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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Evangelical radio host Dave Ramsey sued by listeners over financial advice

Money expert Dave Ramsey celebrates 25 years on the radio during a SiriusXM town hall at Sirius XM Nashville studios on Aug. 22, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.  (Anna Webber)
By Timothy Bella Washington Post

For years, radio host Dave Ramsey told listeners how to get out of timeshares – which he says they shouldn’t have signed up for in the first place. The evangelical Christian financial guru repeatedly told his millions of followers to use a timeshare-exit company.

“I never could find anything until I found this company called Timeshare Exit Team about three years ago,” he said in a December 2018 segment. “We started endorsing them, and I’ve had so much fun” bothering timeshare companies.

Now, 17 of the podcast and radio host’s listeners have filed a $150 million lawsuit against him, alleging that he played a role in defrauding them of millions of dollars when he promoted a timeshare-exit company that did not get them out of their contracts.

Ramsey was allegedly paid as much as $30 million from 2015 to 2021 to endorse Timeshare Exit Team, which collected $200 million from clients – many of whom were his listeners. Reed Hein & Associates, a Washington state-based company that was under the name Timeshare Exit Team at the time, received $70 million in fees from Ramsey’s customers, the lawsuit claims. Reed Hein & Associates went out of business after settling with Washington state for more than $2.6 million in a lawsuit over allegedly deceptive business practices.

The lawsuit from 17 listeners in Washington state and California, which was filed April 28 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, is seeking $150 million in damages. The Ramsey listeners said the host engaged in negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and violation of consumer protection laws when he promoted the company that cost his listeners while he profited from their financial heartache.

The lawsuit also names his company, the Lampo Group, which is known as Ramsey Solutions, and marketing company Happy Hour Media Group as defendants.

Religion News Services reported on the lawsuit this week.

Representatives for Ramsey, his company and Happy Hour Media Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday morning. Ramsey has previously defended endorsing Timeshare Exit Company, saying in a 2021 episode of “The Ramsey Show” that he promoted the company because it was “doing the right thing and getting people out of timeshares,” according to “Inside Edition.” Ramsey’s attorney has previously downplayed his client’s direct role in endorsing the company.

Attorneys for the listeners suing Ramsey did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Prosecutors argue in the lawsuit that the money for his endorsement was “to convince Ramsey’s loyal followers to buy into this scheme through the use of deceptive, incomplete, and false information that Defendants knew or should have known” to be false.

“Ramsey never returned any of the tens of millions of dollars Reed Hein and Happy Hour Media Group paid him from his own listeners’ hard-earned money,” the lawsuit says, noting how Ramsey “gives financial advice that he claims to be based upon the Bible.” “Instead, Ramsey has chosen to profit from his listeners’ money.”

Ramsey, 62, whose show says it reaches more than 18 million weekly listeners, has faced other lawsuits and controversy in recent years. In 2021, Ramsey Solutions said in a court filing that it had fired at least nine employees for having premarital sex. Among those was Caitlin O’Connor, a former worker who filed a federal lawsuit saying she was dismissed for being pregnant and unmarried, NBC News reported. The case is still pending.

A separate lawsuit filed in 2021 by Brad Amos, a former employee of Ramsey’s, accused the host’s company of discrimination after Amos said Ramsey Solutions fired him for wanting to take precautions during the coronavirus pandemic. Amos alleged that Ramsey’s company told him and other employees to “pray away” covid-19. A spokesperson for Ramsey’s company previously described Amos’s lawsuit to The Washington Post as “filled with false statements and has absolutely no merit.” The case is still pending.

Forbes describes a timeshare as being “usually defined as a lifetime commitment to paying for annual trips to the same resort or family of resorts.” The listeners who took Ramsey’s advice already had timeshare properties in places like Florida or timeshare agreements with companies like Wyndham or Westin Resorts, the lawsuit says.

Roseanne Morrill was an avid listener of Ramsey’s show when she heard his advice for how to get out of a timeshare. She and her husband, Douglas Morrill, had built a good life in Ocean Shores, Wash., and hoped to travel the world after running the family’s pharmacy for more than 40 years. But they had a problem: The retired couple bought “points” from Diamond Resorts, a timeshare company that had not been forthright about what they had purchased, according to the lawsuit.

“Roseanne frequently listened to the Dave Ramsey Show and trusted his advice. She remembers Ramsey talking about what a ‘rip-off’ timeshares were,” the lawsuit says. “She remembers him advising listeners to go to Timeshare Exit Team in Washington State for relief. She remembers him expressing that Timeshare Exit Team had the proper method for releasing people from their timeshares.”

Timeshare Exit Team told the Morrills that it would cost them more than $41,000 to get them out of their timeshare. The couple agreed to do so, figuring they could put the financial mishap behind them, according to prosecutors.

Yet once the contract with Timeshare Exit Team was executed in May 2020, the company allegedly advised the couple that their $41,200 contract with them would make it harder to get out of the timeshare contract with Diamond Resorts, the lawsuit claims. After advising the Morrills to not tell the timeshare company of their efforts to get out of the timeshare, Timeshare Exit Team allegedly suggested that the couple stop making payments on the agreement. When Diamond Resorts put the couple into collections for their lack of payment, Timeshare Exit Team stopped returning calls from the Morrills, the lawsuit says. The experience devastated the couple’s credit.

“Douglass and Roseanne Morrill’s experience is typical” of what others experienced from Timeshare Exit Team and its deceptive money-back guarantee, the lawsuit says.

When the allegations against Reed Hein were brought to the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) in 2021, Ramsey’s attorneys told the office that their client was not responsible for the endorsement of Timeshare Exit Team.

“Mr. Ramsey also has no unique or special knowledge of the issues in the dispute in the Lawsuit or Lampo’s endorsement of Reed Hein,” they wrote, according to Religion News Service. “While he has promoted Lampo’s endorsement of Reed Hein on his radio program and on social media, he is not responsible for the details of the Reed Hein relationship.”

That year, Ramsey defended his endorsement because companies like Diamond Resorts had “screwed” his listeners.

“That’s why I endorsed that company, and I did it with great pride,” he said at the time.

Ramsey has not publicly addressed the lawsuit since it was filed in late April.