Theft of test queries al­leged

Colo. mort­gage bro­ker who led state board ac­cused of wrong­do­ing

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By David Migoya

A prom­i­nent Colorado mort­gage bro­ker who chaired the state board that reg­u­lates loan orig­i­na­tors is ac­cused in a law­suit of steal­ing test ques­tions used by the na­tional agency that cer­ti­fies that pro­fes­sion, then re­pur­pos­ing them at a com­pany where he helped peo­ple pass the exam.

The State Reg­u­la­tory Reg­istry al­leges that Billy “Bart” Bartholomew swiped ques­tions from the na­tional test it gives to mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tors while he was a mem­ber of a panel of ex­perts that helped eval­u­ate and de­velop the ex­ams.

Sub­stan­tially sim­i­lar ques­tions then ap­peared on sam­ple tests pro­vided by Bartholomew’s em­ployer, MTI Ser­vices Corp., which of­fers train­ing to peo­ple want­ing to be­come mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tors, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Den­ver. The ques­tions also ap­peared on a web­site af­fil­i­ated with MTI, the law­suit says.

Bartholomew is a former pres­i­dent of the Colorado As­so­ci­a­tion of Mort­gage Bro­kers and a former mem­ber of Colorado Mort­gage Lenders As­so­ci­a­tion’s board of di­rec­tors. He was ap­pointed to Colorado’s board of mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tors, which reg­u­lates the in­dus­try, in 2010 by then Gov. Bill Rit­ter. Bartholomew held the po­si­tion un­til 2014 and served as chair­man for part of that time.

Bartholomew did not im­me­di­ately re­turn mes­sages left for com­ment on Mon­day.

The State Reg­u­la­tory Reg­istry is a part of the Con­fer­ence of State Bank Su­per­vi­sors in Wash­ing­ton, an or­ga­ni­za­tion of bank reg­u­la­tors from all 50

states, and op­er­ates the Na­tion­wide Mul­ti­state Li­cens­ing Sys­tem for a va­ri­ety of fi­nan­cial in­dus­tries in­clud­ing mort­gage loans.

SRR says the test ques­tions are pro­tected by fed­eral copy­right laws and that Bartholomew agreed to keep them con­fi­den­tial. It is seek­ing un­spec­i­fied dam­ages for copy­right in­fringe­ment. The law­suit does not say whether any test re­sults were dis­qual­i­fied as a re­sult.

“The es­ti­mated cost of re­plac­ing these (ex­ams) is very high,” the law­suit says, “but the po­ten­tial dam­age to the in­tegrity of the exam is even higher.”

The law­suit says Bartholomew’s con­duct oc­curred “in 2017 and in prior years,” but it’s un­clear whether that in­cluded those in which he over­saw Colorado’s board of mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tors.

Bartholomew was known as a “sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert” who met with other mem­bers of the board’s na­tional test main­te­nance com­mit­tee to go over test ques­tions and help de­velop the exam, which mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tors are re­quired by fed­eral law to take.

The law­suit says Bartholomew was caught pho­tograph­ing copies of the test ques­tions from his com­puter screen dur­ing com­puter vir­tual-con­fer­ence meet­ings to eval­u­ate them. Both times Bartholomew could be heard us­ing his cell­phone to take the pho­tos — once while his we­b­cam was in­ad­ver­tently turned on and others could see him tak­ing the pic­tures, the law­suit says.

Bartholomew has been a test con­sul­tant at SRR since 2008 and for years has of­fered train­ing through MTI, where he’s been ed­u­ca­tion direc­tor since Jan­uary.

SRR ap­proved MTI as a “pre-li­cen­sure and con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion” in­struc­tor for the ex­ams.

MTI also is named as a de­fen­dant, as is an­other man, Carey Green, whom the law­suit says op­er­ated a web­site — Pass­theSafeExam.com — that of­fered a sep­a­rate study course with some ques­tions that were “iden­ti­cal or sub­stan­tially sim­i­lar to real SAFE MLO Test ques­tions,” the law­suit says.

SAFE MLO is the Se­cure And Fair En­force­ment Mort­gage Loan Orig­i­na­tor test, which was the re­sult of a sim­i­larly named law passed by Congress in 2008 af­ter the na­tional fi­nan­cial and real es­tate melt­downs caused in part by toxic mort­gages.

“By now I’m sure you’ve read the al­le­ga­tions, so you’ll un­der­stand my sur­prise at be­ing named in the case at all,” Green said Mon­day, de­clin­ing to com­ment fur­ther. On his web­site, which says it can help con­sumers pass the na­tional exam the first time, Green said he learned of the prob­lem on April 4, 2017.

“I re­ceived a very of­fi­cial sound­ing let­ter from the (Na­tional Mort­gage Li­cens­ing Sys­tem) and its re­lated agen­cies telling me that they be­lieve my study ma­te­ri­als to be a vi­o­la­tion of their copy­rights,” the web­site says. “I don’t be­lieve this to be true — at least not in­ten­tion­ally. How­ever — I have no in­ter­est in get­ting into a long and ex­pen­sive le­gal bat­tle. It’s just not worth my time.”

He of­fered re­funds to any­one who pur­chased his pro­gram in the 30 days prior to April 4.

MTI’s owner, Don Ex­ley, did not im­me­di­ately re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

A spokesman for the Colorado Depart­ment of Reg­u­la­tory Agen­cies, which over­sees the mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tor pro­gram, de­clined to com­ment about the al­le­ga­tions in SSR’s suit.

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