I followed Ameriquest closely several years ago before I became a Realtor. They were the leader in internet mortgages. For the internet geeks out there, they paid $15 for an internet mortgage lead.

This Los Angeles Times article is the best I found on the closing of Ameriquest.

Ameriquest Mortgage Co., once the “Proud Sponsor of the American Dream,” is closing.

Ah, the hyperbole of advertising.

Ameriquest shuttered its 229 retail offices months ago. As recently as 2005, Ameriquest and its sister company, Argent Mortgage, were together the No. 1 sub-prime mortgage lender in the world.

“They were absolutely the king, the biggest of them all,” said David Olson

Ameriquest was the subject of a series of stories in The Times in 2005 that looked into allegations by employees and former employees who described a “boiler room” culture in which they were promised big commissions and pressured to make loans at any cost. Many borrowers were misled about loan terms and steered into mortgages they couldn’t afford, The Times reported.

I guess we should give The Los Angeles Times credit for breaking one of the first corrupt sub-prime lender stories.

Early last year, when Ameriquest agreed to pay $325 million to settle predatory lending probes by attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia

I bet we would see many more such settlements if the sub-prime lenders had any money left.

Unlike banks and savings and loans, which have deposits to lend and can hold many loans for investment, the pure sub-prime firms relied on Wall Street to finance their operations and buy their loans, services that have evaporated in the sub-prime meltdown.

Ameriquest used to have a different high profile, sponsoring Major League Baseball, a Super Bowl halftime show starring Paul McCartney and a tour by the Rolling Stones.

Founder Roland E. Arnall, an immigrant who became a billionaire, was the most generous political donor to George W. Bush, who appointed him ambassador to the Netherlands. At its peak, Arnall’s operation employed about 16,000 people, company executives have said.

How the mighty have fallen! I guess his billion dollars will give him some comfort.

Citigroup and Arnall reportedly had poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Argent’s operations in February to beef up its sagging fortunes.

At least Arnall lost a few million on the way out.