JBA Financial Group: Get Licensed or Get Out of Washington State

I heard a radio ad on KIRO 973.FM on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 11:45 AM during the Dave Ross show and again on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 6:02PM on the Ron and Don show.  The company was JBA Financial Group and they are advertising their loan modification services.  JBA Financial Group is not licensed to do business in Washington State, and they are not licensed as either a mortgage broker or consumer loan company according to the DFI database which is updated as of today.  I called JBA Financial. Here is how the conversation went:

Jillayne: “Hi, I’m a Washington State homeowner and I just heard your ad on KIRO 97.3FM here in Seattle.  I was wondering if you are licensed to do business in Washington State.”
JBA: “Well you sure sound happy. My name is X, what’s your name?”
Jillayne: “Jill.”
JBA: “Hi Jill, yes, we are licensed by the department of real estate and licensed by the department of corporations to do business in all 50 states.”
Jillayne: “Well on your website, it just says DRE-California. With all the news reports about predatory loan modifications, I want to be sure I’m dealing with a legitimate company.”
JBA: “That’s very smart of you.  As you can see on our website, we’re licensed to do business through the Department of Real Estate and that’s good for all 50 states.”
Jillayne: “No, I don’t think so. It just says “California” on your website, not “all 50 states.”
JBA: “Well you can call the department of real estate yourself and check us out.”
Jillayne: “No thank you, good bye.”

Newsflash for  JBA: The California Department of Real Estate does not give you approval to do loan modifications in all 50 states.

Isn’t there something in the contract KIRO radio signs with advertisers that they have to be sure the company is following state law?  I asked KIRO this question and here is what a KIRO representative, who refused to be identified, said on Monday: Listener concerns should be directed to the attorney general’s office. KIRO has left a message for JB Financial to inquire about the status of their ability to do business in Washington State.  On Tuesday, the same KIRO representative emailed me confirmation that JBA has the authority to do loan modifications in all 50 states, which they received from the owner of JBA.  Here is the document.  There is nothing in this document that allows JBA to claim that it can do loan modifications in all 50 states.  If I can easily figure this out, why can’t KIRO or it’s parent company, Bonneville?

I also put in a call to JB Financial Group’s owner, letting him know that I was preparing this blog post. I received a phone call from their vice president, who informed me that JBA’s primary business is real estate investments and they only recently began doing loan modifications.  He did not know if JBA is licensed to do loan mods in Washington State. He referred me to the company’s CFO, “the strictest compliance person you will ever meet.”  The CFO was not able to talk long because he was, no kidding, in the middle of recording another radio commercial, so the president called me back. He said that he believes the California Department of Real Estate gives them approval to perform loan modifications in all 50 states unless a state contacted them and told them otherwise. Wow, so much for strict compliance.   He believed that because his company is “attorney assisted” they didn’t need to be licensed. I informed him that WA State gives his company no such exemption.  

I’ll be happy to update this post once I find out that JBA Financial  Group is actually licensed in Washington State to perform the services that they are advertising on the radio. 

During the last decade we had hundreds and maybe thousands of predatory lenders roaming around Washington State.  In some of our state’s investigations, there were NO consumer complaints filed against lawbreakers such as the case of Liza Bautista. It will take a village to shut down the predatory loan mod companies.  I’m hoping that the legitimate loan mod companies as well as radio advertising decision-makers will help.  The closest we can come to “legit” is to make sure they are, at minimum, licensed with the Department of Financial Institutions working under either a mortgage broker OR licensed as a consumer loan company, or otherwise exempt from the act such as attorneys and free HUD-approved housing counseling agencies.