Change Lending resolves lawsuit, keeps non-QM certification

Change Lending will continue to originate non-qualified mortgages under a federal designation as it has resolved a short-lived legal dispute with the U.S. Treasury Department.

The lender will remain in good standing with the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund through its next certification review in 2025, Change said Wednesday. The designation allows Change to use more flexible underwriting by meeting specific underserved lending thresholds. 

The company sued the CDFI Fund in late August in a California federal court after it briefly dropped the originator’s designation, over what Change described in its lawsuit as a misunderstanding. A federal judge in early September sided with Change’s legal challenge to regain certification, and the CDFI Fund agreed to postpone a hearing on the matter to December. 

“We believe that today’s agreement will benefit all stakeholders,” said Carlos Salas, CEO of Change Lending, in a statement Wednesday lauding the agreement. 

A representative for the CDFI Fund referred a request for comment to the Department of Justice, where a spokesperson confirmed the agreement but declined to comment further. The agreement as of Wednesday afternoon was not yet posted in federal court records. 

The Anaheim-based subsidiary of The Change Company is one of the nation’s most prolific non-QM lenders and one of 1,467 certified CDFI Fund lenders. The companies earn certification by meeting lending thresholds to underserved Black, Hispanic and low-income communities. 

Since its CDFI Fund certification in 2018, Change said it’s originated over $29 billion in volume to 80,000 borrowers. In the past year, the lender claims it lent over $1 billion to both low-to-moderate income and Black and Hispanic borrower groups. 

Attorneys for Change in its August complaint accused the CDFI Fund of misinterpreting its lending statistics. They pointed to 188 loans in question among a larger data set which put Change just under the CDFI’s certification thresholds.

The lender came under scrutiny in June when Adam Levine, ex-chief of staff for Change Co. founder Steven Sugarman, sued his former employer for allegedly mischaracterizing its loans to regulators and investors. Levine, a former assistant press secretary to former president George W. Bush’s administration, was fired by Change in March over multiple accusations of workplace misconduct.

Change sued Levine in a California state court earlier this month, accusing him of attempting to extort $10 million and sabotaging the firm by lying to numerous counterparties. Levine allegedly provided false information to the media, among other erratic behavior, and was also arrested for impersonating a police officer in August. 

The lawsuit doesn’t attribute the CDFI Fund’s decertification to Levine’s alleged misrepresentations. Levine’s former employer, asset manager TPG Global, sued him in 2015 for alleged similar conduct and a federal judge that year ordered Levine to return all confidential information to his former employer.


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