. A.)
49. Respondent does not have a Fee and Representation Agreement signed by the Borrower.  (Tr. at 20, 61-64, 72-74, 124, 135-138; Resp. Ex. E.)
50. The Borrower did not have any agreement with American, MRB, or any other non-profit mortgage relief service company regarding Borrower’s loan modification.  The Borrower did not pay any fee to American or MRB.  (Tr. at 18-20, 125-138; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
51. The only agreement the Borrower signed regarding modification of his mortgage loans was the Borrower(s) Authorization he signed for Respondent.  (Tr. at 18-20, 125-138; Dept. Exs. 10, 15, 16.)
52. Respondent does not have a contract with American or MRB.  Horton is listed a manager of American along with Hanley and another manager.  (Tr. at 119-120, 130, 135-138.)
53. Respondent paid for the loan modification work that was done on behalf of the Borrower by its representatives and agents.  Respondent acknowledged that it paid for the loan modification work performed on the Borrower’s file, but claims that it paid American and not the individuals who performed the work.  Respondent also claimed that its payment for the loan modification work performed on behalf of the Borrower was not contractually obligated but was done gratuitously.  Respondent indicated that it was the only source of funding for MRB and American and that it provided funds to MRB and American for wages.  (Tr. at 88, 94, 101-102, 117-120, 128-129.)
54. Respondent wanted to create an atmosphere in which a loan modification could take place by having its logo appear on documents relating to the loan modification and having Moncayo, and other individuals working on the loan modification, state that they are a representative of Respondent, in order to get the Mortgagee to negotiate a loan modification.  Respondent’s letterhead appeared on documents sent to the Mortgagee seeking modification of the Borrower’s loans and this resulted in the Mortgagee responding quickly to the loan modification request and getting the process streamlined.  (Tr. at 78-81, 85-87.)
55. Individuals working on the Borrower’s loan modification made chronological processing entries regarding the work they performed on the Borrower’s loan modification.  The employees that identified their employer in the processing entries identify their employer as Respondent.  There are no entries which identify anyone working on the loan modification as an employee of American or MRB.  (Tr. at 93-94; Resp. Ex. A.)
56. In connection with the Authorization, the Borrower paid Respondent a total payment of Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600).  (Tr. at 22, 124.)
57. Respondent has not refunded the Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600) in fees that it has received from the Borrower.  (Tr. at 140.)
58. Respondent has never been licensed to engage or offer to engage in debt negotiation in this state, nor did Respondent qualify for an exemption from such licensure.  (Tr. at 57-58, 12-16; Dept. Exs. 8, 9, 11, 12.)
59. At no time has American or MRB been licensed to engage or offer to engage in debt negotiation in this state.  (Tr. at 117.)
60. On June 4, 2014, the Commissioner received a complaint filed by Borrower about the Respondent.  The Borrower indicated in his complaint that he had only received a modification offer for his primary mortgage and that no modification offer was made for the second mortgage.  (Tr. at 52-53, 96-97; Dept. Ex. 17.)
61. On July 15, 2014, as part of the Department’s Investigation, a Department employee contacted a representative of Respondent through the live chat function on Respondent’s website identified as “Preferred Law Team Live Chat”.  The Department employee represented that she was a Connecticut resident searching for an organization that helps individuals save their home.  She inquired “I live in Connecticut would your firm still be able to possible help me in getting a modification” and the response she received was that “We represent clients throughout the United States.”  (Tr. at 54-55; Dept. Ex. 18.)
62. Respondent’s website Prefferedlaw.com contained success stories of individuals, which included two individuals from Connecticut, which the employee printed out as part of the Department’s Investigation.  The first entry under Connecticut states “New $1,114,42, Old $1271.57 ($835.49 is P&I only), a difference of $257.15.  File will be brought current.  Current past due is $23,528.98 with 18 payments behind.”  The second entry under Connecticut, which is not entirely readable, states Jason received a modification and that his payment was reduced to $673.24.  The second entry included a link to a letter from a lender to a borrower located in Connecticut in which the lender offered the borrower an FHA Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) trial plan.  There is no mention of any entity involved in negotiating the loan modification.  Neither entry refers to any payment for any services or any entity besides Respondent.  (Tr. at 55; Dept. Ex. 19.)
63. Respondent’s website Prefferedlaw.com also contained links to documentation, which the Department employee also printed out, including a Borrower(s) Authorization of Preferred Law on Respondent’s letterhead, a Dodd-Frank Certification, Payment Form Update, Request for Transcript of tax Return Form 4506, Making Home Affordable Program Hardship Affidavit and a form to help write hardship letter.  (Tr. at 56-57; Dept. Ex. 20.)
64. The Borrower(s) Authorization obtained through Respondent’s website used Respondent’s letterhead and included most of the same individuals listed as authorized representatives of Respondent as the Authorization signed by Borrower, including Horton and Moncayo and Jonathan Hanley.  This Borrower(s) Authorization on Respondent’s website also provided one phone number where all of the individuals listed as authorized representatives of Respondent could be reached.  (Tr. at 57; Dept. Ex. 20.)
65. On June 12, 2014, the Department sent Respondent a letter advising that it may be engaged in debt negotiation activity in this state without the license required.  (Tr. at 12-13; Dept. Ex. 8.)
66. On June 23, 2014 Horton responded to the June 12, 2014 letter on behalf of Respondent, indicating that the Borrower is mistaken as to the scope of Respondent’s services and that the Borrower was never charged for “debt negotiation” services as defined in Section 36a-671(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes. (Tr. at 12-13; Dept. Ex. 8.)
67. On July 16, 2014, the Department sent Respondent a letter responding to the June 23, 2014 letter, which explained that documents submitted to the Mortgagee on the Borrower’s behalf indicated that Respondent was indeed assisting the Borrower in negotiating the terms of his residential property in hopes of saving his home, a service that the Borrower paid for, thus falling under the definition of “debt negotiation” (Tr. at 13; Dept. Ex. 9.)
68. On September 8, 2014, Horton responded to the July 16, 2014 letter on behalf of Respondent, asserting that Respondent had previously allowed a non-profit mortgage relief service company to use its fax numbers to submit documentation to the lenders.  Respondent indicated that this created a misunderstanding regarding the scope of Respondents services, which Respondent claimed were detailed in the fee agreement and Respondent also claimed that it did not submit the “Loan Modification Submission” on behalf of the Borrower.  Respondent indicated that the Department was correct in how the “Borrower’s Authorization” form previously read.  Respondent indicated that this matter has been corrected and that no “Borrower’s Authorization” forms come through the law office and have ceased allowing the use of letterhead on the “Borrower’s Authorization” form.  Respondent also asserted that it never received a fee for “debt negotiation” services, which Respondent contended were contractually barred by a Fee and Representation Agreement.  (Tr. at 14; Dept. Ex. 11.)
69. On September 25, 2014, the Department sent Respondent a letter in response to the September 8, 2014 letter, indicating that it had taken Respondent’s responses into consideration, but that the Respondent was the only entity identified in the documentation submitted to the Borrower and Borrower’s mortgage service company and that Respondent’s websites highlighted success stories of other Connecticut consumers, whom Respondent was able to help get a loan modification, contradicting statements made in Respondent’s correspondence.  The Department gave Respondent a final opportunity to refund of the Borrower’s payment and provide the explanations requested in the Department’s letter.  The Department requested that Respondent explain why respondent should not be considered the party that submitted the Borrower’s “Loan Modification Submission” which was transmitted with a fax cover sheet on Respondent’s Letterhead.  The Department also requested that Respondent address what fee agreement the “non-profit mortgage relief company” used, requested Respondent provide a copy of the fee agreement that the Borrower executed with Respondent and that the Borrower executed with the “non-profit mortgage relief service company.  The Department also requested the date that Respondent ceased allowing the mortgage relief company to use its letterhead, evidence of the refund made to the Borrower and a listing of all other Connecticut consumers that have entered into similar contracts with or are represented by Respondent.  (Tr. at 14; Dept. Ex. 12.)
70.
A maximum civil penalty of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,0000 could be imposed upon Respondent based on each violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, engaging in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license.  At the Hearing, the Division requested a civil penalty of Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) be imposed on Respondent based on the violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes with respect to Respondent’s activities in the case of the Borrower.  The Division also requested a civil penalty of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) be imposed for each person listed on the website as being from Connecticut.  (Tr. at 145-146; Dept. Ex 1.)
 

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW 
 
Jurisdiction and Procedure

The Commissioner has jurisdiction over the licensing and regulation of debt negotiators pursuant to Sections 36a-671 to 36a-671e, inclusive, of the General Statutes of Connecticut contained in Part II of Chapter 669 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, “Debt Adjusters and Debt Negotiation”.  The Notice issued by the Commissioner comported with the requirements of Section 4-177(b) of Chapter 54 of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Notice complied with the notice requirements of Sections 36a-50(a) [civil penalty], 36a-50(c) [restitution order], 36a-52(b) [temporary order to cease and desist] and 36a-52(a) [cease and desist order] of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Respondent received notice of the hearing and appeared at the Hearing that was held at the Department on February 25, 2015.
 
The Commissioner’s broad regulatory authority includes the power to impose civil penalties pursuant to Section 36a-50(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, to issue an order to make restitution pursuant to Section 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, and to issue orders to cease and desist pursuant to Section 36a-52 of the General Statutes of Connecticut.
 
Section 36a-50 of the General Statutes of Connecticut provides, in pertinent part, that:
(a)(1)  Whenever the commissioner finds as the result of an investigation that any person has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner . . . the commissioner may send a notice to such person by . . . certified mail, return receipt requested . . . .  The notice shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such notice shall include:  (A) A statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing; (B) a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held; (C) a reference to the particular sections of the general statutes . . . alleged to have been violated; (D) a short and plain statement of the matters asserted; (E) the maximum penalty that may be imposed for such violation; and (F) a statement indicating that such person may file a written request for a hearing on the matters asserted not later than fourteen days of receipt of the notice.
(2)  If a hearing is requested within the time specified in the notice, the commissioner shall hold a hearing upon the matters asserted in the notice unless such person fails to appear at the hearing.  After the hearing, if the commissioner finds that the person has violated any such provision . . . the commissioner may, in the commissioner’s discretion and in addition to any other remedy authorized by law, order that a civil penalty not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars per violation be imposed upon such person. . . .
(3)  Each action undertaken by the commissioner under this subsection shall be in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.
 . . . .
(c)  Whenever the commissioner finds as the result of an investigation that any person has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner . . . the commissioner may, in addition to any other remedy authorized by law, order such person to (1) make restitution of any sums shown to have been obtained in violation of any such provision . . . plus interest at the legal rate set forth in section 37-1 . . . .  After the commissioner issues such an order, the person named in the order may, not later than fourteen days after the receipt of such order, file a written request for a hearing.  The order shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such hearing shall be held in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.
Section 36a-52(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut provides, in pertinent part, that:
Whenever it appears to the commissioner that any person has violated, is violating or is about to violate any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner . . . the commissioner may send a notice to such person by . . . certified mail, return receipt requested . . . .  The notice shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt, or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such notice shall include:  (1) A statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing; (2) a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held; (3) a reference to the particular sections of the general statutes . . . alleged to have been violated; (4) a short and plain statement of the matters asserted; and (5) a statement indicating that such person may file a written request for a hearing on the matters asserted within fourteen days of receipt of the notice.  If a hearing is requested within the time specified in the notice, the commissioner shall hold a hearing upon the matters asserted in the notice, unless the person fails to appear at the hearing.  After the hearing, the commissioner shall determine whether an order to cease and desist should be issued against the person named in the notice. . . . No such order shall be issued except in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.
 
Violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes
 
Section 36a-671 of the General Statutes of Connecticut provides, in pertinent part, that:
(a) As used in this section and sections 36a-671a to 36a-671e, inclusive, (1) “debt negotiation” means, for or with the expectation of a fee, commission or other valuable consideration, assisting a debtor in negotiating or attempting to negotiate on behalf of a debtor the terms of a debtor’s obligations with one or more mortgagees or creditors of the debtor . . . (2) “debtor” means any individual who has incurred indebtedness or owes a debt for personal, family or household purposes . . . (4) “mortgagor” means a debtor who is an owner of residential property, including, but not limited to, a single-family unit in a common interest community, who is also the borrower under a mortgage encumbering such residential property . . . and (7) “residential property” means one-to-four family owner-occupied real property.
(b)  No person shall engage or offer to engage in debt negotiation in this state without a license issued under this section for each location where debt negotiation will be conducted. . . .  A person is engaging in debt negotiation in this state if such person . . . (2) has a place of business located outside of this state and the debtor is a resident of this state who negotiates or agrees to the terms of the services in person, by mail, by telephone or via the Internet; or (3) has its place of business located outside of this state and the services concern a debt that is secured by property located within this state.
Section 36a-671a(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut provides, in pertinent part, that:
Whenever it appears to the commissioner that any person has violated, is violating or is about to violate the provisions of sections 36a-671 to 36a-671e, inclusive . . . the commissioner may take action against such person . . . in accordance with sections 36a-50 and 36a-52.  For purposes of sections 36a-671 to 36a-671e, inclusive, each engagement and each offer to engage in debt negotiation shall constitute a separate violation.
There is substantial evidence in the record that Respondent engaged in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license.  The record reveals that Respondent represented the Borrower, a Connecticut resident, in the modification of the Borrower’s mortgage loan pursuant to a signed “Borrower(s) Authorization” and that Respondent was paid by the Borrower for these services.  The Borrower in this case relied exclusively on Respondent to negotiate with the Mortgagee to obtain a modification of his mortgage loan.  The Borrower paid and authorized Respondent, directly and through its employees, staff and agents as the authorized agents of the Borrower, to, among other things, evaluate and formulate settlement, modification relief services, or payment offers on Borrowers behalf and to make good faith settlement or payment offers on Borrowers behalf.
 
Respondent argued that it did not engage in debt negotiation as that term is defined in Section 36a-671(a)(1) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  Respondent asserted that:  (1) the activities it engaged in on behalf of the Borrower and for which it was paid do not constitute debt negotiation because it did not assist the debtor in negotiating or attempting to negotiate on behalf of the debtor the terms of a debtor’s obligations with one or more mortgagees or creditors of the Borrower; (2) that it did not receive a fee for debt negotiation from the Borrower and (3) the debt negotiation services that were performed on behalf of the Borrower were performed by a separate legal entity and there was no expectation of a fee, commission or other valuable consideration for providing these debt negotiation services to the Borrower.
 
Respondent claimed that its business model was to contract with debtors to represent the debtors regarding their residential property loan pursuant to Federal Law and make requests of various mortgage lenders pursuant to Federal Law.  Respondent claimed that it was only paid by debtors to analyze the case, prepare documents and speak with the debtor’s lender or entity servicing the debtor’s account as provided in a Fee and Representation Agreement, and that this agreement excluded debt negotiation.  Respondent claimed that the Borrower executed a Fee and Representation Agreement which prohibited Respondent from performing loan modification work.  Respondent contended that American was the entity that actually assisted the Borrower in the negotiation of the terms of his debt obligations with the Lender and that Respondent gratuitously paid American for the loan modification work that was done by American’s employees on behalf of the Borrower.
 
Respondent contended that documents relating to the loan modification appeared on Respondent’s letterhead and individuals that contacted the Mortgagee regarding the Borrower’s loan modification identified themselves as representatives of Respondent in order to get the Mortgagee to respond quickly to the loan modification request and get the process streamlined.  Respondent asserted that it could not have submitted a Qualified Written Request and then have the Mortgagee working with another entity, because it would have confused the Mortgagee’s system and hurt their client because the whole application would have been in jeopardy based on such confusion.  Respondent provided this as the reason why Respondent’s logo was there, which prevented the application from being rejected because there were two different entities cited.  Respondent also asserted that its job was to create an atmosphere in which a loan modification could take place and in order to do that, things like Respondent’s logo had to appear on a document, and Moncayo had to identify himself as a representative of Respondent, because there was no other way to get the Mortgagee to come to the table.
 
The record reveals that Respondent was retained by a Connecticut resident to engage in debt negotiation services on his behalf and was paid for such debt negotiation services.  After the Borrower responded to a radio advertisement and had has initial contact with a person he believed to be a representative of Respondent, the Borrower was contacted by a legal assistant for Respondent.  She provided the Borrower with a list of documents to return including the Authorization which the Borrower executed.  The Authorization is the only agreement in the record that was executed by the Borrower.  The Authorization appointed and authorized Respondent, acting by and through its employees, staff and agents, to evaluate and formulate settlement, modification relief services, or payment offers on Borrowers behalf and to make good faith settlement or payment offers on Borrowers behalf.  While Respondent may have delegated functions to authorized representatives and paid for their services, all of the activity related to the debt negotiation services on behalf of the Borrower was identified as originating from Respondent.
 
The documents transmitted to the Mortgagee are identified as coming from either Respondent or the Borrower.  Respondent and its agents used Respondent’s letterhead and logo in correspondence with the Mortgagee regarding modification of the Borrower’s loan, representing to the Lenders that Respondent is negotiating the loan modification on behalf of the Borrower.  The Qualified Written Request from Respondent sent by Respondent to the Mortgagee on the Borrower’s behalf indicates that the Borrower retained the law firm and MRB to assist the Borrower in seeking mortgage relief.  The Qualified Written Request from Respondent also stated that MRB is requesting this loan modification of behalf of the Borrower.  Despite Respondent’s reference to MRB requesting the loan modification on behalf of the Borrower in its August 15, 2013 correspondence to the Mortgagee, the record reveals that MRB had no role in contacting the Mortgagee regarding a loan modification.
 
The record does not support Respondent’s assertion that it was American and not Respondent that represented the Borrower in the loan modification.  All of the contacts regarding the Borrower’s loan modification were between Respondent’s representatives and the Mortgagee and did not reference American.  In addition, all of the correspondence from the Mortgagee regarding the loan modification was sent to Respondent or the Borrower, but not to MRB or American.  The name “American Home Loan Counselors” never appears in any of the documents between the Mortgagee, Borrower or Respondent relating to the Borrower’s mortgage loans.  The individual that Respondent claims was only a liaison between Respondent and American was identified in documents as an authorized Representative of Respondent and he identified his position as case manager for Respondent.  There are no documents in the record identifying him as an employee of American.
 
There is no evidence that the Borrower executed a Fee and Representation Agreement, which Respondent claims governed the services it provided to the Borrower and for which the Borrower paid Respondent.  Respondent did not introduce an executed Fee and Representation Agreement, claiming it could not locate it.  The Borrower did not have any agreement with either MRD or American.  The Borrower believed that that he was dealing only with Respondent.  Individuals that Respondent asserted are not employees of Respondent identified themselves in writing to the Borrower as having job titles with Respondent and were identified in writing to the Mortgagee as authorized representatives of Respondent.  The e-mails that that the Borrower received from these individuals, which identified an employee’s job title, indicated that they were employees of Respondent.  In addition, there are no agreements documenting a relationship between Respondent, MRB or American, who Respondent claims actually performed negotiations with the Mortgagee.
 
The Borrower paid Respondent Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600) in fees in connection with the Borrower’s loan modification.  While the Respondent contends that these fees were for other services and that Respondent did not attempt to negotiate a modification of the Borrower’s mortgage loans with the Mortgagee on the Borrower’s behalf, the record reveals that Respondent indicated in its letter to the Mortgagee that a Loan Modification was being sought, and communications with the Mortgagee regarding the loan modification appear to originate from the Respondent.  Respondent claims that all loan modification work was done by a third party gratuitously, but Respondent paid individuals, who identified themselves as employees of Respondent and are listed in the Authorization as Respondent’s representatives, authorized to perform the loan modification work on behalf of the Borrower.  The Borrower did not have any agreement with any other party to represent him in negotiating his debt.  The record supports the conclusion that Respondent received payment for assisting the Borrower in negotiating on behalf of the Borrower the terms of Borrower’s mortgage loan with the Mortgagee.
 
In conclusion, Respondent’s activities, accepting money from the Borrower, and obtaining authorization to evaluate and formulate settlement, modification relief services, or payment offers on the Borrower’s behalf, as well as making good faith settlement or payments offers on Borrower’s behalf, constitutes assisting a debtor in negotiating or attempting to negotiate on behalf of a debtor the terms of a debtor’s obligations with a mortgagee of the debtor in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  While Respondent contends that it did not perform these services, all communications regarding the debt negotiation appear to originate from Respondent and its authorized representatives.  Respondent acknowledges that the Mortgagee responded quickly with a reduction in the Borrower’s monthly loan payment because there was an attorney logo on top of the document and that it was necessary for Respondent’s name to appear on communications with the Mortgagee to get the Mortgagee to respond quickly.  The Mortgagee responded to Respondent, and not American or MRB, regarding the loan modification.  Respondent concedes that its activities were instrumental in obtaining the Trial Period Modification for the Borrower.
 
The Department also contended that the inclusion of two individuals from Connecticut listed on Respondent’s website, Prefferedlaw.com, constituted two additional violations of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut by engaging in debt negotiation services while Respondent had not obtained the required license.  While the entries contain information that two individuals in Connecticut received loan modifications that reduced their payments, the only information regarding the two Borrowers is the first name and the modifications to the loan that they received.  There is no information regarding the role Respondents took in the loan modification process and any fees that were paid to Respondent.  Therefore, the record is insufficient to establish that Respondent was retained by two additional Connecticut residents to engage in debt negotiation services on their behalf and that Respondent was paid for such debt negotiation services.
 

Imposition of Civil Penalty and Restitution pursuant to
Sections 36a-50(a) and 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut
 
Subject to a respondent’s right to request a hearing on the matters alleged, Section 36a-50(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut authorizes the Commissioner to issue a notice of intent to impose a civil penalty of up to One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation where the commissioner finds as the result of an investigation that any person has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner, or any regulation, rule or order adopted or issued thereunder.
 
Section 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut authorizes the Commissioner to order that any person that the Commissioner finds as the result of an investigation has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner, or any regulation, rule or order adopted or issued under such provisions, make restitution of any sums shown to have been obtained in violation of any such provision, regulation, rule or order plus interest at the legal rate set forth in section 37-1. 
 
The legislature has delegated the regulation of the debt negotiation industry to the Commissioner.  See Section 36a–671 et seq. of the Connecticut General Statutes.  The Commissioner sought statutory authority to regulate the debt negotiation industry in 2009 because of serious problems in the debt negotiation industry and Sections 36a–671 et seq., was intended to update and increase the power of the [c]ommissioner to try to protect people who find themselves in difficult times and dealing with these kinds of organizations.” (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.)  Persels & Associates, LLC v. Banking Com’r, 318 Conn. 652, 656, 122 A.3d 592, 595 (2015).  The debt negotiation statutes, on their face, are remedial in nature and include measures that protect consumers.  See, Persels and Assoc., LLC v. State Dep’t of Banking, No. HHBCV126017849S, 2014 WL 1717246, at *6 (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 28, 2014) (judgment reversed by Persels & Associates, LLC v. Banking Com’r, 318 Conn. 652, 122 A.3d 592 (2015).
 
The Commissioner has extensive power to enforce the State’s debt negotiation provisions.  Upon a debtor’s complaint, the Commissioner has the authority to conduct an investigation into a debt negotiation transaction and order a reduction of excess charges.  Section 36a-671a(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Commissioner may take action if he finds “that any person has violated, is violating or is about to violate the provisions of . . . [the debt negotiation statutes] or any licensee . . . has committed any fraud, misappropriated funds or failed to perform any agreement with a debtor . . . ”.  Section 36a-671a(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Commissioner may impose civil penalties of up to One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation of statutes within his jurisdiction pursuant to Section 36a-50(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut and may order restitution of any sums shown to have been obtained in violation of any statutes within his jurisdiction plus interest at the legal rate set forth in section 37-1 pursuant to Section 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.
 
The debt negotiation regulatory framework includes measures that protect consumers from improprieties by the debt negotiation industry.  Offering to engage or engaging in debt negotiation in Connecticut requires a license.  Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The Commissioner may only approve a license if he finds that the applicant’s “financial responsibility, character, reputation, integrity and general fitness . . . are such as to warrant belief that the business will be operated soundly and efficiently, in the public interest and consistent with” the debt negotiation statutes, and that “the applicant is solvent and no proceeding in bankruptcy, receivership or assignment for the benefit of creditors has been commenced against the applicant”.  Section 36a-671(d) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  Applicants and licensees are required to post a surety bond “conditioned upon the debt negotiation licensee . . . faithfully performing any and all written agreements or commitments with or for the benefit of debtors . . . truly and faithfully accounting for all funds received from a debtor . . . and conducting such business consistent with the provisions of . . . [the debt negotiation statutes].”  Section 36a-671d(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  Additionally, debt negotiation services contracts must include “a complete, detailed list of services to be performed, the costs of such services and the results to be achieved.”  Section 36a-671b(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  Each debt negotiation services contract must contain conspicuous language allowing consumers to rescind the contract within three business days after signing.  Section 36a-671b(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  Those that offer debt negotiation services must also abide by the fee schedule established by the Commissioner and may collect fees only after debt negotiation services have been fully performed.  Section 36a-671b(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.
 
The record shows that the Borrower paid Respondent Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600) in fees that it has received from the Borrower.  Respondent has not refunded the fees that it received from the Connecticut resident.
 
During the Hearing, evidence was presented concerning the appropriateness of the amount of the civil penalty and restitution.  Section 36a-50(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut gives the Commissioner discretion to order a civil penalty not exceeding One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation upon any person who has violated a law within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.  The Division is seeking a civil penalty of Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) based on the violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut with respect to Respondent’s activities in the case of the Borrower.  The Division also requested a civil penalty of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) be imposed for each person listed on the website as being from Connecticut.  The Division is also seeking restitution of the fees that Borrower paid Respondent.
 
As noted above, the record does not support a civil penalty based on the success stories included on Respondent’s website.  The Twenty-five Thousand Dollar ($25,000) civil penalty that the Division is seeking for the statutory violation in connection with the Borrower is substantially less than the statutory maximum penalty of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation of Section 36a-671 of the Connecticut General Statutes.  In addition, Respondent has not refunded the fees that it received from the Connecticut resident that it obtained in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut by engaging in debt negotiation services while Respondent had not obtained the required license.
 
The undersigned finds that the imposition of a civil penalty and an order of restitution are warranted based upon the record and the matters alleged in the Notice.  Future harm to Connecticut residents will be deterred through the imposition of a civil penalty against Respondent and, for those Connecticut residents who have already suffered financial loss as a result of Respondents’ conduct, an order to make restitution will serve to lessen such losses.  The Connecticut Supreme Court has stated that “[t]he assessment of civil penalties is a fact-specific and broadly discretionary determination.”  Rocque v. Light Sources, Inc., 275 Conn. 420, 450 (2005).  Respondent was retained by a Connecticut resident to engage in debt negotiation services on his behalf and was paid for such debt negotiation services while Respondent had not obtained the required license, which constitutes violations of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.  The amount of the civil penalty is based on the number and nature of the violation that occurred and the nature of the debt negotiation regulatory framework noted above.
 
Consequently, the undersigned finds that the imposition of a civil penalty of Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) and an order of restitution are warranted based upon the record.  The undersigned finds that (1) Respondent committed at least one violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut; and (2) sufficient grounds exist for the Commissioner to impose a civil penalty and issue an order to make restitution against Respondents pursuant to Sections 36a-671a(b), 36a-50(a) and 36a-50(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut.
 

ORDER

Having read the record, I hereby ORDER, pursuant to Sections 36a-671a(b), 36a-52(a) and 36a-50 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, that:

1. Preferred Law, PLLC CEASE AND DESIST from violating Section 36a-671(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut;
2. In accordance with Section 36a-52(b) of the General Statutes of Connecticut, the Temporary Order to Cease and Desist contained in the Notice shall no longer be in effect upon entry of an Order to Cease and Desist;
3.
THE ORDER TO MAKE RESTITUTION issued against Preferred Law, PLLC on December 2, 2014, shall be and is hereby made PERMANENT as follows:
 
a. Not later than thirty (30) days from the date this Order to Make Restitution becomes permanent, Preferred Law, PLLC $2,600 to the Connecticut resident identified in Exhibit A attached hereto and repay to any other Connecticut resident who entered into an agreement for debt negotiation services with Preferred Law, PLLC on and after October 1, 2009, any fees paid by such Connecticut resident to Preferred Law, PLLC, plus interest  Payments shall be made by cashier’s check, certified check or money order; and
b. Provide to Carmine Costa, Director, Consumer Credit Division, Department of Banking, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, Connecticut 06103-1800, or carmine.costa@ct.gov, evidence of such repayments, including a list of all Connecticut residents with whom Preferred Law, PLLC, has entered into agreements for debt negotiation services on and after October 1, 2009.  Such submission shall include:  (a) a copy of each agreement, and (b) a list of each debtor’s name and address and full itemization of each debtor’s payments made pursuant to the agreement, specifying the dates, amounts and to whom such payments were made;
4. A CIVIL PENALTY of Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) be imposed upon Preferred Law, PLLC, to be remitted to the Department of Banking by cashier’s check, certified check or money order, made payable to “Treasurer, State of Connecticut”, no later than thirty (30) days from the date the Order is mailed; and
5.
The Order shall become effective when mailed.
 

So ordered at Hartford, Connecticut
this 6th day of July 2016.                      ________/s/_________
                                                        Jorge L. Perez
                                                        Banking Commissioner


This Order was sent by certified mail, return
receipt requested, to Benjamin Horton, Esq.,
Preferred Law, PLLC; and hand-delivered
to John Mosychuk, Staff Attorney, State of
Connecticut Department of Banking
on July 6, 2016.


Benjamin Horton, Esq.                            Certified Mail No. 7012 3050 0000 6999 9994
Preferred Law, PLLC
2825 E. Cottonwood Parkway, Suite 500
Salt Lake City, Utah 84121


___________________________

* Parenthetical references relate to exhibits entered into the hearing record by the Department (“Dept. Ex.”), or by the Respondent (Resp. Ex.”).  Transcript (“Tr.”) pages reflect where an exhibit was entered into the record or where relevant testimony was given.


Administrative Orders and Settlements