February 2, 2018 / 4:27 PM / 10 months ago

Ontario revokes mortgage broker BDMC license over risky investments

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario’s financial regulator said on Friday it has revoked the license of mortgage brokerage Building Development and Mortgages Canada Inc (BDMC) and Vince Petrozza, a co-founder of a related firm, Fortress Real Developments, following an investigation into risky syndicated mortgage investments.

Vince Petrozza, chief operating officer (COO) of Fortress Real Developments, leaves the company offices in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Regulator FSCO said BDMC, the lead broker for Fortress projects, and three mortgage brokers, FDS Broker Services Inc, FFM Capital Inc and FMP Mortgage Investments Inc, which marketed Fortress products as their primary or sole line of business, were fined a total of C$1.1 million. (Special Report: Canada regulator ignored warnings on risky mortgage investments - reut.rs/2BwjTXz)

BDMC confirmed that it had agreed a settlement with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) and would stop all mortgage brokerage activities. BDMC said it had raised C$920 million for real estate projects from over 14,000 investors.

The firm has agreed that existing syndicated mortgage investments in Fortress projects will be managed by a so-called arms length administrator, FAAN Mortgage Administrators, which will conduct business in BDMC’s name.

In a special report published in November, Reuters revealed that the Canadian province’s regulator had been investigating brokers raising funds for projects associated with Fortress since 2011 but had failed to take action despite repeated warnings that the marketing of the risky investments broke provincial laws.

Syndicated mortgage investments, which pool the funds of private lenders to raise funds for real estate development, have grown in popularity in Canada as investors looked for ways to generate better returns from their savings with bank savings accounts offering record low interest rates. However, their growth in popularity led to thousands of pensioners and mom-and-pop type investors putting their life savings at risk.

An investor outcry about the products has focused public and government attention on FSCO’s lax regulation of the market. In the past decade, more than 20,000 retail investors have put as much as C$1.5 billion (US$1.2 billion) into syndicated mortgages, mostly in Ontario, according to regulatory sources.

Roughly 90 percent of those investments, the sources said, have ended in a loss or are at risk of doing so, and Fortress projects make up more than half of the investments.

The regulator said on Friday it had revoked the broker licenses of Petrozza and three other people, requiring them to stop all mortgage brokering businesses immediately.

Ildina Galati-Ferrante, principal broker of BDMC, surrendered her broker license and was required to cease all mortgage brokering activities.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Grant McCool

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