Our office has just been told by several Wyndham Employees that Wyndham has finally put an end to its latest deceptive buy back sales program called Pathways. We hope this change was brought on by Wyndham’s own guilt, but our better judgment tells us it was more likely the owners that were becoming better educated as to the clearly fraudulent nature of this poorly contrived sales program. No one doubts that Pathways was never a true redemption or buy back program, but a deceptive untruthful attempt to trick the unwary into buying more points.
The lawyers at Wyndham should have been deeply ashamed at ever approving such a horrible one page document (I say document because it was never a legally binding contract obligating Wyndham to do anything). The pathways “document” was a con from its inception. While being glad Wyndham has stopped the corporate swindle, its very existence begs another question. What type of people would conceive, approve and implement such a diabolical plan. What would motivate Franz Hanning and his minions to so obviously violate both law and ethics? The answer must once again be the one single thing that motivates all of Wyndham’s decisions – money. In order to keep up the Wall Street facade that Wyndham can do no wrong and its timeshare revenue will continue to increase – Wyndham’s insiders had to find more devious ways to sucker its existing owners into buying more worthless Wyndham timeshare points.
Wyndham has indeed heard all of the lamentations of its owners regarding their Wyndham Timeshare ball and chain – that most Wyndham owners rue the day they bought their first Wyndham timeshare; that they desperately want to find a way, anyway, to rid themselves of the albatross without being destroyed financially in the process. “Feeling their pain,” Wyndham purposefully chose to prey on the desperate owner’s fears by “creating” a “wonderful” gift called the Pathways Program.
The fact that so many owners were hoodwinked into buying into Pathways is ample evidence of just how desperate were such owners. Who else would buy 20% more points to “possibly” be able to sell those points back to the seller five years later for …. 20%. How ridiculous, right. Well it seems thousands, living in grief over the realization that they will never be able to sell, rent or otherwise dispose of their timeshare, bought the pathways lie. As better described in other pathways related articles on this and other websites, Pathways was never as Wyndham’s sales people described it. Pathways created no contractual obligation requiring Wyndham to ever buy anything – period. Reference our earlier article where we described our own lawyers’ reactions when they read the one-page pathways document – gut-wrenching laughter with the comment “you’d think Wyndham would have much better and more ethical lawyers than this.”
While Pathways was the latest iteration in Wyndham’s diabolical plan to do anything to sell more points to existing owners – we actually don’t expect the cancellation of Pathways to be a true act of repentance. True repentance would mean refunding all of the money spent by thousands of people when conned into buying the pathways “dream.” To that end, we hereby challenge Wyndham (and especially whoever made the decision to end the Pathways graft) to refund every owners money that bought into Pathways. In fact, don’t stop there, refund every owners money that was defrauded into buying more points! That’s just too many people you might say – well that’s the bed you made so now you should sleep in it.
Stop fighting all these poor elderly people that can’t afford to buy groceries because of your endless theft and pay them back what you deceptively manipulated from them – their hard earned money. This message especially goes out to the new legal chief at Wyndham Vacation – Ryan Morettini. You can choose to assuage the anger of all of us kids who have parents that have been defrauded by Wyndham by settling their claims, or you can continue in your arrogance and fight. Fighting will only make the problem grow worse, motivate more whistle-blowers to step out from the shadows, and cause more members to hire more lawyers. No – the better plan is to douse the growing flame by paying back some of the “B”illions you stole.
Owners file law suit against Wyndham for timeshare fraud – Morrison v. Wyndham
A Class Action has been filed in Missouri against Wyndham Vacation Resorts, et. al. (Case No. 6:14-cv-3452 Morrison v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.) by Clyde and Martha Morrison alleging violations of federal and state laws arising from Wyndham’s dilution of timeshare points and other fraudulent sales practices.
Morrison v. Wyndham is a classic case depicting the tactics used by Wyndham to procure the sale of additional timeshare points, known as upgrades. The following provides a summary of the Morrison’s case.
The Morrison’s state they were injured by Wyndham in Branson, Taney County, Missouri as a result of Wyndham’s fraudulent activity. Plaintiffs Clyde E. Morrison and Martha A. Morrison (“Plaintiffs”), husband and wife, are retired senior citizens residing in Raymore, Cass County, Missouri.
Wyndham develops, markets, and sells timeshares and timeshare interests in vacation properties throughout the United States, including Missouri. Wyndham is not a traditional timeshare exchange where time intervals are sold, exchanged, or traded for a designated period of use at a particular resort, hotel, or other accommodation. Instead, under Wyndham’s timeshare program, owners receive a symbolic point allocation based upon the level of their ownership interest.
Unlike the traditional timeshare exchange where only a finite number of time intervals can be sold, the point-allocation system allows Wyndham to sell an infinite number of points that are not limited by the number of time intervals actually available for use and occupation. Wyndham profits from the sale and/or financing of timeshare points.
Owners pay a monthly homeowner’s association maintenance fee that is calculated as the number of points held multiplied by a dollar rate rather than as the owners’ proportional share of the homeowner’s association total actual expenses. The dollar rate used to calculate monthly maintenance fees has steadily increased from year to year.
The timeshare points are renewed annually and are used to reserve accommodations through a reservation system owned, maintained, and managed by Wyndham. Owners must use their allotted points within 12 months or the points expire.
To create an incentive for owners to purchase additional timeshare points from Wyndham rather than from other owners or other sources, Wyndham created a “VIP” program with various levels of membership that purports to provide special benefits and preferential treatment for “VIP” members, including, but not limited to, advance priority booking of accommodations. To be eligible for the “VIP” program, owners must have purchased a certain number of timeshare points directly from Wyndham or from a Wyndham affiliate.
Although timeshare points may be purchased from other owners or other sources, such points do not count towards participation in the “VIP” program.
The Morrison complaint explains how Wyndham has Diluted of the Value of Timeshare Points. In 2008, Wyndham, the Fairshare Vacation Owners Association (“VOA”), and other Wyndham affiliates executed a second-amended trust agreement setting forth the rules governing the sale, exchange, and use of Wyndham’s timeshare points.
The VOA receives revenue from the collection of monthly maintenance fees.
Upon information and belief, at all relevant times, the VOA has had a board of three non-elected directors, all of whom are also officers, agents, and/or employees of Wyndham. To amend the trust agreement provisions governing the sale, exchange, and use of Wyndham’s timeshare points, Wyndham and the VOA board members must vote to do so.
Owners of Wyndham timeshare points are beneficiaries of the trust and members of the VOA. Although the trust agreement states the total number of points required to reserve all accommodations shall always equal or exceed the total number of points allocated to all owners, the trust agreement does not limit the number of points Wyndham may sell and allocate and does not limit Wyndham from giving preferential treatment to owners who purchase points directly from Wyndham or a Wyndham affiliate.
Upon information and belief, Wyndham has sold and allocated points grossly unrelated to and in excess of the number of time intervals actually available for use and occupation such that the value of timeshare points has been diluted and/or nullified.
As a result, an owner who wishes to get out of the monthly maintenance fees may be forced to sell his/her points at a fraction of the price paid to Wyndham. For example, as of September 4, 2014, 1,000,000 Wyndham annual timeshare points can be purchased from other owners for $5,500.00 or less, whereas Wyndham was selling 1,000,000 annual points for approximately $165,000.00 on September 5, 2012.
The Morrison’s also state that Wyndham had Knowledge of and Endorsed the timeshare fraud. To increase its sales of timeshare points, Wyndham lures potential customers into attending aggressive sales presentations by offering them free dinners, free gifts, or other free benefits.
Wyndham’s sales presentations are high speed, high pressure, and are designed to induce attendees to sign contracts for the purchase and/or financing of timeshare points before the attendees leave the presentation, which can last two to three hours. Upon information and belief, Wyndham’s sales agents are paid commissions and/or receive monthly bonuses based on how many timeshare points they sell in a given month.
At all relevant times, Wyndham had actual knowledge that its sales agents were making false and/or fraudulent representations to intentionally mislead potential customers about the terms of Wyndham’s timeshare contracts in order to induce sales.
The Morrison case then references a case recently filed in California by several former Wyndham employees. Patricia Williams wa a former Wyndham employee who allegedly was fired by Wyndham after reporting to Wyndham in 2010 that Wyndham’s sales agents were committing fraud.
According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents target senior citizens because they are perceived as vulnerable. According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents falsely represent that if timeshare owners purchase additional points and/or upgrade their ownership interest, their monthly payments and maintenance fees will be reduced and/or capped when, in reality, such payments will merely be deferred and subject to increases.
According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents encourage owners to upgrade their timeshare ownership interest by advising them they will be able to enroll in a guaranteed buy-back program, even though no such program exists.
According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents enroll customers in a “Bill-Me-Later” program without disclosing that the program will make them ineligible for a refund. According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents falsely promise customers that by purchasing additional points, they will be able to “rent out” their points and generate sufficient income to cover their monthly maintenance fees.
According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham’s sales agents deceive timeshare owners into purchasing additional points by telling owners that by signing certain papers they can “re-negotiate” their existing loans when, in reality, the owners were signing credit card applications to maximize the available credit for taking on additional loans and purchasing additional points.
According to Patricia Williams, Wyndham encourages its sales agents to engage in such fraudulent conduct in an effort to drive additional sales.
Marty Whitney is a former Wyndham employee who allegedly was fired by Wyndham after reporting to Wyndham that Wyndham’s sales agents were committing fraud. According to Marty Whitney, Wyndham’s sales agents trick senior citizens into signing contracts for the purchase of timeshare points.
According to Marty Whitney, Wyndham’s sales agents prey on the elderly and/or those who are easily overwhelmed and confused by complicated legal documents and fine print.
According to Marty Whitney, Wyndham instructs its sales agents that as long as people can walk in, be on a walker, or be in a wheelchair, it does not matter if they know or understand the contracts they are signing.
According to Marty Whitney, Wyndham told her to keep her mouth shut about the fraudulent practices or she would be fired.
The Morrison Plaintiffs are senior citizens who retired in 2008. In 2008, Plaintiffs purchased a timeshare from Wyndham and applied for a Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card (the “2008 Wyndham Rewards Visa”) in order to take advantage of various programs offered by Wyndham.
In return, Plaintiffs received 777,000 contract points plus 105,000 “bonus” contract points for use at Wyndham. The purchase of timeshare points was financed through Wyndham.
On or about September 5, 2012, while vacationing in Branson, Missouri, Wyndham offered a free dinner to Plaintiffs if they agreed to attend a sales presentation. During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied that Plaintiffs may be eligible to re-negotiate their existing loan with Wyndham and to obtain more favorable terms and benefits if they would just fill out a new credit application.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents aggressively encouraged Plaintiffs to trade in their old timeshare points and to purchase new points from Wyndham through a special, limited-time offer.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied that the special, limited-time offer was only open and had to be accepted before leaving the presentation. During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, Plaintiffs would be upgraded to the “Platinum” level of Wyndham’s “VIP” program, which, among other things, would guarantee Plaintiffs’ monthly maintenance fees would be capped and would not increase any further over time.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, they would receive a promotional “ONE YEAR PRICE FREEZE,” meaning that any future purchases of additional timeshare points made by Plaintiffs before September 5, 2013 would be “locked in” at the price such points were selling for on September 5, 2012.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, Plaintiffs would be able to generate rental income by renting out their unused timeshare points.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that Wyndham had expert and superior knowledge about the resale market for Wyndham timeshare points and that the demand was high and the supply was low.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that Wyndham was aware of dozens of people who were able to generate sufficient rental income from their unused timeshare points to cover their monthly maintenance fees.
During the September 5, 2012 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they were unable to afford the required down payment but did not want to miss out on the special, limited-time offer, they could defer all or a portion of the required down payment through a “Bill Me Later” program.
On September 5, 2012, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to fill out credit applications and to participate in the special, limited-time offer because Plaintiffs were interested in stabilizing their monthly fees and were interested in purchasing additional points in the future at that day’s price.
On September 5, 2012, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute a “ClubWyndham Access Vacation Ownership Plan Equity Trade Agreement and Addendum” (“2012 Trade Agreement”) trading in 777,000 existing timeshare points for 1,000,000 new points.
On September 5, 2012, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute a “ClubWyndham Access Vacation Ownership Plan Retail Installment Contract Purchase and Security Agreement” (“2012 Security Agreement”) purchasing and financing 1,000,000 points through Wyndham for a total price of $164,824.00 at a rate of 11.49% per annum.
On September 5, 2012, Plaintiffs received $67,148.03 in trade equity for their existing 777,000 timeshare points. On September 5, 2012, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute an “Acknowledgment of Application for and Use of a Bill Me Later Account” (“2012 Bill Me Later Acknowledgement”) financing Plaintiffs’ down payment of $10,397.31 to Wyndham at a rate of 19.99% per annum and containing releases of liability and other terms and conditions.
On September 5, 2012, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute a “Contract Addendum” (“2012 Contract Addendum”) modifying the 2012 Security Agreement and stating that Plaintiffs have the option to pay the loan balance within 30 days with no interest due and/or to increase the down payment within 30 days to receive a lower interest rate or monthly payment.
On September 5, 2012, in the 2012 Security Agreement, Wyndham charged Plaintiffs $30.00 as a “closing fee” and an additional $349.00 fee to cover “the administration and preparation of various documents related to the sale.”
On September 5, 2012, during this transaction, Plaintiffs provided their credit card information to Wyndham and authorized Wyndham to charge Plaintiffs’ 2008 Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card a one-time amount of $1,237.77 and in monthly installments of $451.67.
On September 5, 2012, Wyndham provided to Plaintiffs at the point of sale and transaction a printed receipt that contains and reveals the expiration date (month and year) of Plaintiffs’ credit card in three different places.
On or about August 16, 2013, while vacationing in Branson, Missouri, Wyndham offered a free dinner to Plaintiffs if they agreed to attend a sales presentation. During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied that Plaintiffs may be eligible to re-negotiate their existing loan with Wyndham and to obtain more favorable terms and benefits if they would just fill out a new credit application.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents aggressively encouraged Plaintiffs to trade in their existing timeshare points and to purchase new points from Wyndham through a special, limited-time offer.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied that the special, limited-time offer was only open and had to be accepted before leaving the presentation.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, Plaintiffs would be eligible for enrollment in a “Pathway” program, which, among other things, would guarantee that Wyndham would buy back Plaintiffs timeshare points if Plaintiffs ever wanted to sell their points.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they applied for a new Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card right then and there, Plaintiffs would be eligible for enrollment in a “Pathway” program, which, among other things, would guarantee that Wyndham would buy back Plaintiffs timeshare points if Plaintiffs ever wanted to sell their points.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, they would receive a promotional “ONE YEAR PRICE FREEZE,” meaning that any future purchases of additional timeshare points made by Plaintiffs before August 16, 2014 would be “locked in” at the price such points were selling for on August 16, 2013.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they traded in their existing timeshare points and purchased new points right then and there, Wyndham would assist Plaintiffs in transferring their ownership interests into the Clyde E. Morrison, Martha A. Morrison Trust.
During the August 16, 2013 presentation, Wyndham’s sales agents advertised, represented, advised, suggested, and implied to Plaintiffs that if they were unable to afford the required down payment but did not want to miss out on the special, limited-time offer, they could defer all or a portion of the required down payment through a “Bill Me Later” program.
On August 16, 2013, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to fill out credit applications and to participate in the special, limited-time offer because Plaintiffs were interested in participating in the advertised “Pathway” program, transferring their ownership interests into the Clyde E. Morrison, Martha A. Morrison Trust, and purchasing additional points in the future at that day’s price.
On August 16, 2013, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute a “ClubWyndham Access Vacation Ownership Plan Equity Trade Agreement and Addendum” (“2013 Trade Agreement”) trading in 1,000,000 existing timeshare points for 1,189,000 new points.
On August 16, 2013, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute a “ClubWyndham Access Vacation Ownership Plan Retail Installment Contract Purchase and Security Agreement” (“2013 Security Agreement”) purchasing and financing 1,189,000 points through Wyndham for a total price of $221,885.00 at a rate of 11.49% per annum.
On August 16, 2013, Plaintiffs received $80,723.15 in trade equity for their existing 1,000,000 timeshare points. On August 16, 2013, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to execute an “Acknowledgment of Application for and Use of a Bill Me Later Account” (“2013 Bill Me Later Acknowledgement”) financing Plaintiffs’ down payment of $14,983.21 to Wyndham at a rate of 19.99% per annum and containing releases of liability and other terms and conditions.
On August 16, 2013, as a result of Wyndham’s sales presentation, Plaintiffs were induced to apply for a new Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card (the “2013 Wyndham Rewards Visa”).
On August 16, 2013, in the 2013 Security Agreement, Wyndham charged Plaintiffs $30.00 as a “closing fee” and an additional $349.00 fee to cover “the administration and preparation of various documents related to the sale.”
On August 16, 2013, during this transaction, Plaintiffs provided their credit card information to Wyndham and authorized Wyndham to charge Plaintiffs’ 2013 Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card a one-time amount of $1,785.89 and in monthly installments of $541.99.
On August 16, 2013, Wyndham provided to Plaintiffs at the point of sale and transaction a printed receipt that contains and reveals the expiration date (month and year) of Plaintiffs’ credit card in three different places. On August 20, 2013, Plaintiffs executed an “Extract of Trust Instrument” along with a cover letter (“2013 Extract of Trust Instrument and Letter”) drafted and prepared by Wyndham requesting a “Wyndham Title Services Representative” to “deed the [Plaintiffs’ timeshare ownership interest] into the name of our Trust,” i.e., the Clyde E. Morrison, Martha A. Morrison Trust.
On August 20, 2013, Plaintiffs were not charged any additional processing/closing fee because the executed “Extract of Trust Instrument” and cover letter were provided to Wyndham within 15 calendar days of the original $30.00 “closing fee” and $349.00 fee covering “the administration and preparation of various documents related to the sale” paid to Wyndham on August 16, 2013.
Finally, and most importantly, the Morrison’s state that Wyndham has completed identical or substantially similar timeshare ownership sales transactions with hundreds or thousands of other individuals. Consequently, Plaintiffs brought this action on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of all persons similarly situated.
Asking Wyndham’s Board of Directors to Stop the Timeshare Fraud
Leaving aside for the moment the inherent fact that timeshares are in and of themselves a creation to sell nothing for something, and the fact that without lying it would be utterly impossible to sell what is in essence the significantly overpriced advanced payment for vacations that one may or may not actually ever be able to take in the future – we are left with the many sordid schemes and program scams Wyndham develops each year to ensnare more and more unfortunately uninformed seniors into the life-long abyss that is a Wyndham timeshare.
A Wyndham timeshare contract is a forever or else contract. You either keep paying Wyndham FOREVER or you lose your entire investment (equity plus fees, etc.), with the kicker that your credit will also be ruined for the rest of your life. And make no mistake, every single person that works for Wyndham, from the Board and Executives down to the lowly sales person, knows exactly what they sell and how they manage to sell it. Or do they?
While some of Wyndham’s wealthy, “respectable,” and “reputable” Board members may not be aware of the day to day nuts and bolts of how Wyndham succeeds in selling more and more trash to the same people – they know or should know just the same. It’s interesting to look at the composition of Wyndham’s Board comprised of Stephen Holmes, Myra J. Biblowit, Brian Mulroney, George Herrera, James Buckman, Michael Wargotz, and Pauline Richards. Oddly enough all directors are outside directors except Wyndham World Wide’s CEO Stephen Holmes.
And judging from Wyndham’s holding company structure, even Mr. Holmes can avoid getting his hands very dirty, operating the controversial timeshare business out of the Wyndham Vacation subsidiary and delegating all of the dirty work to others. Im sure when Wyndham eventually gets properly investigated, Holmes and the other Board members will plead ignorance to what Franz Hanning and HIS people are doing.
One wonders why the Board would keep Hanning and other unsavory characters around. The simple answer is Hanning, etc. do a great job of violating countless consumer protection laws while avoiding for the most part any liability. It’s always the poor elderly couples fault; they just got confused as to what the sales people actually told them. The other and possibly more important reason Wyndham Vacation’s people are kept around is plausible deniability. If and when investigators find out what Wyndham actually is and does, the Board can side with the shocked members of government agencies and Wall Street supporters with the mantra – We had no idea Franz and his people were allowing such evil to be perpetrated against all these poor senior citizens; shame on him.
We’d all like to think Wyndham’s outside six Board members are in the dark on all this; that Stephen has carefully kept such “baseless accusations” from ever appearing in their inboxes. Perhaps the Board members just think Wyndham’s timeshare business is simply a very successful legitimate enterprise which makes available to them huge income opportunities from the exercise of their many stock options. The problem I have is that these Board members are well educated successful business people that should know the old adage “if it looks too good to be true it probably is.” In any event, whether the Board is truly without any knowledge that half of Wyndham’s revenue is derived from a con game, they SHOULD know. After all, that’s their fiduciary duty to their shareholders – made up primarily of insiders and institutional investors who only care about WYN stock hitting 90 and 100 soon. And maybe that’s the answer, the shareholders just want this party called Wyndham stock to keep going, and don’t care how Stephen and Franz make it happen.
In any case, Wyndham keeps on selling air to people who already have plenty of it, its Officers and Directors keep selling stock for enormous returns, and the trusting members of our “greatest generation” keep getting hurt while ensnared in Wyndham’s timeshare tornado.
And unfortunately, no one that is in the know about Wyndham’s con game really knows what to do about it. Sure we can write more letters to State AG’s and other agencies, ding Wyndham again on BBB, or file a law suit, but Wyndham has that part of the world convinced the “con game” is untrue and that the real problem is the timeshare aftermarket, filled with unscrupulous people who operate black market reseller, rental and termination companies. Yes, there the real problem – not Wyndham.
So the investigators smile and look the other way, convinced that a Fortune 300 company simply could not be involved in anything so terrible. You know, these are the same investigators and Wall Street executives that were convinced that other large public companies such as Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, AIG, Lehman, HealthSouth, Adelphia, Global Crossing, etc. also could never do anything wrong. After all, like the SEC investigators always say with surprise, “they’re a public company with strong board and regulatory oversight, how could this have ever happened. Well, if we learn anything from the past, it happens when the Board Members are busy looking the other way, counting and recounting their stock gains.
Timeshare Complaints Charge Wyndham with Intentional Fraud That Targets Elderly Consumers Across Country
Class Action Charges Wyndham with Intentional Fraud That Targets Elderly Consumers
Things to consider if you are thinking about buying a timeshare:
• Ask yourself how likely are you to use a timeshare year after year? Are your vacation plans sometimes subject to last-minute changes? How much do you genuinely love the place where the vacation units are based? You’ll be responsible for the costs of your timeshare whether you use it or not.
• Don’t view this as an investment. Like new cars, timeshares tend to depreciate quickly – and they’re typically difficult to resell.
• Don’t finance. If you’re sure you want to pay for a timeshare, do so up front in cash. Most vacation developments will allow you to finance the purchase, but their interest rates are often high.
• Watch out for maintenance fees, which can cost $500 or more per year and can rise at rates that equal or exceed inflation. Find out whether your plan has a fee cap or an inflation-protection plan.
• Walk away if you feel pressured. Should you find yourself across from a high-pressure sales person, either leave or tell the salesman to back off.
• Ask a lot of questions, such as: What are the maintenance fees used for? Do I lose my points if I don’t use them? Can I bring pets?
• Ask for a copy of the property’s current maintenance budget, and find out what’s done to manage and repair the property. Definitely visit the resort and ask multiple owners about their experiences.
Source: Bankrate.com; NBC News
Tony and Carrie Mendoza walked into the Wyndham Vacation Resorts office here in September hoping to sell four timeshares they had purchased years ago back to the company that had sold them. They walked out of the office unknowingly owing more than $18,000 to a credit card and finance company they say they’d never heard of.
“Wyndham pulled the wool over our eyes,” said Carrie Mendoza, 80, whose 86-year-old husband, Tony, is a World War II veteran. “The people at Wyndham work with this stuff every day. They talk so fast and flip pages so fast that only they know what’s going on.”
Documents show the Mendozas signed up for a program called Pathway by Club Wyndham – promoted by the timeshare company as an easy way for owners to sell back their unwanted vacation plans and eliminate the monthly maintenance fees. The Mendozas say they do not remember signing the documents, but they do not dispute that the signatures are theirs.
Timeshare critics say in lawsuits filed in Florida, California and other states that the program and Wyndham’s sales techniques are deceptive and target elderly victims.
“Timeshare sales are commission driven; the sales people get 20 percent of the deal,” said Mike Finn, a Largo, Fla., lawyer whose firm specializes in timeshare lawsuits. “They [the Mendozas] went in there thinking they were going to get help, but the sales guys just saw them as meat on the table.”
Patrick Mumford, the Mendozas’ lawyer, is out of the office until later this month and unavailable for comment.
Alicia Dickson – a consumer affairs specialist in Wyndham’s legal department – did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment. Dickson reviewed the Mendozas’ documents after receiving a letter from Mumford asking the timeshare company to justify the $18,000 debt “or, otherwise, dismiss or waive [it].”
Dickson responded to Mumford by saying “we regret to hear of Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza’s concerns and apologize for any service challenges and inconveniences they may have encountered,” but the contract they signed binds them to the deal.
Lindsay Hodges, Wyndham’s corporate communications manager, told The Sun News on Friday that the company is “committed to providing a positive resolution for the Mendoza family.”
“Providing world-class customer service is our top priority and we strive to do all that we can to deliver a great experience to our owners at every interaction,” Hodges said. “We regret that their situation did not reflect this.”
The Pathways program
Wyndham requires timeshare owners to purchase an additional 105,000 points – the “currency” owners use to pay for their vacation stays – to join the Pathway program. Once they are in the program, owners can ask Wyndham to buy back their timeshares. Wyndham is not obligated to buy the timeshares but, if the company chooses, it will purchase them for 20 percent of their stated value.
In the Mendozas’ case, Wyndham paid $13,779 for timeshares the couple had purchased since 1996 for more than $68,000.
To make them eligible for that buy-back, Wyndham signed the Mendozas up for a Visa credit card and a Bill Me Later credit account – with a 19.99 percent annual interest rate – to cover the $18,125 cost of joining the Pathway program.
The Mendozas said they had no idea they had signed up for those credit accounts until months later when they started getting bills in the mail.
“It was never our intention to buy any additional timeshares or anything else that would cost us more money,” Tony Mendoza said.
Carrie Mendoza said she would not have agreed to the buy-back program if she knew it came at such a steep price.
“Our travel days are over,” she said. “We need the re-sale money to allow us to purchase medications and to keep us going for as long as the good Lord lets us remain on this earth.”
Documents show the Mendozas did indeed sign up for the credit accounts and agreed to all of the terms of the Pathway program, including the purchase of additional points. But the couple says they were pressured into signing documents before they read or fully understood them.
“When they have a large stack of papers with the pages flipped back and the back page ready for our signature without us being able to read the pages before that … and they encouraged us, saying, ‘Oh yeah, it’s OK, go ahead and just sign here,’ ” Carrie Mendoza said. “And very fast [they] flipped another page at us.”
The Mendozas say they did not get copies of all the documents they signed until their lawyer requested them months later.
Contracts may be hard to beat in court
Court documents show the Mendozas are not alone.
A lawsuit filed last year against Wyndham by a Wisconsin couple claims the timeshare company “trains its sales employees to arrange and procure loans through various credit cards and the Bill Me Later program without customers’ knowledge or consent.” Wyndham denies any wrongdoing in that lawsuit, which is pending.
A separate class-action lawsuit filed in California claims Wyndham deceived buyers into purchasing additional timeshare points through the Bill Me Later credit account “so that the charges would not be readily apparent.” The lead plaintiffs in that case, like the Mendozas, “were not aware of the purchase of additional points until they received their credit card statement,” according to the lawsuit.
Barbara Figari, the lawyer representing Wyndham customers in the class-action lawsuit, said in court documents that the timeshare company targeted her clients with deceptive and misleading sales pitches because of their age.
“The fraudulent practices and false representations were being targeted toward seniors,” Figari stated.
Wyndham has denied any wrongdoing in that case as well, and a judge ruled this year that Figari’s claims cannot be heard in court but must be resolved by an arbitrator, as stated by the contracts her clients signed.
Finn, the Florida lawyer, said it is usually futile to try to fight a timeshare contract on legal grounds.
“The contracts are damned hard to beat,” he said. “The timeshare attorneys figured out how to beat the system before they sold their first timeshare. Once you sign the contract, you’re usually stuck with that timeshare for the rest of your life.”
South Carolina consumers have five days to cancel a timeshare contract, and that cancellation has to be in writing and sent by certified mail with a return receipt. Once that time period expires, consumers have little recourse for cancelling a transaction due to buyer’s remorse.
The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, the state agency charged with protecting consumers’ rights, does not investigate timeshare complaints but forwards them to the state’s Real Estate Commission. The commission can’t adjudicate contractual disputes and is mostly limited to licensing violations.
Timeshare complaints are among the most common received by the commission, with 283 of them lodged in 2013, according to commission spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka. Of that amount, the commission declined to investigate 226 complaints due to a lack of jurisdiction or insufficient evidence to support a legal violation. None of the cases ended with a public disciplinary order against a timeshare company or sales agent.
Consumer advocates say the commission’s oversight of the timeshare industry is hampered by the fact that state law does not require individual sales agents to be licensed as long as their company is registered with the state. South Carolina is one of 12 states that do not require timeshare sales agents to obtain a license.
That leaves many consumers with a largely unsympathetic court system as their only hope.
“If you go in front of a judge and he asks, ‘Did you sign this contract?’ and you say, ‘Yes,’ you may not stand a chance,” Finn said.
Mumford, the Mendozas’ lawyer, appears to agree in a March 21 memo he wrote about the Little River couple’s case.
“Unless Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza deny that the signatures contained thereon are theirs, the documents on their face appear to be very much in order,” Mumford states.
A little caution can save money
Finn has said one approach is not to pay the credit card or Bill Me Later bill. That’s because those finance companies have “recourse agreements” with Wyndham for most of the accounts opened to make timeshare purchases. Under those agreements, the finance companies perform minimal credit checks on consumers because Wyndham guarantees the payments.
“They’re not relying on an individual’s credit as to whether they should make the loan,” Finn said, referring to the finance companies. “They’re relying on that recourse agreement they have with Wyndham.”
Finn said he has been able to get companies such as Bill Me Later to cancel debts for more than 100 of his clients by sending a letter outlining what he says are the timeshare company’s deceptive sales practices.
“When Bill Me Later gets my letter, they take it to Wyndham and say, “Give us our money back,’ ” Finn said. “The best way to get their attention is to tell them my client is not going to pay you any more and you cannot contact them any more. I create a situation where they have to come to my table.”
Finn’s services aren’t cheap – he charges a flat rate of $5,000 for each case – but he said business is booming.
“I started focusing on timeshare cases three years ago, and I’ve been the busiest during those three years than at any other time during 43 years in practice,” he said.
Pam Bondi – the attorney general in Florida where many of the timeshare companies, including Wyndham, are headquartered – said a little patience and caution on the front end can save consumers thousands in timeshare and legal fees.
“The salesman may try to give you the impression that the papers have to be signed that same day,” Bondi said in a news release. “Remember that you always have the right to leave the sales office, and come back later. Read your contract to determine what cancellation rights you have after you have signed the papers. Before buying a timeshare, you should consider whether you will want to return to the same vacation spot each year. Remember that once you buy it, you may not be able to sell it due to a depressed resale market.”
It’s advice the Mendozas say they wish they had taken. “They had a lot of places where we were told to initial or sign,” Carrie Mendoza said. “We trusted them, and that was our biggest mistake.”
Reprinted from The State, BY DAVID WREN
Wyndham Sales Practices Violate Numerous Credit Related Laws
It has long been rumored that Wyndham Sales agents routinely completed credit applications for their sales prospects (for third party credit accounts such as PayPal, Barclays and Bank of America Credit Cards) without the prospective owner’s knowledge or consent. However, when Wyndham changed its commission plan for sales people a few years ago, the above described practice got way out of control.
The revised Wyndham compensation plan allowed the agent to get significantly higher commissions for all cash sales (paid in full at closing), or sales where the prospect paid a large deposit (percentage of the purchase price) at closing (e.g. 50%). The new opportunity to make greater commissions has resulted in the aggressive push by Wyndham sales representatives to qualify every prospect for third party credit, resulting potentially in a fully paid timeshare closing, or at least a substantial down payment.
Unfortunately for the sales person, when they asked the prospect if they would like to pay for the timeshare by going thousands of dollars in debt to 3 or more creditors, the customer would start looking for the nearest door. So instead, the sales people made that decision for them by completing credit applications on behalf of the client, thereby securing one or more credit accounts in the client’s name that would be used to pay for the timeshare. At closing, the Sales Person would fly threw the signing of 100 pages of documents, telling the upgrading owner that they qualified for no down-payment, etc. The unsuspecting owner often wouldn’t know they had just obtained two or three more credit cards or credit accounts (charged up to each cards credit limit) till the bills started arriving in the mail month(s) later.
Unfortunately for Wyndham and its sales force, this conduct violates far too many laws to recite in this article, not to mention constitutes intentional financial fraud on both the timeshare owner AND the third party creditors. As far as the owner is concerned, such activity by Wyndham violated numerous federal statutes including the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), Federal Credit Practices Rule, Federal Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), Electronic Fund Transfer Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, Rights to Financial Privacy Act, not to mention all of the mortgage related federal laws that regulate creditor transactions.
Also, the creditors such as Bank of America or PayPal (Bill Me Later) may soon start asking why the new accounts signed up by Wyndham have such a high default rate. If such an investigation is conducted by a bank, they will also find another dirty secret of Wyndham’s operation. When Wyndham’s sales people complete the credit applications, they tend to, in the words of a Wyndham Whistle-blower, “make the clients financial condition looks so much better than it is.” According to another sales person, “if their credit looks weak, it’s not uncommon for the owner’s income to rise by a zero or two.”
Finally, because the prospective buyer or upgrading owner isn’t exactly aware they are getting new credit cards, etc., the transaction also violates disclosure provisions in various laws. For example, under the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), a creditor or issuer must provide comprehensive disclosures when the new credit is solicited or opened. Regrettably, such required disclosures do not occur “during” a Wyndham timeshare transaction. While our investigation found that some buyers may eventually receive information from the creditor by mail weeks or months later, the prospect is not provided the disclosures when required by law – “with a solicitation or an application.” The whole point behind the disclosure requirements is to provide the potential debtor with adequate information BEFORE entering into a credit agreement so that they will be able to make a “fully informed” credit decision.
While Wyndham’s sales activities violate numerous laws (e.g. Wyndham timeshare owners are not informed about the legally required mortgage rescission period), this paper is not intended to be a law review article on Consumer Financial Protection Laws. Instead, this article is provided for three purposes: 1) To warn Wyndham’s prospective timeshare buyers of these illegal sales tactics; 2) To call upon Wyndham to put an end to these activities; and 3) To inform previous buyers that they may have one or more legal causes of action against Wyndham and its sales agents.
Website Note: We selected this article to republish because we believe the fraud depicted is a routine pattern and practice at Wyndham. Sales fraud has become inherent throughout Wyndham Vacation Ownership and needs to be stopped. It is time for Wyndham’s Board of Directors to take a stand against this corporate corruption. We believe the failure on the Board’s part to root out these practices constitutes a breach of their fiduciary duty to Wyndham’s shareholders, and in our opinion makes them culpable for the company’s fraudulent practices. Each of the following are responsible as Board Members – Stephen Holmes, Myra J. Biblowit, Brian Mulroney, George Herrera, James Buckman, Michael Wargotz, Pauline Richards, as well as all Directors and Officers of Wyndham Vacation Ownership including Franz Hannng and Ryan Morettini.
We also call on all attorneys at Wyndham to stop fighting these poor elderly seniors that did nothing but rely on the misrepresentations of your sales people to their very destructive detriment. You add insult to injury when you drag out their administrative or legal claims. Wyndham Lawyers Scott McLester, Lynn Feldman, Gregory John Bendlin, Charles Bott, Thomas Alan, Ryan Morettini and all the other Wyndham lawyers need to start having some compassion on these poor elderly people! Your Sales Force has lied and deceived these owners relentlessly. You know these claims and complaints are truthful. You should do the right thing and pay back these innocent people for the wrongs perpetrated by your client – Wyndham!
Finally, we call on the outside counsel that represents Wyndham in the many lawsuits filed across the nation. Lawyers such as the following should take notice that participating in a cover up of such activities is at a minimum a violation of your professional code of conduct, and may constitute much more significant legal breaches.
Kaitlyn M Burke, Littler Mendelson, PC
Patrick H. Hicks, Littler Mendelson, PC
Kent Michael Fandel, Graham & Dunn PC
Daniel J. Oates, Graham & Dunn PC
Eugene (Gene) Podesta, Jr., Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Donald E. Christopher, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Sara M Turner, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Joy A. Boyd, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC (Nash)
Andrew W. Coffman, King & Ballow
R. Douglas Hanson, King & Ballow
R. Eddie Wayland, King & Ballow
Stephanie Leigh Adler-Paindiris, Jackson Lewis LLP
Juan C Lopez-Campillo, Jackson Lewis LLP
Jessica DeBono Anderson. Jackson Lewis, PC
Mary Ruth Houston, Shutts & Bowen, LLP
Paul J. Scheck, Shutts & Bowen, LLP
James J. Henson, Shutts & Bowen, LLP
We believe the fraud depicted in this sites articles are a routine pattern and practice at Wyndham. Sales fraud has become inherent throughout Wyndham Vacation Ownership and needs to be stopped. It is time for Wyndham’s Board of Directors to take a stand against this corporate corruption. We believe the failure on the Board’s part to root out these practices constitutes a breach of their fiduciary duty to Wyndham’s shareholders, and in our opinion makes them culpable for the company’s fraudulent practices. Each of the following are jointly and severally liable – Stephen Holmes, Myra J. Biblowit, Brian Mulroney, George Herrera, James Buckman, Michael Wargotz, Pauline Richards, and all Directors and Officers of Wyndham Vacation Ownership including Franz Hannng and Ryan Morettini.
We call on all the attorneys at Wyndham to stop fighting these poor elderly seniors that did nothing but rely on the misrepresentations of your sales people to their very destructive detriment. You add insult to injury when you drag out their administrative or legal claims. Wyndham Lawyers Scott McLester, Lynn Feldman, Gregory John Bendlin, Charles Bott, Thomas Alan, Ryan Morettini and all the other Wyndham lawyers need to start having some compassion on these poor elderly people! Your Sales Force has lied and deceived these people out of their last penny. You know these claims and complaints are truthful. You should do the right thing and pay back these innocent people for the wrongs perpetrated by your client!
The following attorneys represent Wyndham against the many defrauded seniors. You should feel free to write any of them to express your disappointment with their tactics.
Ryan Morettini, Litigation Counsel
Wyndham Vacation Ownership
6277 Sea Harbor Dr
Orlando, FL 32821-8043
Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer
22 Sylvan Way
Parsippany, New Jersey 07054
Some other In-house Wyndham Lawyers that can be reached at the above contact information:
Lynn Feldman ((973)753-6461), Charles Bott, Thomas Alan, Susan Crane, Kristen Hotchkiss ((973)953-3591), Curt Stevens, Marcus Banks, and Christoper Nowak
Wyndham’s Outside Lawyers:
William J Anthony
Jackson Lewis PC (NY)
18 Corporate Woods Boulevard
Albany, NY 12211
Jackson Lewis LLP (Reston VA)
10701 Parkridge Boulevard
Reston, VA 20191
James R Mulroy, II
Jackson Lewis LLP (Memphis)
999 Shady Grove Road
Memphis, TN 38120
Kaitlyn M Burke
Littler Mendelson, PC
3960 Howard Hughes Pkwy, Ste 300
Las Vegas, NV 89169
Patrick H. Hicks
Littler Mendelson, PC
3960 Howard Hughes Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Kent Michael Fandel
GRAHAM & DUNN PC
2801 ALASKAN WAY
STE 300 PIER 70
SEATTLE, WA 98121-1128
FAX 340-9599 (fax)
Daniel J. Oates
GRAHAM & DUNN (SEA)
2801 ALASKAN WAY
STE 300 PIER 70
SEATTLE, WA 98121-1128
Eugene J. Podesta, Jr.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
165 Madison Ave
Memphis, TN 38103
Donald E. Christopher
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
200 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
Sara M Turner
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
420 N 20th St
Birmingham, AL 35203-5202
Joy A. Boyd
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC (Nash)
211 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 744-5632 (fax)
Schiff Hardin LLP
233 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
Andrew W. Coffman
King & Ballow
315 Union Street
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 726-5417 (fax)
R. Douglas Hanson
King & Ballow
315 Union Street
Nashville, TN 37201
R. Eddie Wayland
King & Ballow
315 Union Street
1100 Union Street Plaza
Nashville, TN 37201
STEPHANIE LEIGH ADLER-PAINDIRIS
JACKSON LEWIS LLP – ORLANDO FL
390 N ORANGE AVE
ORLANDO, FL 32801
407- 246-8441 (fax)
JUAN C LOPEZ-CAMPILLO
JACKSON LEWIS LLP – ORLANDO FL
390 N ORANGE AVE
ORLANDO, FL 32801
Jessica DeBono Anderson
Jackson Lewis, PC
390 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
Mary Ruth Houston
Shutts & Bowen, LLP
300 S Orange Ave – Ste 1000
PO Box 4956
Orlando, FL 32802-4956
Paul J. Scheck
Shutts & Bowen, LLP
300 S Orange Ave – Ste 1000
PO Box 4956
Orlando, FL 32802-4956
407/423-3200 Ext 6730
James J. Henson
Shutts & Bowen, LLP
300 S Orange Ave. Ste 1000
PO Box 4956
Orlando, FL 32802-4956
We will update this information when possible.
Wyndham the Cause of Financial Disaster for Numerous Elderly Timeshare Owners
A review of the latest court records shows an enormous increase in the number of Wyndham timeshare owners filing for bankruptcy. We have studied a number of recent bankruptcy filings (E.g. Scott, Feliciano, Pierson, Moreno, Robinson, Hupe, Fischer, Mulazim, Hughes, Frye, etc.) and noticed that in virtually every case, these largely elderly couples historically had very good credit ratings. What changed to drive these seniors into bankruptcy so late in life? In a word – Wyndham.
Wyndham’s Annual Report for 2013 includes a number of revelations about Wyndham’s timeshare business. One of the most notable is the dramatic increase in Wyndham’s allowance for vacation ownership loan losses. Wyndham’s 2012 allowance was 445 million. However, the timeshare company’s allowance rose 13 % to 509 Million for the 2013 fiscal year. This increase is even more significant given the fact that total vacation ownership receivables actually decreased in 2013.
These escalated loan losses is the result of a significant increase in the number of timeshare mortgages that have become uncollectible. While Wyndham would deny it, the increase in unpaid timeshare mortgages is directly the result of Wyndham’s upgrade sales tactics. Given the difficulty Wyndham has in selling timeshares to new prospects, Wyndham has turned to a strategy of selling more points to existing timeshare owners. In fact, these upgrades account for a whopping 70% of Wyndham’s total timeshare sales. The problem with this strategy is that it drives existing timeshare owners deeper into debt, eventually resulting in their inability to pay their timeshare mortgages. Numerous Timeshare owners will attest to the fact that these endless coercive upgrade tactics forced them into bankruptcy.
It gets worse, however. When owners are forced into bankruptcy, Wyndham apparently believes it’s above the law. Wyndham routinely violates the automatic stay through continuing foreclosure and other collection efforts. A recent case is Scott v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Bankruptcy Case No. 10-38633 NVA Chapter 13, Bankruptcy Court for District of Maryland. “[Scott filed] an action for damages and injunctive relief under 11 U.S.C. § 362 and 11 U.S.C. § 1301(a), arising from the reckless conduct of a creditor [Wyndham]. Despite the protections afforded by the automatic stay to Sascha P. Scott (hereinafter, “Mr. Scott” or the “Debtor”),[Wyndham] has initiated a foreclosure proceeding in the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking, inter alia, the imposition of an in personam judgment against Mr. Scott and his wife/co-debtor Mrs. Scott. [Wyndham] continues to ignore the automatic stay despite electronic and written notice from the Bankruptcy Court.”
Count One of the Scott case entitled “Violation of the Automatic Stay” stated that “Defendant’s [Wyndham’s] actions violate 11 U.S.C. § 362(a) by attempting to collect on a debt that arose pre-petition. [Wyndham] had actual notice of the bankruptcy and has willfully violated the automatic stay. Plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer emotional distress as a result of [Wyndham’s] actions. Although Mr. Scott proposed a 100% plan, Defendant continues to harass Plaintiff. Additionally, plaintiffs have incurred attorney’s fees as a result of Defendant’s conduct.” The complaint goes on to demand actual damages, punitive damages and legal fees under 11 U.S.C. § 362 from Wyndham for its violation of the Bankruptcy code.
Wyndham has over 3.3 Billion Dollars of vacation ownership contract receivables (timeshare mortgages), with approximately 350 Million of those receivables coming due each year. These timeshare mortgages are the security for Wyndham’s corporate bond debt, which has historically carried an investment grade rating. However, as more mortgages enter default, Wyndham’s debt could lose its higher rating or worse, depending upon the financial condition of Wyndham and each creditor’s disposition. Consequently, as more timeshare owners default on their timeshare loans, and as more owners are forced into bankruptcy, Wyndham may find itself in a serious financial bind, with fewer creditors willing to refinance Wyndham’s mountain of debt (Total Balance Sheet Debt and Liabilities of over 8 Billion).
Consequently, Wyndham has put itself in a serious pickle. In order to continue to drive up its stock price (and drive up the spectacular stock gains being made by Wyndham insiders), Wyndham must continue to push for higher timeshare revenue. If Wyndham can’t sell points to new prospects (which is growing more difficult each year), they must sell more points to existing owners. The more Wyndham pressures its owners to buy points, the more owners will inevitably fall into default – thereby driving up the already significant loan losses.
As loan losses increase, Wyndham’s corporate debt,, secured by those loans, will look less and less favorable to lenders. At a minimum, Wyndham’s cost of borrowing will increase. Given the amount of Wyndham’s debt, this could create a real financial problem – ultimately driving down their stock price. Moreover, these problems would be exacerbated by the fact that Wyndham would no longer be able to maintain what has been an aggressive stock repurchase program. Wyndham’s inflated stock price has been greatly supported by its equity redemptions. The failure to maintain this program would likely create further downward pressure on Wyndham’s stock price.
Given the above scenario, Wyndham has no choice but to make extreme changes to its timeshare division. Wyndham Vacation’s business model will need to be reinvented. Wyndham will have to provide more value to its owners, and stop the upgrade sales program that is so fraught with fraud and deception. In addition, Wyndham’s reputation will have to undergo significant repair to attract new prospects. The best way to begin is with a change in Wyndham’s corporate attitude. Wyndham must admit it has deeply entrenched problems with its sales practices and procedures. The Wyndham timeshare marketing and sales philosophy should be discarded for a more transparent, open and truthful system. In order to ensure such a dramatic reformation, Wyndham should probably replace much of Wyndham Vacation’s management, starting with Franz Hanning. Wyndham needs new ideas built on unwavering integrity. The organization desperately needs new people to build a new foundation of honesty and superior customer service. Wyndham’s survival will largely depend on making these changes as soon as possible.
Employees Blow Whistle on Wyndham’s Fraud – Claim Wyndham Preys on Vulnerable Elderly
Numerous Wyndham Timeshare sales people have decided they have a moral obligation to blow the whistle on Wyndham’s timeshare sales schemes. Sales people, under threat of suit from Wyndham, have decided to tell the world about Wyndham’s program of preying on “elderly and vulnerable” people. From California and Nevada to Missouri, Tennessee and Florida, Wyndham’s once loyal timeshare sales people are coming forward to tell their stories of company trained sales schemes to sell largely worthless timeshares to trusting seniors.
A sales person in Missouri tells of how Sales people are taught to target more vulnerable elderly people because they are “very trusting” and rarely “educated” on the timeshare game. Even though the timeshare industry is largely ridiculed and bemoaned all over the web, seniors rarely use the internet to research timeshare purchases. Consequently, says Patricia, a former sales person in California, they don’t yet realize timeshares are a scam.
Moreover, “seniors are targeted because they are so trusting,” says Michael, a sales person in Tennessee. “We are trained to use smoke and mirrors to lure the unsuspecting senior into buying more points,” Michael explained. “It’s really a terrible system developed by Wyndham. We ask the owner whether they are satisfied with their Wyndham timeshare, with the unanimous answer being a resounding NO. Then we proceed to explain how we can fix their problem. But that fix always entails buying additional points to get them to some level, or to enable them to participate in some program, etc.”
Maria, a sales person in Florida, puts it like this, “We are taught to promise the prospect anything in order to secure a sale.” “If the owner wants lower maintenance fees, we tell em that if they do such and such we can lower their fees. Of course, such and such always entails purchasing more points, and rarely results in lowered fees. If they can’t get the reservations they want, we tell them we can solve that by upgrading them to the Club Wyndham Gold or Platinum level (requiring of course that they buy more points).
What’s clear from the many sales people is that the target is always moving. Wyndham’s timeshare owners are always striving to obtain what they were initially promised – a wonderful vacation investment where they can save money, time, hassle, worry, etc. Why else would a person pay thousands of dollars in advance to take a vacation in three or four years? Why does a Wyndham timeshare owner pay tens of thousands for vacations they can secure the night before on Expedia for fractions of the cost.
Whatever the reason, Wyndham’s sales machine moves forward, promising the next newly retired discovery victim that they never have to worry about vacation again if they purchase a Wyndham timeshare. However, if one listens to the many sales people that have come forward – we must warn our parents and grandparents to stay away from anything that has the name Wyndham attached to it!
To those responsible for Wyndham - Myra J. Biblowit, Brian Mulroney, George Herrera, James E. Buckman, Michael Wargotz, Pauline D.E. Richards, Stephen Holmes, Franz Hanning and Ryan Morettini.
Wyndham would rather pay lawyers than its own defrauded timeshare owners. Wyndham has taken a strategy of using procedural loopholes and legal tricks to delay and dismiss legal actions. Countless elderly timeshare owners have bravely filed suit against Wyndham over the last year. These suits seek to obtain a refund from Wyndham for money fraudulently taken through high pressure coercive sales schemes.
Unless you have sat through a Wyndham sales meeting (called “owner update” meetings by Wyndham), it’s hard to understand how horribly difficult they can be on seniors. Wyndham’s overarching scheme is superbly simple. The timeshare owner enters the meeting unsatisfied with their current timeshare situation. Wyndham takes the position that since there is no way to get rid of the timeshare (and thus the monthly liability), seniors only choice is to upgrade the timeshare (buy more points). Every upgrade is then sold with the promise that it will fix their timeshare ills. Of course, that is rarely true, and the poor timeshare owner becomes part of the Wyndham grind of endless upgrades and program changes.
Many who fall victim to Wyndham’s endless upgrade scheme eventually find the only way to stop the madness is to challenge Wyndham in court. That’s when Wyndham adds insult to injury. They employ very high priced lawyers to make such litigation as painful as possible on these brave owners, eventually forcing them to drop their suits or settle for pennies on the dollar. These harsh, uncompassionate and expensive tactics have intimidated countless timeshare owners and lawyers from filing what are very valid claims against Wyndham. Thus, Wyndham believes it’s more profitable to pay lawyers money than to refund their ill-gotten gains to defrauded seniors.
So what can these elderly victims do? This is what they can do! Start speaking out loudly to everyone, certainly calling and writing regulators, government authorities, and the media – everyone who will listen. However, there is an even better way to get your voice heard. Wyndham is a public company designed for one purpose – to make money for its shareholders, the largest of which are Wyndham insiders and institutional investors. Those ultimately responsible for the company are its directors. Wyndham’s Board is made up of insiders (those also in management positions with Wyndham) and outside directors, reputable people who are really the only check or balance on corporate corruption by the insiders.
While we should appeal to all Wyndham directors, it’s likely that any inside directors (in this case only Stephen Holmes, Wyndham’s CEO) are very aware of the fraud being conducted and are either ethically accepting of such conduct, or have allowed their financial interest in Wyndham to overshadow any moral dilemma they may have.
However, while the outside directors likewise have a significant financial interest in Wyndham through lucrative stock options, they generally are kept in the dark about the micro day to day sales schemes that result in the lion share of Wyndham’s revenue. While they may review Wyndham’s quarterly and/or annual financial data, they are likely unaware of the policies, practices and methods that generate such significant timeshare revenue.
Interestingly, the case of Wyndham, all of the directors are outside directors save Mr. Holmes. Consequently, our proposition is that everyone begin a dialogue with Wyndham’s outside Board of Directors, those whom we hope and expect are wholly unaware of the horrible and unfortunate timeshare fraud being committed in the name of corporate profits. Pursuant to their fiduciary responsibility to the company, they need to know what is happening to our parent and grandparents. They need to understand the diabolical methods employed by Fran Hanning and his minions to generate such large returns from the timeshare division. It is our hope that with such knowledge, the directors will immediately take steps to both stop the illicit sales activities, and begin repaying those seniors who have lost their life savings to the whirl pool drain that is Wyndham Vacation Ownership.
The following directors should be contacted by everyone who has been victimized by Wyndham: Myra J. Biblowit, Brian Mulroney, George Herrera, James E. Buckman, Michael Wargotz, and Pauline D.E. Richards. Help these good people understand your plight and what is happening. It is our assumption than none of these honorable professionals would want their names attributed to such underhanded scams and secret schemes. If we all speak out to these people, it is our hopeful believe that finally positive steps will begin to take place – to reform the timeshare division of the company, and right the wrongs done to these elderly owners.
If you also want to make your opinion known to those more directly involved in Wyndham’s timeshare fraud, the following would be a good place to start: Franz Hanning (President and CEO of Wyndham Vacation) and Ryan Morettini (Vice President of Wyndham Legal Department). There are also a number of other in-house and outside lawyers who could be contacted.