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Fair Go: Steve Uncovers Dubious 'Buy Back' Mortgage Schemes

Steve's ongoing commitment to doing what is best for people was recognised when Steve was publicly acknowledged and thanked by Kevin Milne of TV One's Fair Go program for helping families who were caught up in questionable "buy back" schemes.

With the investigative nous of Simon Mercep, all five families had their homes returned to them, thanks to the help of Steve.

Simon Mercep. This was the highlight of Simon's career on Fair Go - so far! - has been his dogged campaign against an insidious finance deal dubbed the "buy back". Over a two year period, Simon exposed various examples of these deals. His work played a big part in the government introducing new legislation in 2003 to clamp down on these deals.

It was one of Fair Go's longest running campaigns - against the "buy back" home finance deal - and it's coming to an end in court.

Richard Essex, a former director of NZ Debt Repay Limited, has pleaded guilty to fraud totalling nearly one-and-a-half million dollars. He will be sentenced in July, and accepts that he would go to jail. Richard Essex was prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office.

The NZ Debt Repay saga was the biggest story of Fair Go's campaign, broadcast in 2002 and 2003.

The buy back deal was supposed to save homeowners from a mortgagee sale. It let them stay in their house, pay rent to a finance company, and then buy back their home later on.

But many homeowners told Fair Go they never knew the finance company took over ownership of their home.

A case was brought to light by Steve McGowan a Mortgage Broker in Auckland. This resulted in more cases approaching Fair Go. It was then revealed that in NZ Debt Repay case, five families were shocked to discover their homes were to be sold from under them. They didn't know that Richard Essex had raised new mortgages over their houses with the BNZ. He then fled the country, leaving the bank to sell up, to recover its losses.

But working alongside lawyers Dennis Gates and Brian Henry, Fair Go discovered forged signatures on documents given to the BNZ.

Eventually Fair Go won a confidential settlement with the BNZ, which allowed the five families to stay in their homes.

The SFO case involved more than the five properties in Fair Go's story. The summary of facts said Richard Essex included false tenancy agreements, and false employment and income information, when he applied to banks for mortgages.

Not long after Fair Go's campaign, Parliament amended the Consumer Finance Act to include a special section on buy back deals.

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Throughout the last 8 years he has been there to give good advice and always keeps in touch which just goes to show that signing an agreement with Steve is just the beginning not the end of his service to his clients.
- Jason & Marlene

I have never met a person who gives so much of his personal time to make sure you get what you want when you want it. He worked tirelessly after hours to help my son & daughter secure the business they wanted...
Ira Rawiri

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