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Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #2-15: Refusal to Divulge Source of Fraudulent Information

An official of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) called on REALTOR® A to enlist his cooperation in solving a problem. As the official explained, FHA had reason to believe that there had been a number of "dual contract" transactions in the area involving FHA mortgage insurance. In a typical instance, a prospective buyer was induced by a broker to sign an offer to purchase a house at a figure several thousand dollars higher than the listed price of the house, so that the signed offer might be used as an evidence of value in obtaining a mortgage loan higher than would be available if the true selling price of the property was stated in the offer. In this procedure, the broker, after having thus fraudulently arranged for a mortgage loan, executed another contract, stating the true price offered, for presentation to the seller of the property.

The FHA official further explained that such conduct involved misrepresentation and law violations, and distorted FHA's market data. FHA lacked documentation, but believed that this type of procedure had been used by some brokers, builders, and to some extent had been condoned by persons approving mortgage loan applications.

He asked for REALTOR® A's assistance in documenting specific instances. REALTOR® A replied that persons in the real estate business had "common knowledge" that such practices were in use; that through business activities he knew of specific persons who had practiced it and had in his files legal evidence of fraudulent offers that were used to obtain mortgage loans in two instances. However, he took the position that much as he deplored such unethical conduct, he had no inclination to play the role of informer and did not believe he should be asked to. He refused to divulge information that he acknowledged he had in his possession.

It came to the attention of the Grievance Committee of REALTOR® A's Board that he had refused to cooperate with the FHA in bringing instances of alleged fraud and unethical conduct to light. The function of the Grievance Committee includes review of undocumented or hearsay reports of unethical conduct, and if definite evidence were found, making the evidence the subject of a complaint before the Board's Professional Standards Committee.

Fulfilling its duty, the Grievance Committee called in REALTOR® A and requested that he divulge the information in his possession to the Committee. REALTOR® A refused, and upon his refusal and statement of his position, the Grievance Committee referred the matter to the Professional Standards Committee of the Board for hearing charging REALTOR® A with having violated Article 2.

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