Marin City Discrimination Case Settled
It’s unfortunate that this case was SETTLED in the way it was, because in reality, nothing about racial discrimination and disparate treatment was actually proven at a full trial…
The first case that’s been adjudicated claiming appraiser discrimination has been SETTLED by the defendant appraiser and the plaintiffs, with the judge “dismissing all claims with prejudice”, meaning it cannot be re-opened by the plaintiffs, but it can be appealed to a higher court by the defendant.
From what I know, this case never went to a full trial. Motions were only presented to the presiding judge, who made this ruling.
You can read about the case and outcome here, in this link:
From the article:
A Black couple living in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Marin City have settled their claims against an appraiser…
(Judge) Chesney found the Austins’ made plausible claims of disparate treatment, and that race may have been a “motivating factor” in Miller’s appraisal. She dismissed the Austins’ claim for discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to refuse to sell or rent to someone based on their race, or to advertise a dwelling indicating a racial preference. However, she found the appraiser could be held liable for a discriminatory real estate transaction since Paul Austin was at his home and the Austins’ family photos were on display while Miller performed the inspection.
But this past April, Chesney found that there was plausible discrimination in the couple’s case that the home was drastically undervalued by Miller, a white appraiser, so they could move forward with a claim for race discrimination. By October, the parties indicated they were near a settlement, leading the judge to order dismissal of all the claims with prejudice.
The settlement announced Monday (March 6, 2023) includes an undisclosed financial compensation from Miller and her firm, Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers. The settlement also requires Miller to attend training on prevention of housing discrimination in the county and watch the documentary “Our America: Lowballed,” on housing discrimination cases.
One thing to note about this, and I’m not an attorney, or practicing law, just offering an opinion, is the appraiser was NOT found ‘guilty’ of discrimination. The judge indicated that the appraiser “could be held liable for a discriminatory real estate transaction” which apparently was enough for the defendant appraiser to SETTLE the case without a full, and very expensive, court trial. The use of the word “could” might be compelling enough, but it also means that if a trial was pursued, the appraiser might NOT have been found guilty.
However, settling a case is often done to avoid spending huge piles of greenbacks going through a trial which would have an unknown, and potentially worse, outcome.
From my reading of various documents in this case, nowhere have ‘we’ seen an actual review by competent appraisers about the alleged ‘low’ value of the plaintiff’s home, versus the much higher valuation in the second report.
This area of Marin County, California has homes built on hillsides very close to the San Andreas earthquake fault. Many of the homes here, including the plaintiffs’, are built using pylon (or pile) construction with wooden power poles sunk into the hillside, which act as the ‘foundation’ for the homes. Cross-beams are attached to the poles from which the floor structure is built and sidewalls on top of that to complete the home.
I don’t have any way to know if this kind of construction is considered to be a lower quality than homes with typical poured concrete foundations, or if these homes have similar value to more traditional construction. Because ‘we’ have not seen the two appraisals reviewed, ‘we’ have no way to know whether the judge’s claim of “drastic undervaluation” is actually accurate.
It’s unfortunate that this case was SETTLED in the way it was, because in reality, nothing about racial discrimination and disparate treatment was actually proven at a full trial. Keep a sharp eye out, because my prediction is the plaintiffs and their associates will beat their chests ad nauseam for some time to come, further claiming that white appraisers who appraise black owned properties are not to be trusted.
But, settling is understood and apparently was the prudent thing to do by the appraiser.
(‘we’ is used meaning appraisers as a collective body, not me personally)
- Speed Regardless of Accuracy Under the Banner of Modernization - March 8, 2023
- Marin City Discrimination Case Settled - March 7, 2023
- Exactly How Are Property Data Collectors Professionally Trained? - March 3, 2023
I understand their position but sure wish they had been able to see this through. Now the media has news to twist into a big win over ‘a racist appraiser.’ They may have actually shot themselves in the foot by settling, because to many, this will equal them being guilty.
My new business plan; being a professional stand in for non white mortgage borrowers during the refinance process. They’ve done all the marketing for me, now all I need is a flyer and fee schedule.
Not to stir the pot, but this sure makes sitting in an office churning out desktop appraisals a bit more appealing. Afterall, if the appraiser is not onsite to see the color of the homeowner, or the homeowner to see the color of the appraiser – it would seem to take the discrimination card off the table.
Close, no cigar. In a perfect world, if people had benign names which do not indicate character identity, and have absolutely zero internet presence. Like have you ever just googled a borrowers name or a specific home address? Completing appraisals for a tenth or less of the pay without any additional liability relief, taking additional risks due to inadequate information on the home, letting unnecessary predatory middle management walk off with the fruits of your labor, that will never ever make sense or be fair. Acknowledging then acquiescing to fictitious claims is in no way productive towards bringing justice to the aggrieved. Coercion is not consent. If they’re going to make fictitious claims against me, they’ll need to look me in the eyes, in person first. Appraisers whom buy into this remote inspection desktop service only nonsense, the only thing they’ll accomplish is garnering an exponentially higher volume of fictitious complaints and claims, while dealing with a reduced income and incredible increase in working responsibilities. The thought of being tied to the desk all day is the exact reason why many of us left the traditional employment sector to pursue independent appraisal. If we are to be tied to the desk all day functioning as employees under the control of an employer, we want benefits, vacation, pensions, etc.
That appraiser just opened the door for anyone looking for settlement money.
The insurance company forced the settlement because of litigation costs. This is what happens when a well funded politically connected nonprofit organization sues an individual. The Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California basically bullied the appraiser and their insurance company into submission. It’s their MO. Can you image part of the settlement being forced to watch a propaganda TV program which attacks appraisers? I covered the case in detail. The legal docs are here. Sad day but not unexpected. https://mary–cummins.blogspot.com/2021/02/alleged-discrimination-home-appraisal.html
Like I said, open season.
The struggle session continues. One of these days someone is going to say enough is enough with these corrupt practices and demand justice.
Mary that is very good detail on your site. Question; Can an appraiser also demand an accompanying additional lawyer or is this some situation where ones insurer is totally in charge, the defendant along for the ride? Should appraisers be paying for additional defamation claims coverage or some additional insurance from an additional company, force two insurers to work together in the event such false claims are levied? This is getting complicated quick and this insurance company just shot themselves in the foot, more claims are reported to be incoming with higher frequency, according to some random bloggers who’ve stopped by this site. From your detailed account of the amc’s legal position, it appears they paid. Inquiring minds want to know, can you at least speculate and guess how much these settlement amounts may be? Want info on appraiser speculation and amc company speculation.
Additionally the AMC is a regulated entity so it would also seem prudent from the independent crowd to compel independent discovery by petitioning the state somehow to initiate an investigation into the amc’s behavior on this matter, to discover why and how they could have approved that second appraisal, perhaps bring this to light for public transparency. Isn’t the fact they settled an admission to itself and doesn’t that provide compelling evidence for a state agency to demand answers? I’m just speculating, you’re the obvious expert on this matter, what more can be done? If this is not enough for an amc to finally catch a real fine or sanction, it appears the amc industry is only regulated for state income but in all practical purposes answers to nobody (except off the books to private attorneys, it seems). This is what the last ten years of amc hype has been about? This is the amc industries end result contribution? The up side is that by staying away from amc’s, appraisers are better insulated from these issues. Obvious is obvious, ambulance chasers followed the money. One more time for posterity, where in the hell does the actual money come from.
The article doesn’t tell us anything about the second appraiser, who, in a sense, is implicated in this story as well, if the higher value in that second appraisal is attributable to the “white-washing” of the Austins’ home. Since appraisers are not a monolithic group, however, the second appraiser is NOT responsible for the first appraiser’s value conclusions, and we can’t assume that the second appraiser would have come in at that lower value if the property hadn’t been “white-washed”. The information is probably proprietary, but it would help if we could all see both of those appraisals.
Probably why the plaintiff wanted to settle, they didn’t have a case.
The first thing that comes to my mind when homes are apparently stripped of all personal possessions, yet they claim to still live there is mortgage fraud.
As my E&O insurance jumped 34% from last year to this year with a long term single appraiser office (since 2007) and no claims, this looks like after the 08 crash and appraisers leaving the industry, it’s a great way for insurance companies to make mo money off us.
So now white appraisers will turn down work in certain areas and demographics? Is that how this works? Wokeness abounds and it’s destroying everything. On purpose.
Wait I’ve got this; The headline should be; Extremely politically motivated and racially biased plaintiff, delivers stunning blow to the valuation profession; 77,000 actively licensed appraisers placed in harms way of false accusations of racial bias. Demand home owners hire third party non biased stand ins during the appraisal inspection to protect yourself from racial discrimination claims! We’re going to need a briefer caption.
Mary covered the lawyers identities on her site, but can anyone just state which EO company they work for? Lawyer reference indicates this is via General Star through Landy, can we verify that easily or do the EO insurers share the access to these sorts of independent law firms or do they provide proprietary access to only one EO company at a time? How does that work?
AMC indemnity agreement paper from the same attorney. There is another piece of the puzzle, does AMC links have a similar agreement? Let’s pop into the old amc digi files to see; Nothing there, I never did line up with this one. Found their agreement online though.
Pg 2 paragraph E is interesting. Amc’s engaging in hybrid services may be tripping themselves up if they adopt new products without updating their own agreements, but I digress. Found it. Pg 4, section 10. Oh yeah, there it is. Myself and many other now absent appraisers called this well over a decade ago. If you sign these agreements, watch out, one day these could blow back to you, wipe away your personal equity in the process. Oh man, does this mean that when the amc settled, what really happened was the amc applied the full weight of their legal fees and settlement costs unto the appraiser? So the lender skates by and the entire thing is dumped on the appraisers insurance, including the amc’s costs? Appraisers need to seriously reconsider signing agreements like this. I can’t recall exactly but at the time I refused most amc service whom had indemnity agreements, and even popped in a no indemnity implied static statement in my intro pages just to be on the safe side. Appraisers whom thought this day could never come, it’s your reckoning moment. For whatever I may have signed when I was young and new, by consistently refusing to update credentials, this should have technically nullify any previous agreements. Just to keep working, this appraiser may have been better off mowing lawns or flipping burgers.
“Indemnification. Appraiser agrees to indemnify and hold AMC Links LLC, its assigns, Lender/Client, etc. harmless from all claims, demands, losses, costs, expenses, obligations, liabilities, damages, fines, penalties, recoveries, and deficiencies, including interest, , costs, and attorneys’ fees that AMC Links LLC, its assigns, Lender/Client, etc. may incur arising from or out of the illegal, willful, or negligent conduct of Appraiser or any person Appraiser uses while providing services under this Agreement or for breach of this Agreement.”
Baggins, I have been asking appraisers for years to show every indemnification clause to their E&O provider BEFORE completing appraisals for the requestor. Ours wants us to drop these potential clients.
Jim, is this where the amc surety bond could come into play? Mary, do you have information on this? Inquiring minds want to know, this could be an additional avenue to discovery? I don’t see CA on the list though, does that mean CA appraisers are at more risk if dealing with amc’s than in states where amc’s must have said surety bonds?
The judge said they guy was home. I’m not sure of his race. The judge went on to say that their race was known because there were family photos on the walls. I don’t know about you guy’s but I don’t look at family photos. They must think we’re some kind of creeps that goes through homeowners personal possessions. I pay attention to the real estate, not their furniture or decorations. I’ll bet most appraisers do the same.
If they only knew how little I care about their race. If they only knew how much their race impacts their appraisal. The answer to both statements is nothing, nada, zero.
I’ve been appraising in Portland Oregon for years. I have no idea where the black neighborhoods are. I’m not even sure they still exist. They certainly used to in the 60’s.
When I think of bad areas in Portland, they are in neighborhoods where you see few minorities. These are in an area known as Meth Alley. Its full of homeless camps in front of people’s homes. Now that’s a bad area.
There were photos, I think there was a news article of them standing in front of the home giving an interview. The house on stilts is what made this memorable in terms of relatively unique property type. It’s somewhere in the previous articles on this site, I think it was one of Daves articles. They paid a fortune in remodeling costs but may have overpaid to acquire the home in the first place, I think it was a fsbo pickup and the fsbo seller misled them into thinking their value was tied to a larger marketplace, rather than just the local one. Not surprising there was conflict, the appraiser may have been the first qualified real estate professional they’d dealt with, whom was not trying to rake a commission out of them.
I’m with Mary on the second appraiser, if he caused this mess with advocacy to high number hitting to appease his non-client lender (as stipulated in the amc AMC Links vendor agreement detailing lender client relationships and the appraiser), that guy may very well deserve to be in an orange jumpsuit and shackles. People need to understand the valuation industry is not just what the tech people and predatory money raking middle managers say it is; The service provided carries a high gravity every single time. Efficiency and volume are not the proper things to focus on or prioritize. Appraisers need to get their minds around this better. Which is one of the reasons we sit back and laugh at the appraisers whom discount for work orders then brag like they’re somebodies for pushing so much more volume. They should have landed in sales with those attitudes, they’ll eventually get exactly what they asked for; the full weight of liability for all those services previously provided. Be careful what you wish for in this industry.
My two cents on this. As most know I sued Coester VMS and Brian Coester a couple years back. Actually it was a 4 year long ordeal. While my lawsuit was different, I can relate to this but also have other thoughts.
It’s quite amazing how the legal system works. Anyone can sue anyone for anything but you must prove it. However there are cases where you can just make up shit and countersue to scare people etc. Kinda like how Coester tried with me in making up a story that I cost him $20,000,000 in business to try and scare me away. Now, I didn’t bite because my attorneys wouldn’t let me, we knew it was a false claim and they sure as hell wouldn’t let me settle unless he brought alot to the table. But he didn’t.
So with this lawsuit, nothing has been really proven or even shared. Things like this can get exhausting and sometimes there looks to be no end in sight. Which is why, during my lawsuit, I took up the Bottle big time, said and did things out of character and made even more poor choices. It was the only way I could cope and help me escape the daily bullshit i was going through. I know my case wasn’t like this. I wasn’t getting threatening messages from people, having my character attacked on TV and the news, my business being destroyed, etc but I can relate to what the appraiser must have been going through in some aspects
The judicial system is pretty messed up. Its even more so that attorneys for the guilty can get away with lying, cheating, and more when they deep down know that they are in the wrong. But hey thats the world we live in. I mean shit, Coester had gone through 3 different attorneys and even some admitted they were in the wrong. BUT nothing can be done to them.
What I don’t like about this is that here we are again, with no proof of anything, no documents to see, no understanding of the settlement and now we have news articles making this seem so one sided again. One article in the immediate area of this home states” Appraiser who undervalued Black Couples home must pay- and get discrimination training”. Another states “Black couple settles bias suit over lowballed home appraisal”.
Its this type of narrative that makes it worse, yet they will seal the records, seal the terms of the settlement, and we have no idea what Justice could have come because of this. The fact that we never saw a second report, no one actually reviewed it, or anything for that matter in this case other than 2 people constantly on TV and webinars making claims, is so troubling in these days.
It’s now open season on the appraisal profession. Its open season for anyone to disagree with your values and you now have no protections. Its open season for feelings over facts.
Lastly, I think every appraiser needs to take a solid look at the AMCS they work for. Review all documents. Make good decisions on who you will and not work for. At the same time, start using your intelligence, take the time to research your properties and start documenting everything. Wear a body cam, use the otter recording app on your iPhone to record the conversations. Start asking questions when you get to a home and maybe ask for ID when you get there.
All in all, I get what happened here, but at the same time there should be a right to know. I myself pride myself in my business, do the best i can but also take the precautions needed for me.
You bring up a good point – when I was training, the appraiser and I went to a home for an owner occupied 1004. Lady wanted an early appt. before she went to work. We arrived and could hear her vacuuming. Rang doorbell and a well dressed professional looking black woman answered the door (I only mention her race as her tenants were also black and had family photos around the home which as someone else said, I really paid no attention to but was made aware later that this was a key piece of information) and we completed our inspection and left so she could head off to work. A few months later my boss gets a message from his lender friend informing him that the home was not owner occupied but the lady who answered was the owner/landlord and was pretending to live there. And we laughed and laughed…………….. 😉
I remain mystified how appraisers can even abide a continued business agreement once they get on the inside to experience and observe how amc companies work first hand. At least with direct assignment panels if there is a problem, I can talk to a qualified appraiser manager, receive training and guidance if needed, or pass messages directly to the lender. And because the manager is licensed, he has a shared interest to protect the integrity of the process, he’s accountable right alongside the panel appraisers. Not quite the same but close enough and it’s a night and day difference compared to working with non accountable yes men whom just send all lender pressure downhill. (case in point this article)
The direct lenders whom do not hire qualified licensed appraisers are in some ways even worse than amc’s, because that lead guy is basically the mortgage departments go to unaccountable hench man. There is only a limited array of acceptable and ethically palatable engagement models for appraisers and lenders left out there, the upside is this modeling appears to be more frequent as time passes rather than less.
1. A qualified licensed appraiser panel manager. 2. Qualified well trained appraisal distribution department staff employed directly by the lender. 3. Consistent up front fees all panel appraisers enjoy regardless of specific property characters, no bidding required. 4. Direct assignment practices. 5. A comprehensive dispute management approach which does not involve just replacing appraisers every time someone involved in the process throws a tantrum or levies some ridiculous accusation at an appraiser. 6. No indemnity agreements. 7. The lender will not just order additional appraisals to shop for higher values like occurred with this article history.
Even if you were to be flexible on these client procurement goals, having a licensed panel manager should be considered a non negotiable point. Otherwise you’ll just end up with some goon lording over you, constantly holding your license hostage. That’s exactly what happened to this appraiser; she did not play ball, they found someone whom did, and left her holding the bag when things turned sour.
Ethics comes down to the individual and the people we work with. Just look at these examples, what they tried to do to Mark. What they just did to this other appraiser. These are railroad jobs. The amc company is not going to even try to defend the appraiser, quite the opposite. They’ve procured the appraisers insurance protection and signature, that’s all they needed, and the appraiser pays for their operational costs.
The injustice of it all. For what, so 501c TAF employees could have tea time with 501c Brookings employees to watch color coded quasi documentaries based on hoax research papers, on the big screen and fancy 501c grant funded leather couches at Brookings? I’d bet they have a real real real nice spread over there. The question which needs presented is; Would it have gone this far if there was no amc involved?
Thanks Dave and Mark Skap
They added 1,000 S.F. to the home and other upgrades and wanted the loan “to help pay” for this work. Talk about over improving the home on stilts! Plus I still wonder was the 2nd Appraisal subject to other upgrades or updates. Funny how the 2nd appraisal came in almost exactly where the prior appraisal before Miller Appraised 1.4+ million. Way too many questions. BUT HERE is the very suspect part of this deal. They said she used 1 sale that went into foreclosure 2 years earlier! No way she would use a sale that old, so what I think is she used that sale which had since been remodeled after that foreclosure sale and it would have been the most comparable sale to the subject period! People don’t get it. YES minority homes are valued less than white neighborhoods. So what? This has nothing to do with the Appraiser and everything to do with the BUYERS. Fix the issues, values will rise. This whole deal makes me sick. And for Miller to have to take those classes and watch the LOWBALLED documentary is plain cruel. Like having to watch the person who killed a loved one in a documentary saying they did not do it! I sure hope she does come back and SUE for defamation.
I think you meant to say that homes in minority neighborhoods sell for less, not that minorities homes sell for less. In Portland, OR homes in minority neighborhoods don’t necessarily sell for less. The worst areas of Portland are occupied by meth heads. They are mostly white. The homeless encampments are typically occupied by mostly white drug addicts. There are many predominantly minority neighborhoods in the city that are certainly better than the homes in “Meth Alley.”
We all know, a desirable neighborhood isn’t defined by the skin color of its residents, it’s more a function of the lack of crime. If you live in a neighborhood where people say, “We need to get out of here”, chances are your properties value is likely to be affected. A good example is the upscale Pearl District of Portland, during the year long riots people could not safely come and go. That neighborhood is definitely made up of mostly white urban professionals.
I wish people would stop it with their vanity and jealousy of high home prices, it’s ridiculous to export this to the masses. Ask any given average regular buyer, if they’d rather pay more for that exact same product, or less.
The people whom bought this home were conned by a fsbo seller before the appraiser ever set foot on the property right? It rolled downhill from there. Blame the white lady? Absolute total complete insufferable idiots whom should not even be trusted to hold their own forks. Drooling incompetents glued to the fake news television channels, dollar signs in their eyes.
Just say you have a religious objection to watching television, nobody is going to force me to watch a documentary, are you kidding? Nerds. And that’s what the lady gets for settling. How long before they force you to watch strapped in a chair with toothpicks in your eyes on infinite repeat? Pull the fire alarm, oh too bad, the documentary is simply going to have to wait. Bring in a high power laser so you can trace your favorite shapes on the tv. Wear very dark glasses and sleep through it. Bring a very big bag of very loud very crunchy chips. Mail in a glitter bomb. Do a pizza prank
You’ve got to be kidding me with forcing people to watch struggle session politically biased documentaries. Reminds me of Channel 1 in high school, you know how many teachers quit their jobs over that being forced to play automatically at 10 am in every single class? Quite a few, I even watched one teacher physically cut the cable cord with a big old snipper. This forced indoctrination campaign towards socialistic values and anti American idolatry of wealth will not abide. They’re all worshiping the golden calf, picking their sacrificial lambs. Don’t be the lamb.
The state of CO is trying to force me to watch a documentary and take some pro pharma propaganda class because we refuse vaccines. So we just ignore their requests. Nothing comes of it, they can’t force me to do anything. The appraiser should resist and go back to court, stripping someones license for refusing to participate in a struggle session and watch a single movie? What the hell, did Jesus Christ himself or the sixth reincarnation of Buddah personally direct the movie? Who’s still buying this? If I have to watch that movie, they have to listen to infowars simultaneously while the movie is playing. Fair is fair.
Yes, you get my point. That is what I meant. MEDIA hounds on the fact that minority neighborhoods are valued for less than white neighborhoods my point is the reason for this is that Buyers are paying less in these areas for many different reasons. Fix those issues if they are fixable and values will rise because home sale prices will rise.
But really, when will anyone advocate to bring my home prices down to more affordable levels? We’ve lost all upward mobility. High prices are a night mare. Our taxes have quadrupled from the time we bought this home. We’d have far more consumer spending power if we had more affordable housing. This one sided idolatry that high prices are inherently better is just financial ignorance, people should stop playing along with this nonsense.
1st appraiser used 3 properties in Marin City, 2 in Mill Valley and 1 in Sausalito. 2nd used 2 in Marin City and 6 in Sausalito.
Sausalito avg. home prices are around $500k higher than Marin City where home is located.
This was a racial shakedown by this couple.
Yeah exactly the difference between 1st and 2nd Appraisal but will you ever hear this in the media or court? Hell no! We need to spread this fact far and wide.
Well, It finally happened. A house in the Austin’s neighborhood finally sold for more than the $1.45 million value they received on the second appraisal in 2020. It took three years and a Covid housing boom to reach that value. There are a few recent sales that have reached $1.3 million. There is a listing for $1.39 million that is superior to the Austin’s home
Mary Cummins has recent updates of her blog.
Since the Austin’s were in it for the money all along I wonder if they’ll sue Zillow for only evaluating their house at $1.25 million?