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Death Of A Salesman

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From the Telegraph today. Interesting how financially important he was to the Bush campaign.

Anyway, not here to speak ill of the dead, for interest only, RIP.

Roland Arnall

Last Updated: 2:10am GMT 25/03/2008

Roland arnall, who died on March 17 aged 68, founded America's largest sub-prime mortgage business and in 2006 was appointed United States ambassador to the Netherlands in controversial circumstances.

A one-time street-corner flower-seller, Arnall founded his California-based mortgage company, Ameriquest, in 1979. The firm, which described itself as "proud sponsor of the American dream", specialised in offering mortgages to people with weak credit histories and became the nation's largest sub-prime lender.

It was one of the first mortgage companies to use computer databases to target borrowers, and advertised widely on television and through sponsorship - including the Rolling Stones' tour of America in 2005.

Profits soared during the housing boom of the 1990s, but Ameriquest became an early casualty of the subsequent sub-prime "meltdown". The remnants of the company were sold to Citigroup last year.

Arnall's fortune was estimated at $1.5 billion, and he and his second wife, Dawn, became generous donors to candidates of both main political parties - but particularly to President George W Bush.

In 2006 the Washington Post reported that the couple had raised at least $12.5 million for the president since 2002, making them Bush's largest single fund-raisers. They also gave financial support to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.

In addition Mrs Arnall had contributed $5 million to a pro-Bush lobby group known as the Progress for America Voter Fund, and co-chaired the 2004 Republican convention.

But Arnall's company was dogged by allegations that it had engaged in improper and predatory lending practices by, for example, lying about borrowers' incomes to enable them to obtain loans they could not afford, and misleading borrowers about the terms of their loans.


In 1996 the company paid $3 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of exploiting older, female and minority borrowers, by allowing its mortgage brokers and employees to charge such customers an additional fee of as much as 12 per cent of the loan amount.

A subsequent series of class action lawsuits, involving law enforcement agencies and financial regulators in 49 states, alleging systematic fraud, falsification of documents and dubious sales tactics, were settled out of court in 2006 by Ameriquest's parent company (which at the same time admitted to no wrongdoing) with a payout of $325 million - one of the largest-ever consumer protection settlements. More than 200 branches were closed down, with nearly 4,000 employees losing their jobs.

When President Bush nominated Arnall for the post of ambassador to the Netherlands in August 2005, the announcement was controversial on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Republican-controlled Senate vetoed his appointment several times before finally confirming it by a narrow margin in February 2006, after the class action settlement.

Roland Arnall was born on March 29 1939 to East European Jews (his father was a tailor, his mother a nurse) who had fled to Paris. He spent his childhood in a French village, where his family pretended to be Catholics to evade the attentions of the Nazis, and was unaware of his Jewish ancestry until the war ended.

The family then moved to Canada, then on to the United States, settling in California. Arnall and his brother opened a flower stall on the streets of Los Angeles, before Arnall began investing in apartments and other businesses. Ameriquest was born in 1994 out of the Long Beach Savings and Loan company, which Arnall had set up in 1979.

In the 1970s he helped to found the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. He was also a generous benefactor to animal shelters and Jewish charities and, during his short time as ambassador to the Netherlands, strove to improve understanding of Europe's Muslim minority.

Arnall's term as ambassador was due to end in 2009, but he stepped down earlier this month in order to care for his son, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.

He is survived by his wife and by his son and daughter.

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It was one of the first mortgage companies to use computer databases to target borrowers, and advertised widely on television and through sponsorship - including the Rolling Stones' tour of America in 2005.

Oh so sad on so many different levels :(

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