Joint Ventures no longer have to be reserved for large real estate/mortgage players
Ongoing changes within the mortgage industry have begun to dictate a shift in how everyday business is conducted. With the ever-increasing cost of acquiring new borrowers/buyers, coupled with a heightened rate environment, service providers are being forced to think outside the box.
There are three critical criteria required to meet the safe-harbor testThere are three critical criteria required to meet the safe-harbor test; and doing so is necessary to ensure a compliant JV.
The criteria are:
1) Written Disclosure;
2) The person being referred must not be required to use the affiliated business; and
3) The distribution of profit can only be proportionate to the equity interest in the JV of the distributee, no other payments may be made under the arrangement.
This policy outlines the 10- part Balancing Test to determine if a JV is a bona fide(1) Does the new entity have sufficient initial capital and net worth, typical in the industry, to conduct the settlement service business for which it was created? Or is it under-capitalized to do the work it purports to provide?
(2) Is the new entity staffed with its own employees to perform the services it provides?Or does the new entity have “loaned” employees of one of the parent providers?
(3) Does the new entity manage its own business affairs? Or is an entity that helped create the new entity running the new entity for the parent provider making the referrals?
(4) Does the new entity have an office for business which is separate from one of the parent providers? If the new entity is located at the same business address as one of the parent providers, does the new entity pay a general market value rent for the facilities actually furnished?
(5) Is the new entity providing substantial services, i.e., the essential functions of the real estate settlement service, for which the entity receives a fee? Does it incur the risks and receive the rewards of any comparable enterprise operating in the market place?
(6) Does the new entity perform all of the substantial services itself? Or does it contract out part of the work? If so, how much of the work is contracted out?
(7) If the new entity contracts out some of its essential functions, does it contract services from an independent third party? Or are the services contracted from a parent, affiliated provider or an entity that helped create the controlled entity? If the new entity contracts out work to a parent, affiliated provider or an entity that helped create it, does the new entity provide any functions that are of value to the settlement process?
(8) If the new entity contracts out work to another party, is the party performing any contracted services receiving a payment for services or facilities provided that bears a reasonable relationship to the value of the services or goods received? Or is the contractor providing services or goods at a charge such that the new entity is receiving a "thing of value'' for referring settlement service business to the party performing the service?
(9) Is the new entity actively competing in the market place for business? Does the new entity receive or attempt to obtain business from settlement service providers other than one of the settlement service providers that created the new entity?
(10) Is the new entity sending business exclusively to one of the settlement service providers that created it (such as the title application for a title policy to a title insurance underwriter or a loan package to a lender)? Or does the new entity send business to a number of entities, which may include one of the providers that created it?