Jimmy Patronis Calls Out Credit Rating Agencies for Improperly Downgrading Floridians

At the end of last week, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis issued letters to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion in regards to improperly downgrading families’ credit ratings – even though Floridians are lawfully deferring mortgage payments, which is authorized under the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Patronis recently called on Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to put consumers first and to work with the appropriate lenders and ratings agencies to get this issue resolved as soon as possible.

The letter is as follows:

Dear Credit Reporting Agency:

It has recently come to my attention that credit-reporting agencies have been improperly downgrading families’ credit ratings – even though Floridians are lawfully deferring mortgage payments, which is authorized under the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Ignoring the fact that you, along with other credit reporting agencies, are failing tens of thousands of your customers by improperly downgrading their credit scores, the customer service that’s being provided to those in need can only be characterized as garbage. To err is human, but to give folks the run around – especially around the holidays – is downright unconscionable.

As you know, COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. For the past month, I have been traveling the state and hearing from business owners who are barely able to keep their businesses afloat. Many Florida businesses have had to use their credit cards to keep their heads above water, and the idea that certain critical transactions can’t take place because of inaccurate credit scores undermines our ability to get Florida back on its feet.

To that end, I have called on Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to put consumers first and to work with the appropriate lenders and ratings agencies to resolve this issue as soon as possible. Moreover, as Florida’s legislative session begins in a few months, my office will begin soliciting proposals from various stakeholders on how we can better protect consumers and hold credit-reporting agencies accountable. To that end, you should work with your scheduling team to monitor Florida’s legislative session in case committee subpoenas are issued.

It is my hope that it doesn’t take an act of the Florida Legislature for your agency to do right by its customers and address the chaos you have caused. Now is an opportunity for your business to step up and do right by its customers. Therefore, by January 4, 2021, I am requesting the following:

1.) Provide a point of contact within your agency where my office and OFR can work to expedite customer service issues.

2.) Provide a detailed plan on how your agency plans on bolstering its customer service divisions to quickly resolve credit-rating inaccuracies associated with deferred payments.

3.) Provide a report on how many Florida customers may have been impacted by this error.

4.) Provide a detailed report, with accompanying timelines, on steps that are being taken to resolve these errors, so Florida families are not unfairly impacted.

While I understand the timelines for these deliverables are tight, no doubt there are families today who were hoping to open a business, sustain their business, or move into a new property before the new year, but can’t because their credit was negatively impacted for no-good-reason. To discuss further please, contact my office at 850-413-4900.

 

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