What is an Amici Curiae?
According to Cornell Law: Amicus Curiae literally translated from Latin is “friend of the court.” Plural is “amici curiae.”
Generally, it is referencing a person or group who is not a party to an action but has a strong interest in the matter. This person or group will petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action intending to influence the court’s decision. Such briefs are called “amicus briefs.” https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/amicus_curiae
Two Amicus Briefs, the first filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the second filed by supporting military organizations, support plaintiffs Tamarah and Emmanuel Louis, and others, alleging Bluegreen Vacation violated the Military Lending Act. Case No 21-CV-61938-RAR
A lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen Vacations in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA, FORT LAUDERDALE DIVISION in September of 2021. At issue is an alleged failure to comply with MLA requirements requiring that the lender discloses to the “covered borrower” the Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR). The MAPR would have included Bluegreen’s $450 administrative fee, and any other fees or ancillary products that would have resulted in a higher interest rate than the standard APR. Of greater weight, mandatory arbitration is prohibited under the MLA.
Members of the military can find their security clearances in jeopardy due to a timeshare loan default, and possible involuntary separation from service. Arbitration, arguably, favours developers. We previously reported on an active duty service member who was sold 2,500 Diamond Resorts points, inadequate for a family of six. He lost in arbitration disputing a $12,000 purchase. The judgment against him was $66,000, of which he was ordered to pay over $50,000 of Diamond’s attorneys’ fees. When I last spoke with his wife, her husband was deployed.
Developers have argued that timeshare mortgages are exempt from MLA requirements because a timeshare stay is the same as a residential stay, and that a timeshare mortgage loan is the same as a home mortgage loan. Unlike a home mortgage, there is little hope of selling a timeshare with an outstanding mortgage. The homeowner controls their home, the Developer controls the timeshare.
On May 31, 2022, the Florida District Court ruled against Bluegreen plaintiffs Tamarah and Emmanuel Louis, arguing that “they had not suffered a sufficiently concrete injury to show Article III Standing.” In an extraordinary show of support, two Amicus Briefs were submitted supporting the reversal of the lower court’s decision. An appeal was filed after the adverse ruling on June 30, 2022.
As reported by Meghann Myers, Pentagon bureau chief, Military Times:
According to the lawsuit, Emmanuel and Tamarah Louis allege that they were sold an illegal financial product – a product that Congress determined poses such an acute risk to American service members, to their financial well-being, to their morale, to the military operational readiness, and to national defence, that it should be illegal to sell to members of our Armed Services.
Brief of Amici Curiae
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Reversal
As stated in the first Amicus Brief: Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 26(b) and Eleventh Circuit Rule 26.1, counsel for amici curiae the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission certify that the following additional persons and entities have an interest in the outcome of this appeal:
Bateman, Kristin, Acting Assistant General Counsel, CFPB
Bedoya, Alvaro, Commissioner, FTC
Bressler, Steven, Acting Deputy General Counsel, CFPB
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Cooper, Ryan, Senior Counsel, CFPB
Dasgupta, Anisha S., General Counsel, FTC
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Frotman, Seth, General Counsel, CFPB
Grossman, Bradley D., Attorney, FTC
Hussain, Laura, Former Assistant General Counsel, CFPB
Khan, Lina M., Chair, FTC
Marcus, Joel, Deputy General Counsel, FTC
Slaughter, Rebecca Kelly, Commissioner, FTC
Wilson, Christine S., Commissioner, FTC
In a strongly worded second Amicus Brief, the following organizations expressed an interest in ensuring that the Military Lending Act is not undermined or weakened in any way.
THE MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, (“MOAA”) is a professional association of United States military officers. With more than 350,000 members from every branch of service, MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization.
THE JEWISH WAR VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, organized in 1896 by Jewish veterans of the Civil War, is the oldest active national veterans’ service organization in America. Incorporated in 1924, and chartered by an act of Congress in 1983, see 36 U.S.C. § 110103, the organization’s statutory objectives include “encourage[ing] the doctrine of universal liberty, equal rights, and full justice to all,” id § 110103(5), and “preserving the spirit of comradeship by mutual helpfulness to comrades and their families,” id § 110103(7).
THE BLUE STAR FAMILIES, Inc. was founded in 2009 by military spouses to strengthen and empower military and Veteran families to thrive as they serve. With more than 230,000 members in its network, Blue Star Families has had a positive impact on more than 1.5 million military families.
JACKSONVILLE AREA LEGAL AID, Inc. (“JALA”) is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to people who cannot otherwise afford representation. JALA serves an area with multiple military bases, and it frequently represents people in military lending cases that are referred to JALA by the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General and others. JALA also has a Veterans Services Unit that assists hundreds of veterans a year.
THE UNITED STATES ARMY WARRANT OFFICERS ASSOCIATION is a veterans service organization that was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1974. It is devoted to the welfare of army warrant officers—serving, former, and retired—and their families.
THE NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969. It is a voice for military families representing all ranks and services. Through the support and programs it provides, and its respected voice on Capitol Hill and with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, it represents the best interests of families who serve.
THE FIVE STAR VETERANS CENTER is a nonprofit that honours the sacrifices of combat veterans by providing the services and support they need to succeed in civilian life. The organization has a specific focus on veterans aged 22 through 55 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and other related mental health issues. Indebtedness can exacerbate many of the hardships veterans face, including mental health issues and housing insecurity.
IN SUPPORT OF APPELLANTS AND IN SUPPORT OF REVERSAL Dated: November 21, 2022
The District Court’s decision risks effectively repealing from the bench one of the Military Lending Act’s most critical provisions thereby undoing all of the progress made in the last 15 years.
In particular, if the district’s decision is not reversed, predatory lending companies will once again focus their marketing efforts and resources on active service members. That will result in a return to a time before the MLA when thousands upon thousands of Service members lose their Security Clearances or leave the military due to financial hardship stemming from predatory lending. (Pg. 17)
In the past, we have asked, “Where are the lawmakers?” Where are the Regulators? We are grateful the FTC and the CFPB have weighed in, along with other powerful voices to speak Truth to Power. With nothing less than our national security at stake, and with recruitment goals experiencing a shortfall. How can we allow any service member to lose their security clearance, or military career, due to a timeshare purchase gone bad – especially with recruitment experiencing a shortfall? According to the Amicus Brief, the U.S. Army fell short of its recruitment goal by 25%.
In another lawsuit filed against Bluegreen, Equifax and Experian, in 2014, Best and Snapp, et al. v. Bluegreen Corp., et al., case no. 9:14-cv-80929, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, Bluegreen sent a series of letters advising plaintiffs that they were terminated from the Bluegreen Vacation Club and the status of their accounts may be reported as foreclosures to the credit agencies. As part of the settlement: For class members who did not opt-out of the settlement and no longer have an active account, Bluegreen will request that Equifax and Experian delete the entire account that displayed a foreclosure. This applied to 11,000 Bluegreen members. Bluegreen Vacation Club memberships did not include ownership in any real or tangible property, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The lawsuit alleging Bluegreen violated the MLA January 28, 2022
Westgate Arbitration and the Military Lending Act June 17, 2021
Oral Arguments Steines v Westgate Case 8:22-cv-00283-CEH-JSS Oct 19, 2022
Six Reports of Active Duty Service Members/Veterans with Security Clearances
Report 1: Active Duty Navy, Chief Petty Officer, 14 years
Report 2: Marine Veteran, 26 years served, security clearance
Report 3: Active Duty Navy, 12 years served
Report 4: Active Duty Navy, 18 years served
Report 5: Husband & Wife, both Active Duty Air Force 10, 9 years
It is clear from Irene’s’ report, this is a very important case and the protection of the military from the unscrupulous actions of the developers. Again it shows the contempt the industry has for the law in their pursuit of profit, yet they are willing to spend thousands in defending and fighting any attempt to curb their activities. The two Amicus Briefs filed in support of Tamarah and Emmanuel Louis, and others should send a message to the courts that they must also act, not just to protect consumers but to uphold a law that was designed to protect those who serve.
This case is all about words or “semantics“, which is a word that can mean so many things, unfortunately, that is what this lawsuit is all about, the different interpretations of what is written. In Europe, the timeshare industry continually claimed the Lower Courts and the Supreme Court had “misinterpreted” the timeshare laws, backed up by the European Trade Body the RDO. They believed the law did not include their resorts as they were in operation before the enactment of Law 42/98, which provided a “deed of adaptation”. In a nutshell, it allowed any contract purchased before the law was enacted, to continue and be legal and not covered by the new legislation, well, you can’t make something illegal that was sold before the law was in place, the law should never be retrospective.
That is all for this week, the weekend is now upon us and it is time for a bit of fun. Baby Dog had his Aunty come to “poochy” sit for a day and took his flirting to new heights. Have a great weekend and join us again next week.