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Appraisers Win $36 Million Class Action
By Isaac Peck, Editor
On January 19, a federal judge in Orange County, CA approved a $36 million settlement between Landsafe Appraisal Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Bank of America (BoA), and 369 current and former appraiser employees. The award amounts to roughly $100,000 per appraiser, before attorney’s fees of one-third.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2013 (See Appraisers Entitled to Overtime, Court Holds), alleges that BoA erroneously applied the “administrative” and “professional” exemptions to in-house staff appraisers and failed to pay them overtime.
A press release issued by employment and civil rights attorney Bryan Schwartz, of Bryan Schwartz Law, in Oakland, California, counsel for the plaintiffs, states that “In approving the settlement, at the hearing, the court noted that as a result of the lawsuit, the new owner of Landsafe – CoreLogic – has begun paying all appraisers overtime.”
Ethel Joann Parks of Manteca, California, one of four the named plaintiffs that is to receive an additional $25,000 for her time and effort in pursuing this litigation, says she frequently worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and decided to step forward because she felt that the bank failed to treat her and other appraisers “as human beings” with “family and personal needs that should be acknowledged.”
Parks says she feels vindicated by this lawsuit and the exceptional relief obtained on behalf of the class. “I hope it will force banks and appraisal management companies throughout the country to reconsider pressuring their staff appraisers to work long hours without paying overtime,” says Parks.
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Schwartz, lead counsel for the 369 appraiser class members, says the judgement not only provides meaningful compensation to hundreds of people, but he hopes it will lead to industry change for many thousands more.
One of the keys to success in this case, according to Schwartz, was that the lead appraiser plaintiffs in the suit refused to quit. “First and foremost, our clients had the courage to step forward with their claims, and to stick with them for years. Next, we were able to avoid arbitration and stay in court with a thoughtful and fair-minded judge who had both the inclination and the ability to weigh the evidence carefully and make the right decision,” says Schwartz.
In terms of the effect that the settlement will have on the appraisal industry, Schwartz says he believes that AMCs with staff appraisers have significant exposure if they are not paying their appraisers and reviewers overtime and other required wages of non-exempt employees. “My firm hopes to find appraisers who – despite companies now clearly knowing the risk of liability – are denied appropriate overtime and other premiums, and ensure that they get paid what they are owed,” says Schwartz.
“Employers take grave risks by cutting corners, and not fairly compensating their employees in tune with state and federal law. My firm and many others, including my co-counsel, are working to end wage theft in the economy…quickly,” says Schwartz. Click here for the Settlement Order.
The case is Terry P. Boyd et al. v. Bank of America Corp. et al., case number 8:13-cv-00561, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Bryan Schwartz Law is co-counsel with Schonbrun Seplow Harris and Hoffman, of Los Angeles, in the case. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author
Isaac Peck is the Editor of Working RE magazine and the Director of Marketing at OREP.org, a leading provider of E&O insurance for appraisers, inspectors and other real estate professionals in 49 states. He received his Master’s Degree in Accounting at San Diego State University. He can be contacted at Isaac@orep.org or (888) 347-5273.
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by Janet Lepore
I appreciate your article on the settlement of the lawsuit against Bank of America. I would like to mention that not all appraisers injured by the bank were compensated. Because of the Statute of Limitations, there were two of us in Washington who received nothing although we were victims of this discrimination. I was a bank employee for nearly 10 years, worked an entire county by myself and worked 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, under threats of having my compensation reduced if I didn’t produce a sufficient amount of work. Because I was one of the higher producers, I managed to escape monetary punishment but I had a non-existent social and family life. As I was approaching retirement, I felt compelled to keep up the pace so I could retire at a reasonable age. Because I retired outside the statue of limitations, I receive no compensation. It irritated me at first but I console myself with the fact that my co-workers (some that I trained) are being compensated for their dedication and hard work.
When I worked there (left in Summer of ’09), we were commission only. Although we complained to management about being treated unfairly, i.e., no vacation and no sick leave, etc., they merely brushed us off. We received medical benefits that were calculated off of some magical number representing what might be an annual salary, and we received life insurance but that was it.-
by James Taylor
In the 90’s, during that downturn, my wife made more than that as a DMV clerk handling vehicle registration for auto dealerships. No liability, no continuing education, no licensing, etc. It seem they now consider experienced Appraisers, with all the requirements that go with it, worth less than low level clerks. With minimum wage rising, gradually, to $15 per hour they really have a low opinion regarding the worth of even the experienced Appraiser. I feel very sorry for the younger group that feels trapped on this treadmill. Perhaps it is time for them to attempt another field. A Walmart Greater type position come to mind as a possible upgrade.-
by Al Lansdale
Good article Isaac. When we zoom out to the bigger picture, you have to wonder how it was ever legal for a lender to establish an AMC like LandSafe in the first place. Lenders should not be allowed to profit in any way or have any attachment to the appraisal process. I’ve always found it even more mind boggling that a lender could actually have staff appraisers or any similar “in-house 3rd party” that is suppose to be unbiased, etc. Glad to see some appraisers finally on the receiving end of good fortune.-
by William Wilson
The appraisers were previously paid a base salary of around $50K plus production bonus on a monthly basis. After the lawsuit it was determined that a staff appraiser is now worth $17 per hour plus a bonus plan and overtime.-
by Mike Miller
Does anyone know of any other class action lawsuits? There have to be numerous ones somewhere to compensate long time Appraisers who were “bamboozled” and lied to by AMC’s in the early days of AMC’s, the biggest cancer to the appraisal business I have seen in 32 years. That is, other than, the old loan officers who had no idea there was supposed to be “ethics” in the appraisal business, or that the appraisals were to make sure a fair value was known, not just a report they could use to make themselves look like heroes instead of protecting investors, buyers and even the refi applicants. Anybody know of any other class actions?-
by Bryan Schwartz
I have filed and resolved several other class actions against other AMCs, yes. The cases focus on staff appraisers who, within the last 3 years (or 4 years in California) were salaried and worked extensive unpaid overtime. To learn more, you can certainly contact my firm (www.bryanschwartzlaw.com) or that of my co-counsel.-
by Mike Ford, CA AG, AGA, GAA, RAA
Mike, I’ve spoken with Mr. Swartz’s associate on behalf of the American Guild of Appraisers in hopes similar relief is available to all of us fee appraisers, underpaid under so called C&R scams. They were wonderfully responsive, BUT since we have 55 appraisal jurisdictions with their own laws; interpretations and unique legislation it did not appear feasible to them, at this time. They are however VERY interested in all salaried or hourly paid appraisers—apparently those types of cases are a bit more likely to result in successes. Not being critical- just pointing out fee appraisers ‘cures’ are more than likely to require legislative cures rather than legal actions.-
by Deb Dimick
Not so much a comment, but a question: Were the staff appraisers paid an hourly wage or salaried? Would this be only for hourly staff, or both hourly & salaried people? What if they were commissioned based?-
by Bryan Schwartz
They were salaried but the court held that they should have been paid on an hourly basis, including overtime for all hours over 40 in a week or (in California) 8 in a day.-