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Crooked Industry Participants: More Perspective

Mortgage Fraud_FBIt’s been a tough nine months in the press for mortgage brokers. Off the top of my head, I can think of four headline stories of broker fraud in the major media, including one of the whoppers of all time, the Home Trust fiasco.

And now, Canadian Press (CP) has added more tales of broker malfeasance to the public spotlight. (See them here if you haven’t already.) Since most people remember bad more than good, stories like this stay in the nooks of our psyche. That influences some—even if subconsciously—to choose non-broker mortgage providers.

What gets lost in this shuffle are the numbers. As CP writes, FSCO received 91 broker complaints in 2014-2015. That’s less than 1 in 100 brokers, assuming it includes agents too. From recent headlines, you’d think it’s more like 1 in 10.

Even 1 in 100 is unacceptable, of course, but we can’t imagine it’s far worse than certain other professions. The Law Society of Upper Canada—which regulates lawyers in Ontario—fielded 6,155 complaints about law professionals in its most recently reported year of 2014.

There’s not a service industry on God’s green earth that doesn’t generate complaints or have bad actors. What matters here is that the public is protected as well as can be practical, and the tiny slice of shady operators not be allowed to tarnish the hard work of Canada’s 10,000+ dedicated full-time agents.

It’s unfortunate that CP’s article hints that broker fraud is near-epidemic without comparing complainant trends. In the latest reported year in Ontario, broker, agent and brokerage complaints were down from the prior year.

Moreover, many of the headline scandals we’ve seen as of late relate to brokers who sell bad mortgage investments to unsuspecting consumers. That’s not the business brokers are in, by and large. This minute exception is painting the rest of us with a tar-coloured brush. More severe penalties and regulatory oversight in the area of mortgage investment referrals might go a long way.