“PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW WE CAN FILE A CLASS ACTION SUIT IN FLORIDA!!! Have had the same problems and run around as everyone else with Clayton Homes in Crestview Florida.” That was posted by Christine Charleston on August 1, 2019 on BigClassAction.com.
The all caps above are from the original quoted source. As a notice for new MHLivingNews readers, we often turn quotes bold and brown to make it ‘pop,’ but otherwise the quote is as in the original.
The “everyone else” by Ms. Charleston is an apparent reference to others lodging public complaints looking for a lawyer to sue Clayton on the same webpage. There are more from a variety of Clayton Home customers. Complaints on YouTube or elsewhere are available from 2020 and 2019, but these go back for several years. An attachment with some examples are linked here.
The Nix Patterson LLP (NPR) law firm has a page devoted to a class action lawsuit that they state that they brought against Clayton Homes, which resulted in a $100,000,000 settlement. It reads as follows.
NPR filed a national class action on behalf of over 100,000 putative class members against two manufacturers of mobile homes. The nationwide class alleged the manufacturers charged customers for the wheels and axles used to transport purchased mobile homes and, after placing the homes on the customer’s property, removed and retained the wheels and axles. The lawsuit alleged claims of fraud, unjust enrichment and conversion and sought monetary and injunctive relief.
NPR obtained a 100% restitution recovery for the classes valued at approximately $100 million, as well as injunctive relief in the form of a court order requiring the defendants to cease their offending conduct. Each settlement received final approval.
The class was represented by NPR partner Michael Angelovich and associate Chad Ihrig.”
But to get a sense of how common this appears to be, see the screen capture from Google’s search function, below. There are over 1 million results for that search on this date.
Let’s note as a disclosure that MHLivingNews is pro-manufactured housing. The publishers here have years of personal experience happily living in manufactured homes. Additionally, there is over 2 decades of experience marketing, selling, managing and writing about manufactured housing related topics. So, unlike some, this isn’t about ‘bashing’ manufactured homes; quite the opposite. The purpose here is to spotlight that who you do business with in any major purchase matters. There are happy and unhappy site built housing buyers, and there are happy and unhappy Clayton Homes buyers.
The ABC News video below reflects the problems that can occur with far more costly conventional housing. Conversely, there are millions who reportedly like or love their far lower cost manufactured homes.
That said, Clayton Homes’ own annual report suggests that 4 out of 10 buyers would not recommend the company. One might think that they work hard to get that number as high as possible. To see it at roughly 60 percent, a failing score in traditional grading systems, is a stark warning to possible homebuyers.
Additionally, their own data indicates that for every 751 households – households – exposed to Clayton Homes products, only 1 of those actually purchased one of their housing units, which includes site built housing.
MHProNews has previously featured home-made videos made by angry Clayton Homes owners, and/or the mainstream media reporting on angry owners. Does that help explain why Clayton’s own self-reported Net Referral Score (NRS) in their annual report is relatively low?
There have been prior class action lawsuits against Clayton. One reported as settled by Big Class Action is this:
“In 2003, the Denver Area Meat Cutters and Employees Pension Plan filed a class action lawsuit against the company. The suit was filed on behalf of company shareholders who continuously held shares between April 1, 2003 and August 7, 2003. The class sought damages related to the merger of Clayton Homes and Berkshire Hathaway and were awarded a $5 million settlement. (May-20-05) [THE DAILY TIMES]”
Keep in mind that in the in-depth video interview with Kevin Clayton linked here he said that Buffett told him that the legal actions involving Clayton’s acquisition were perhaps the ugliest Berkshire Hathaway had dealt with. The one cited above was not a one-off.
These are just some elements of past, current, or brewing matters that could be construed as the larger ‘case against Clayton Homes.’ This updated report will look deeper to see what else is brewing and that could fuel added concerns that could impact Clayton Homes and some of those tied to them.
Antitrust and other Legal, Regulatory Issues
Those public pans of Clayton Homes set the stage for these mainstream media reports that deal with allegations of monopolization.
- The Atlantic,without specifying how the monopolization was being accomplished, noted that the independent retailers in manufactured housing were being rapidly eliminated/consolidated, that report is linked here.
- GuruFocus said “Warren Buffett Can’t Escape Unethical Strategic Moats,” their specific points are linked here.
- The Nation called it “The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett’s Billions…” and specifies Clayton Homes among those using the strategic moat in ‘dirty’ ways.
- The Seattle Times in “Minorities exploited by Warren Buffett’s mobile home empire Clayton Homes” said that “Clayton’s grip on the lending market verges on monopolistic…”
- The Jacksonville Florida Times Unionsummarized the connection between the John Oliver viral hit video dubbed “Mobile Homes,” MHI, Clayton Homes, and their related lenders. That op-ed was first fact-checked by an editor, before it was published in multiple Florida newspapers.
Forbes has an article that focuses on the racial bias and predatory businesses practices too. It is entitled “Warren Buffett’s Exploitative Mobile Home Investment.” Rephrased, there are sources across the left-right media divide that have highlighted problems with Clayton Homes, their business and lending practices for several years. Several of those have included a monopolistic angle.
The HBO video by John Oliver shown above has now topped over 8 million views. It documents several concerns about Clayton Homes, their lending, Warren Buffett, and allegations of discriminatory and predatory lending practices. The local news video below underscores from a company insider some of those same concerns.
The Financial Times has the quote below, which is from a self-proclaimed one-time Warren Buffett fan. Robin Harding now sees Berkshire – the parent company of Clayton Homes – as someone harming capitalism because of his monopolistic practices.
“I was appalled by some of the findings in the recent articles,” said Maxine Waters (CA-D) in a letter that included fellow House Democratic lawmakers. “There is no place for these kinds of sleazy and deceptive practices. I was further taken aback by Mr. Buffett’s defense of Clayton’s lending practices given the concerns that were raised by the articles earlier last year.”
The video below is dated February 29, 2016. So the number of investigations and other legal outcomes is likely higher now.
Their letter was addressed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ is an agency that shares responsibility for antitrust legal action, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
That same letter also stressed the possible antitrust or ‘monopolization’ angle. It said in part, “As the investigation makes clear, Clayton is the nation’s largest manufactured housing company and has a “near monopolistic” grip on lending to minority borrowers seeking financing for manufactured housing reaching nearly 72% of African-American borrowers, 56% of Latino borrowers, and 53% of Native American borrowers. Given Clayton’s uniquely broad control of the manufacture, sale, and financing of manufactured homes, it is imperative that their business practices comply with federal law in order to ensure affordable housing for low-and-moderate income buyers. Surely, if news outlets can launch an investigation into potential violations of federal fair lending and consumer protection laws, agencies charged with protecting the nation’s consumers should be able to investigate these allegations, and, to pursue appropriate enforcement actions.”
An academic that researched loans to Native Americans, including manufactured home loans, made the following statement in her report to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
Once more, it is important to emphasize that there are millions of satisfied manufactured home owners, so problems associated with Clayton Homes should not be projected onto all others in the industry. One example out of many is the glowing homeowners in the video shown below.
There are also tweets by Austin Frerick with Open Markets; a nonprofit that is focused on fighting the monopolization of America. His comments speak for themselves about antitrust concerns. One of those is shown below.
Several Democratic Senators, including 2020 Democratic Presidential hopefuls. They signed onto a letter found linked here in 2019 to ask the Trump Administration Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to press the investigation of Clayton Homes and their related lending. Given growing interest in antitrust action in Washington, is the time for Clayton drawing closer to a serious day of reckoning?
There is More…
Clayton Homes and their associated companies arguably dominates the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). There are serious issues that a stead stream of tips and research has revealed that are problematic if not illegal. That will be the subject of another upcoming report. Until then, see the report linked below.
By exposing what is wrong and focusing on what is right the evolution of the solution could achieve its ultimate success. “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, lifestyle news, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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