Michael Hild, the former CEO of defunct reverse mortgage lender Live Well Financial, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for a conviction related to a scheme that fraudulently inflated the value of the lender’s bonds. The goal was to convince creditors to lend the company more money.
The sentence was handed down on Friday by Judge Ronnie Abrams in the Southern District Court of New York (SDNY). The sentence was confirmed by a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office at SDNY.
The sentence is shorter than what was requested by prosecutors, but is longer than the sentence requested by Hild’s attorney in recent filings. Additional details on what follows will be forthcoming.
The story until now
Hild was arrested by the FBI in 2019 shortly after the abrupt closure of Live Well. After Hild was released on bond following his arrest, the trial took longer than anticipated to commence.
By the time the trial was underway in SDNY, the federal government had ensured the cooperation of two former Live Well executives — the company’s CFO and its former EVP — who agreed to testify against Hild following their own guilty pleas.
Hild, however, entered a plea of not guilty, but his trial was delayed due to restrictions on in-person proceedings stemming from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Guilty verdict, Hild’s subsequent efforts
The trial was ultimately held in April 2021 and ended with a guilty verdict on all five counts: conspiracy to commit securities fraud; conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; securities fraud; wire fraud; and bank fraud. Shortly after the verdict was handed down, Hild enlisted a new attorney with a specialty in the appeals process.
Hild then began what would amount to a nearly two-year effort to either get his conviction overturned or to obtain a new trial, claiming that a conflict of interest divided the attention of his trial attorney.
Hild and his attorneys spent most of the pre-sentencing period submitting letters to Judge Abrams, contending that the trial attorney’s own legal difficulties were illustrative of their contention.
The government responded only once to Hild’s campaign, casting doubt on his assertions and claiming that Hild had attempted to manipulate the narrative surrounding his former attorney by using an anonymous social media account the government tied back to Hild by tracing its internet protocol (IP) address.
Ultimately Judge Abrams rejected Hild’s requests for an acquittal or new trial, paving the way for Friday’s sentencing.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had previously said that it would wait until the conclusion of the criminal case before pursuing a resolution of its own case against Hild.
Prior to its closure, Live Well Financial was the eighth-largest reverse mortgage lender in the industry.
It recorded 1,414 Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) endorsements across both retail and wholesale channels in the 12-month period ending in June 2019, based on data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI). It took several months for Live Well to fall out of the top rankings due to its status as a top-10 lender.