RESPA SECTION 8(B): U.S. SUPREME COURT GRANTS CERTIORARI IN “FREEMAN VERSUS QUICKEN LOAN” UNEARNED FEE DISPUTE

The United States Supreme Court announced that it would finally resolve the issue of whether the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) under Section 8(B) prohibits one settlement service provider from charging consumers a fee for settlement service work the provider did not perform or whether an unearned fee must be split by two or more providers in order for the service fee to be deemed illegal.

Section 8(B) of RESPA states:
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.” 12 U.S.C. 2607(b)

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Freeman v. Quicken Loans case because not only have the district courts been divided on the issue but the appellate courts have been divided as well. The Freeman case is lawsuit that was heard in the 5th Circuit out of New Orleans. The 5th Circuit said Quicken’s charges for loan discount fees and a loan processing fee were not prohibited by RESPA Section 8(B), 12 U.S.C. 2607(b) even though the fees the consumer paid did not go towards lowering their interest rate nor could Quicken show where they performed any work in connection with their charges.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the 5th Circuit District Court Judge Carl Barbier and ruled in favor of Quicken Loan. The Obama Administration pushed the US Supreme Court to hear this issue because they side with the plaintiff’s position in this case. Currently the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th Circuits have held that RESPA Section 8 is exclusively an anti-kickback statute and under Section 8(b) that two or more parties are required in order to have a Section 8(b) violation. The 2nd, 3rd, and 11th Circuits rejected the two or more party requirement and have held that RESPA Section 8(b) prohibits mark-ups where only one party is involved. The 2nd Circuit (Cohen v. JP Morgan) ruled that Section 8(b) prohibits one settlement service provider’s from charging undivided unearned fees.

It is interesting to note that this is only the second RESPA case the Supreme Court has ever taken up and the first case is also being heard this session in the “Edwards v. First American” case. The oral arguments are scheduled sometime in January and the Supreme Court should rule sometime in June 2012.