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FTC Returns More than $3 Million to Businesses that Paid for HomeAdvisor Memberships, Announces Claims Process for Additional Refunds
In August 2023, the FTC approved a proposed consent order to resolve antitrust concerns surrounding Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.’s (ICE) proposed $13.1 billion acquisition of Black Knight, Inc. The proposed settlement ensures Black Knight’s divestiture of Empower and Optimal Blue, two businesses that provide critical services in the mortgage origination process. The FTC also secured other concessions to promote the success of the divested businesses. On November 3, 2023, the FTC approved the final consent order.
FTC Secures Settlement with ICE and Black Knight Resolving Antitrust Concerns in Mortgage Technology Deal
FTC Sending Refunds to Consumers who Invested in Deceptive Sanctuary Belize Real Estate Development Scheme Operated by Repeat Offender Andris Pukke
In November 2018, the FTC announced that a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted. According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice. The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. The FTC alleged that the defendants misled consumers when selling these lots, lying about how risky investments in the development were, how the development was funded, what would be done with money paid for lots, what amenities the development would have, the timeframe those amenities would be built, consumers’ ability to resell lots, and Andris Pukke’s involvement. Several defendants settled prior to the January 2020 trial.
In late August 2020, the district court issued its verdict, finding in favor of the FTC. In early 2021, the court issued final orders against Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, Luke Chadwick, John Usher, and the corporate defendants, limiting what types of business they can engage in moving forward and entering a $120.2 million judgment against them. The defendants appealed and largely lost. During the appeal, Luke Chadwick settled, turning over certain assets and agreeing to a modified order further limiting the types of business he can engage in. After the appeal, the district court entered an order confirming that Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, and John Usher must turn over $120.2 million as well as the corporate defendants and their assets to compensate their victims. In August 2023, the FTC sent approximately $10 million to consumer defrauded by the Sanctuary Belize investment scheme.
FTC Suit Leads to $16.7 Million Judgment Against Principals and Celebrity Endorsers of Real Estate Investment Training Program
As a result of a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection (DCP), the principals of a Utah-based real estate investment training company will pay $15 million and be banned from selling money-making opportunities under a court order they have agreed to. In addition, two of the primary real estate celebrities who endorsed the training have agreed to orders that require them to pay $1.7 million.
FTC Approves Final Order against HomeAdvisor, Inc. for Deceptively Marketing its Leads for Home Improvement Projects
In January 2023, the FTC issued an order requiring Denver-based HomeAdvisor, Inc. – a company affiliated with Angi, formerly known as “Angie’s List” – to pay up to $7.2 million for using a wide range of deceptive and misleading tactics in selling home improvement project leads to service providers, including small businesses operating in the “gig” economy. The Commission announced approval of the final consent order in April 2023.
FTC Staff Seeks Court Order Preventing ICE from Consummating its Acquisition of Rival Black Knight Pending Agency Administrative Challenge
FTC Order Requires HomeAdvisor to Pay Up To $7.2 Million and Stop Deceptively Marketing its Leads for Home Improvement Projects
Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Extension (Regulation O)
The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, and the Wisconsin Attorney General, filed suit against Consumer Law Protection and related companies, along with their owners and operators, Christopher Carroll, George Reed, Louann Reed, Scott Jackson, and Eduardo Balderas for scamming consumers—mostly older adults—out of more than $90 million in a massive timeshare exit scam.
FTC, California Act to Stop Ygrene Energy Fund from Deceiving Consumers About PACE Financing, Placing Liens on Homes Without Consumers’ Consent
Opendoor Labs Inc. promised to revolutionize home selling by offering to buy consumers homes for market value while reducing transaction costs. It promised to provide speed and certainty to home sellers while saving them thousands compared to selling on the market or selling traditionally, as the company describes such sales. Although Opendoor generally delivered on its promises to provide a faster and more certain transaction, it did not save consumers money. In fact, consumers who sold to Opendoor typically lost thousands compared to what they would have made on the market. Contrary to the company's marketing, it made submarket offers and had associated costs higher than in traditional sales. The company's marketing and the opacity of the transaction, however, left consumers unaware that they had lost money. The Commission approved a final order in this matter in October 2022.
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