In accordance with a courtroom submitting, on March 26, 2021, Ronald Leonhardt, the founder and CEO of CrossCountry Mortgage hopped on a Zoom name with Anthony Hsieh, founder and CEO of loanDepot.
Hsieh had simply taken his mortgage lending firm public, and he was savoring the fruits of a bountiful refinancing market.
Maybe surprisingly, then, Hsieh proposed not only a merger between loanDepot and CrossCountry, however one through which Leonhardt would reign as CEO of the consolidated outfit.
Within the ensuing yr, the mortgage refinancing market crumbled, and several other corporations together with loanDepot executed layoffs and different cutbacks. LoanDepot has additionally confronted a high-profile whistleblower lawsuit, the corporate’s inventory worth sank like a stone, and Hsieh stepped down as CEO.
LoanDepot additionally subsequently filed at the least three totally different lawsuits towards CrossCountry. The complaints say CrossCountry overtly and illegally poached loanDepot’s prime mortgage officers.
A non-public firm and direct-to-consumer lender, CrossCountry has declared these lawsuits “retaliation” for Leonhardt “spurning” loanDepot, in line with the identical courtroom doc, which CrossCountry legal professionals filed in June in Illinois federal courtroom.
LoanDepot’s lawsuits are only a few of the poaching complaints towards CrossCountry, a mountain of accusations which have raised eyebrows within the mortgage trade.
An inexhaustive record consists of lawsuits from Freedom Mortgage, Homeside Monetary, Guild Mortgage, and Caliber Residence Loans. There’s one other case from loanDepot made earlier than the alleged Leonhardt-Hsieh encounter.
However the lender has one other rationalization for the authorized actions.
“It’s no shock CrossCountry Mortgage has been capable of entice nice expertise, expertise others would sue to maintain,” CrossCountry spokesperson Alicia Mauer advised Nationwide Mortgage Information. “We stay up for recruiting, attracting and rising extra nice expertise. We want our competitors had that braveness.”
Up to now, there have been few public repercussions to enjoying hardball within the conflict for expertise. Poaching and commerce secret circumstances fly between trade operators, solely to be withdrawn or settled privately. The jittery pessimism of the mortgage market has solely heightened the drama, a second of decline and nervousness that CrossCountry claims to not be affected by.
“Who desires to work for a corporation that sues its workers for leaving, whereas on the identical time decreasing their employees?” Mauer stated. “It is a disgrace that different corporations are treating their mortgage officers so poorly.”
The quintessential Cleveland Story
In 1997, Ronald Leonhardt graduated from Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio the place he majored in sports activities administration and performed NCAA Division III faculty soccer. Six years later Leonardt based CrossCountry in neighboring Brecksville, Ohio, which is 15 miles south of Cleveland.
In contrast to Hsieh or fellow Midwestern mortgage moguls like Rocket’s Dan Gilbert and United Wholesale Mortgage’s Mat Ishbia, Leonhardt has a reasonably low public profile. He didn’t return messages for this text, and the corporate declined to make him out there for an interview.
Like Gilbert and Ishbia, Leonhardt loves sports activities. His LinkedIn profile image reveals him posing with an individual in a canine costume and Cleveland Browns soccer jersey, a reference to Brown followers calling themselves “the canine pound.” CrossCountry turned the official mortgage associate of the Cleveland Browns in July 2021.
The lender has quickly grown since its founding. In 2021, the corporate introduced that greater than 200 of its over 600 lending branches opened in simply the final two years.
That was earlier than a $400 million personal fairness fundraising spherical introduced in November 2021, which was led by Ares Administration. Kevin Alexander of Ares stated the cash was for CrossCountry’s “natural and inorganic progress technique.”
In accordance with the Scotsman Information, CrossCountry was the fifth largest retail lender in 2021 with $53.5 billion in lending quantity. The corporate ranked tenth amongst all lenders in 2021 after ending 18th the yr earlier than, and never cracking the highest 20 in 2019.
“They’ve some infamous recruiting ways,” stated one former CrossCountry mortgage officer, who stated he didn’t need to jeopardize his profession by commenting for the document. “However additionally they did have a extra retail-friendly mannequin.”
Final yr, CrossCountry started development on a $46 million company headquarters that, when full, will transfer the corporate from Brecksville to Cleveland’s Superior Arts district, a bit over one mile from the place the Browns play.
“We’ve got constructed this enterprise from the bottom up by exhausting work and a shared dedication to make the mortgage course of simple, stress-free and rewarding,” Leonhardt stated in an announcement saying the brand new headquarters. “We’re the quintessential Cleveland story.”
See you in courtroom, perhaps
Litigation towards CrossCountry is a thriller wrapped up in enigma, packaged in nondisclosure agreements.
In a dozen CrossCountry lawsuits filed since 2017 that Nationwide Mortgage Information checked out, there has not been one important ruling towards CrossCountry. At most, judges have ordered injunctions to make CrossCountry cease doing issues that, had been they taking place within the first place, would have been towards the legislation.
There has additionally not been one key determination for CrossCountry.
In 2017, Freedom filed lawsuits in New Jersey and Nevada federal courts accusing CrossCountry of furtively altering a Freedom department close to Las Vegas right into a CrossCountry workplace.
Two Freedom managers, Ed Kami and Christina Singleton, allegedly used their firm’s computer systems and workplace house to repeat shopper leads, buyer info and Freedom working and coaching manuals and introduced them over to CrossCountry. Kami and Singleton had been accused of breaking non-compete and confidentiality agreements.
After little greater than a yr, Freedom voluntarily withdrew one case. The opposite resulted in an undisclosed settlement.
In 2018, Homeside Monetary, a Columbia, Maryland-based firm, filed two federal lawsuits towards CrossCountry.
Charles Shackelford, a senior vice-president of retail gross sales at Homeside Monetary’s Stow, Ohio department, “abruptly” jumped over to CrossCountry, in line with a lawsuit filed in Maryland and introduced 25 workers with him. Shackelford allegedly “diverted a lot of Homeside’s prospects, potential prospects, and referral sources to Cross Nation.”
The circumstances settled inside a yr for undisclosed phrases. Shackelford, who Homeside Monetary declared led a staff that generated $154 million in 2017 mortgage mortgage quantity, has spent the previous 4 years as a CrossCountry govt vice-president.
In 2018, loanDepot sued CrossCountry in New Jersey federal courtroom for allegedly inducing Matthew Reid, a department supervisor and mortgage mortgage originator, to leap to CrossCountry and take his gross sales assistant with him.
The swimsuit claimed that in his final month of employment, Reid had stopped originating loans for loanDepot. Reid as a substitute was allegedly emailing himself the names of 57 loanDepot prospects value nearly $19 million in enterprise to his personal Hotmail e-mail deal with.
Mortgage trade specialists say such actions, in the event that they occurred, would have crossed the road ethically, if not legally.
“Downloading, say, your entire buyer database would for my part represent a breach of confidentiality or a noncompete settlement an worker may need” stated Clifford Rossi, Citigroup’s former chief threat officer for shopper lending and at present a professor on the College of Maryland.
However it was by no means decided if Reid and his cohort did something incorrect, or if CrossCountry broke legal guidelines of their recruiting of Reid. Two years after the lawsuit was filed, U.S. District Decide Kevin McNulty signed a stipulation from the events dismissing the case.
In a lawsuit filed towards CrossCountry simply this July, loanDepot claims that CrossCountry stole workers answerable for 81% of the businesses’ mortgage quantity in New York over the previous yr.
That grievance references the New Jersey settlement, stating it was a “Settlement settlement that compensated loanDepot for a raid on loanDepot’s New York Metropolis department.”
What compensation? Properly, neither loanDepot nor CrossCountry would elaborate on the New Jersey settlement.
LoanDepot declined to remark for this story, stating it was an organization coverage to not deal with pending litigation.
Different corporations additionally declined to talk about lawsuits.
Mortgage officers additionally declined to talk for the document, both as a result of they’re concerned within the circumstances, or are usually not concerned within the circumstances. They expressed real uncertainty and conflicting tales about CrossCountry.
“I’m conscious of the lawsuits and CrossCountry’s recruiting,” stated one mortgage officer in Southern California, “However I would favor to let the authorized course of play out.”
In some methods, the CrossCountry circumstances are just like different current trade-secret litigation within the mortgage trade: There is a headline-grabbing lawsuit. Then crickets.
For instance, Black Knight’s lawsuit towards Pennymac, quietly went to arbitration.
One publicly identified determination is HouseCanary, an organization that makes actual property valuations, profitable a $740 million commerce secrets and techniques misappropriations judgment towards Amrock, a subsidiary of Rocket that now does enterprise as Title Supply.
Even there, an appeals courtroom threw out the jury verdict. The case will probably be retried, 5 years after its first jury trial.
The conspiring mortgage officer
Final yr Scott Bonora earned seven-figures as a loanDepot space gross sales supervisor, a job the place he supervised 55 individuals and generated over $100 million in mortgage functions. In accordance with loanDepot’s New York courtroom grievance, Bonora went on a months-long scheme to relocate to CrossCountry culminating in a March 22 resignation.
Bonora transferred 200 folders named after prospects onto his USB drive. He requested permission to enter a loanDepot workplace he did not usually work from, ostensibly to retrieve a cornhole recreation. There, Bonora took extra experiences, leaving the cornhole recreation behind. In the meantime, Bonora used loanDepot laptops to learn up on lawsuits filed towards CrossCountry, the grievance states.
If true, Bonora’s habits raises a query. Why would a millionaire mortgage officer leap over to a distinct firm figuring out he’d in all probability be sued for doing so?
The plain reply is cash. However the Bonora grievance doesn’t allege the mortgage officer acquired a better pay package deal for leaping ship.
A number of lawsuits allege pay hikes, however only for the highest supervisor.
Matthew Reid purportedly nabbed a $250,000 bonus to affix CrossCountry. However the courtroom papers say nothing about his colleagues receiving bonuses.
In accordance with Caliber’s lawsuit towards CrossCountry in Seattle federal courtroom, Mark Everts, a district supervisor, acquired a $1 million sign-on bonus, plus $500,000 extra if his staff met sure mortgage origination targets.
One former CrossCountry mortgage officer stated the staff’s perks are directed at a couple of managers or prime producers.
“I do not suppose lots of people know concerning the bonuses or are affected by it,” the mortgage officer stated.
Generally, CrossCountry finds methods to claw again bonuses, the previous CrossCountry worker stated, criticizing the lender for “questionable ethics,” but in addition acknowledging the corporate didn’t break any contractual obligation.
There is perhaps causes in addition to cash for mortgage officers becoming a member of CrossCountry.
Within the Guild case, additionally in Seattle courtroom, a former supervisor, Christopher Jordan Flowers, allegedly bolted the corporate in July 2021 and took confidential info with him.
Flowers, although, filed a lawsuit of his personal, which has since been despatched to a non-public arbitrator.
The bizarre declare says that two Guild managers, Gina Durosko and Stephanie Ann Peavey (who has since left the corporate) made feedback to Flowers that he would “really feel the wrath of Guild.” Durosko allegedly had a third-party firm, Poop Senders, ship the mortgage officer a package deal within the mail smeared with gorilla feces.
Peavey and Guild declined to remark. Messages left with Durosko went unreturned.
No different departed mortgage officers assert scatalogical harassment. However there are counterclaims together with ones filed towards loanDepot in Illinois federal courtroom. These state that a part of becoming a member of loanDepot is getting into right into a shared spreadsheet buyer leads accrued from prior jobs.
CrossCountry itself made a counterclaim within the loanDepot Illinois lawsuit, a authorized doc that chronicles the purported Hsieh-Leonhardt assembly and consists of accusations that the truth is loanDepot stole CrossCountry’s commerce secrets and techniques.
The agency can also be not above submitting its personal lawsuits. In August, CrossCountry dropped a Nevada case towards Guild (separate from Guild’s undropped declare towards CrossCountry) accusing a lender diverting enterprise to Guild, whereas nonetheless working at CrossCountry.
In the meantime, CrossCountry sued in August Money Name Mortgage for trademark infringement. The declare? Money Name Mortgage’s “CCM” emblem appears an excessive amount of like CrossCountry’s patented “CCM” branding.
As a non-public firm, CrossCountry will not be topic to the identical reporting necessities as most of the corporations suing it. Simply as the end result of a number of lawsuits are usually not identified, neither is whether or not CrossCountry is worthwhile, or whether or not its lending quantity positive factors produced a commensurate income rise.
With out offering specifics, Mauer says that in a tumultuous market CrossCountry is a port of “stability and progress.”
Regardless of the case, there’s one level everybody can agree about: CrossCountry appears pretty detached to those lawsuits.
“At this level,” loanDepot’s lawyer penned of their New York lawsuit. “It’s clear CrossCountry is keen to soak up such litigation and injunctive aid as the price of doing (unlawful) enterprise.”