Her lawyers had sought a probationary sentence for Rosa, saying she committed the crime out of love for the US and her current husband — an ex-con.

However, Cote sided with prosecutors, who said Rosa, 47, deserved 12 to 18 months in jail.

Cote also wasnt moved by Rosa’s request to surrender after the winter holidays, so she could spend them with her family.

“Request denied,” said Cote sternly, ordering Rosa to report to prison by Nov. 14.

Rosa paid $8,000 in 1996 to a US citizen to engage in the fraudulent nuptials while she maintained a romantic relationship with another man. She claimed the sham marriage was out of “desperation” to not be separated from the man she really loved, Victor Estrella.

The feds say Estrella, a convicted drug dealer and a fellow Dominican native, wasnt a US citizen at that time.

Rosa and Estrella are now married and share a son.

Rosa also pleaded guilty in June to making false statements in a 2009 personal-bankruptcy filing. She failed to include Estrella’s earning and omitted her ownership of a co-op apartment.

The ex-pols sentence includes three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison. She must also pay $19,652 in restitution.

In a bid for leniency, Rosa’s lawyers tried to compare her path to late-19th-century author Horatio Alger, who became famous for his tales of youngsters who rise out of poverty to great success.

Rosa, who once worked as a legislative aide to Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, became a US citizen in 2005.

Her resignation was part of the plea deal, and she is banned from ever again seeking office in the United States. The feds have said that despite the fraud, they now consider Rosa a US citizen and will not deport her to her native Dominican Republic.

The Democrats contrasted Hogans record with that of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, saying their partys nominee has worked to strengthen Marylands finances and reduce the deficit, helping to keep the states AAA bond rating.

The attack takes aim at one of Hogans chief selling points: that he is a successful businessman rather than a politician.

That Hogan filed for personal bankruptcy is not in dispute. In May, after Republican blogger Jeff Quinton reported on the court case, his campaign released a statement acknowledging that he filed for Chapter 7 two decades ago. He blamed new federal lending rules, contending that they had forced his real estate business longtime lenders to close or sell out to out-of-state banks. Hogan said the new bankers called in his companys loans, forcing him to liquidate personal assets including his Prince Georges County home.

Hogan called the bankruptcy painful and even humiliating at the time but contended the experience taught him lessons about the challenges of life in the private sector.

Quinton predicted in his article that the bankruptcy issue would be thrown at him by the Democrats, and on Monday that prediction came true. The Democrats said Hogans explanation shows that he still refuses to take responsibility for his own bankruptcy.

Adam Dubitsky, a spokesman for Hogan, responded with an attack on Brown.

The difference between Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown is that Larry leaned from his challenges and went on to create a successful business that created jobs and brought business to Maryland, Dubitsky said.

The Democratic criticism of Hogans campaign omits some key details. While it points out that his campaign was at the time of its last filing $580,000 in debt, it does not specify that $500,000 of that total represents personal funds Hogan lent to the campaign.

The last campaign filing report covered a period ending Aug. 19 and thus was a snapshot in time of the state of the campaigns finances as of that day — not necessarily now. Hogans campaign used a similar tactic when it boasted about a 3-1 advantage in cash on hand over Brown weeks after the close-out date, gliding over the fact that it was an anomaly caused by a one-time payment of $2.6 million from the states public financing fund.

Dubitsky said that since the filing cutoff the campaign has repaid all of its primary debt with the exception of the loans from Hogan.

The Democrats finger-pointing at the Republican Party over its $120,000 in unpaid debt underscores the state GOPs longstanding financial problems. However, the GOPs money issues far predate Hogans June 24 primary victory. Most of the money the Republican Party owes came in the form of $67,662 in loans from BBT Bank, some dating back as far as 2011.

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. Embattled Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount filed for personal bankruptcy in federal court Friday.

Court documents indicate Blount has more than $1.5 million in liabilities and only has assets valued at $185,000. The largest part of Blounts debt is owed to former partners and business associates.

Blount, 51, is a registered pharmacist who operates Bridgeport’s Best Care pharmacy. He is expected to plead guilty in US District Court next week to charges he illegally dispensed oxycodone and oxymorphone.

Blount claimed in bankruptcy paperwork he is a roofer in Bridgeport and brings home $1,751 a month. He claimed his monthly expenses were $6,503 including a mortgage payment in excess of $2,000.

When individuals fall behind on bills and need protection from creditors, they usually do so using the Chapter 7 form of bankruptcy. The primary advantage of a Chapter 7 filing is that you can essentially wipe your financial slate clean without worrying about “past due” amounts. Once a trustee liquidates your saleable assets and pays your creditors, lenders ordinarily can’t call you in an effort to collect.

However, there’s another avenue struggling borrowers can pursue: Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It’s a form of debt reorganization in which individuals develop a plan to repay as much of their debt as possible over a three-to-five-year period. The bankruptcy court requires them to provide detailed financial statements to show their revenue and expenses; they then make an agreed-upon monthly payment to a trustee, who in turns pays their creditors.

Once a Chapter 13 repayment plan is completed, you are no longer responsible for your previous debts, even if you didn’t pay the entire amount you originally owed. It also stops the interest-rate clock from increasing, for example, the amount you owe on your credit card debt. Just keep in mind that certain types of debt – including student loans, alimony and child support – cannot be discharged under either type of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. 

Pros and Cons

Perhaps the most compelling reason to opt for Chapter 13 protection over Chapter 7 is to save your home. If you’re behind on your mortgage, only Chapter 13, also known as a “wage earner’s plan,” allows you to make up missed payments and eventually become current on the loan.

Losing your home isnt inevitable if you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. If you’re current on your mortgage and have little or no equity in the property, you’re usually safe. The trustee won’t be able to make much money off the sale of your home to pay other creditors, so there’s no incentive to put it on the market. However, if you exceed the allowable equity, or homestead exemption, in your state, Chapter 13 can start to look more attractive. A qualified bankruptcy attorney will be able to advise you on how your home would be affected by either option.

One of the most poignant features of student debt is that, short of paying it off, its pretty much impossible to get rid of. In 2005, the bankruptcy code was updated to make private loans non-dischargable in a personal bankruptcy, meaning that, unlike other private debts, student loans cant be forgiven or written off.* 

This change put private student loans on the same level as federal or state loans and child support payments: totally, non-negotiably sticking with you forever. What is less well-known are some of the consequences the new rule had on the economics of the loan market.

In a nutshell, student loans are more widely available to low-credit borrowers, theres been an enormous surge in loan volume, and loans have become more expensive. And some of the possible results of these changes could have significant economic consequences for consumers in the decades to come.

Unanticipated market changes 
It wasnt supposed to happen this way. Supporters of the law change argued that it would reduce the cost of borrowing by eliminating strategic borrowers from the market, or those who take on loans with the expectation of discharging them in a bankruptcy (if that notion makes you raise an eyebrow, youre right on the money: Theres no evidence that this was ever actually a problem). Making loans less expensive was supposed to help good borrowers have an easier time paying for college.

In reality, the cost of loans actually rose by 0.35% on average, and, perhaps because lenders had more downside protection due to the new rule, there was an enormous influx of borrowers with lower credit scores. In the years following the change, loan volume has tripled, and researchers Xioling Ang and Dalie Jimenez found that 60% of the rise in lending can be directly attributed to the law change.

The result, in other words, is more — and more expensive — lending. 

The consequences of leverage 
That might not sound like a problem to you until you consider the long-term costs of being highly leveraged. One demonstrable effect of higher student lending rates is a reduction in the number of small businesses, which are a major source of employment in the US Another potential problem is the future of financial security: If borrowers are spending the first third, or half, or even more of their careers trying to pay off student loans, they might be far less likely to put money toward other financial goals — like retirement. 

The rise in private lending also comes with a rise in the risk of widespread financial distress. While federal loans come with myriad programs to help borrowers manage their debt payments, private lenders are under no obligation to do this. In other words, while you cant discharge a federal loan, you can find a way to reduce your payment or even, in some cases, have the loan forgiven. Private loans dont come with either benefit, and the combination of higher leverage and a lack of options could work to the detriment of a whole class of private borrowers later on. 

Either way, the policy change had major unanticipated consequences for the loan market itself, and it could have significant long-term effects not only on borrowers but on the economy. Whatever arises, there is growing evidence that loan burdens are becoming a problem — one researcher refers to current generation of borrowers as the indentured generation — and its almost certain that the costs will be borne out by all of us in the decades to come. 

*There is technically an exception to this, in the form of an undue hardship ruling in a bankruptcy proceeding, but it is so rarely used as to be negligible for the purposes of this discussion. 

While Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes ran virtually unopposed for the redrawn 22nd district stretching across Tampa Bay in 2012, hes facing a scrappy challenger in Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan this year.

The Republican Party of Florida, acting on Brandes behalf, is attacking McLauchlan, a University of South Florida-St. Petersburg political science professor, on an issue where constituents are liable to pay most attention — their wallets.

In a TV commercial that began running in the Tampa Bay market on Sept. 22, 2014, Brandes implied that McLauchlan wants to break with Florida orthodoxy by supporting a state income tax. A similar claim has been made by fliers being mailed to voters homes.

The ad — which features actors pretending to be students being quizzed by a teacher — says, McLauchlan was part of a group that supports imposing a state income tax on Floridians. It goes on to say, McLauchlan: Personal bankruptcy and a new state income tax.

Accusing an opponent of wanting to raise taxes is Political Campaigning 101, but did McLauchlan really associate with people who wanted to tax Floridians at a state level?

Regressive facts

McLauchlan responded to the commercial the day after it appeared, issuing a press release that called it a repulsive attack that used unsubstantiated falsehoods.

I oppose, will always oppose, and have always opposed a state income tax, she declared.

The ad also mentions her personal bankruptcy, which McLauchlan has blamed on paying for high health insurance premiums and a surgery while she was a graduate student in the 1990s. She said the debt was too much, even after she became employed, so she filed for bankruptcy 16 years ago. She says she has since repaired her credit and is debt-free.

So where did Brandes and the state GOP get the notion about a state income tax? If you look at the fine print, it reads that McLauchlan served on Board of Directors of League of Women Voters. The aduses her campaign site as the source.

The League of Women Voters bills itself as a nonpartisan political organization focused on developing informed policy positions and voter participation. It does not endorse candidates, and members from any political party may join.

McLauchlans spokesman clarified that she is currently a member and was on the board of the St. Petersburg chapter from 2009-11, mostly working on voter registration initiatives. She also moderated candidate forums between 2011 and 2013.

The Florida chapter of the group stated where it stood on the issue in its most recent guide to public policy positions: The LWVF supports the adoption of a state personal income tax as one part of a balanced and equitable tax structure. The booklet notes that the position was revisited most recently in 1991, although as far back as a 1966-67 study it argued that a statewide funding source that would both be equitable and produce sufficient revenue was a personal income tax.

There also is a reference in the guide that says League representatives in 2007 spoke at seven statewide Taxation and Budget Reform Commission public hearings in favor of an equitable tax system based upon ability to pay, which suggests a state income tax.

Saying the group supports imposing the tax isnt accurate, however, because while the League researched the issue and found an income tax a sound alternative, it doesnt lobby for the change or push it as part of a legislative agenda.They give opinions on policy issues, but dont propose processes to change laws.

We asked the Brandes campaign to clarify their argument. Theypointed to a couple member requirements on the St. Pete chapters website: First, that members of a local chapter are also part of the state and national organizations, and that the group is open to anyone who subscribes to the mission, principles, and policies of the League of Women Voters.

Second, the site says that members cant contradict the group. Once League (local, state or national) takes a position on an issue, members may not identify themselves as League members in publicly expressing an opinion that is in opposition to a League position, the site reads.

League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab said that doesnt mean members cant disagree, just that they cant contradict the Leagues positions as a spokesperson for the organization, such as while serving as a board member. If a board member of any chapter decides to run for political office, that person must resign from the board, although they may stay in the League.

There is no requirement that members must subscribe to every position the League takes, Macnab said, suggesting the Brandes campaign is misreading the guidelines they cited. We do have local League presidents who speak on behalf of the League, but we encourage our members to think what they want to think.

Macnab said the tax hasnt been studied since the 1990s. She said she felt most economists would agree a statewide income tax is much more fair than the policies the state has now, relying disproportionately on sales taxes, which are regressive, and property taxes. (One-time gubernatorial hopeful Nan Rich claimed earlier this year that Florida had the third-most regressive tax structure in the country, a claim we rated Mostly True.)

The issue isnt on the table either way, Macnab said, because the state Constitution has provisions preventing the institution of an income tax.

Doris Weatherford, an author, womens historian and League member who met McLauchlan through her campaign, says the group doesnt actively support a state income tax. The League has only taken an informed stance on a policy position, as it does with countless other issues.

In the case of the income tax, the position is that this is the fairest way, but we havent worked to make it happen, Weatherford said. Its been 25 years since that was part of the platform, but even then, it didnt say we would work for it, and still doesnt.

Our ruling

The state GOP said McLauchlan was part of a group that supports imposing a state income tax on Floridians.

Thats a stretch. The group was the League of Women Voters of Florida, which concluded — about a quarter century ago — that a state income tax would be a fairer way to collect revenue for state programs. The group hasnt lobbied for that goal (or even revisited its stance in years) and McLauchlan, as a member of the group, isnt forced to espouse a position on that issue. She denies that she supports it.

The statement contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Richardson was held Friday at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center on a ?$1 million bond. Shes scheduled to appear in court Oct. 10 on suspicion of theft against an at-risk elder, a class 3 ?felony.

Richardsons arrest Wednesday comes as she continues to deal with financial problems stemming from Colorado Crossing – her ambitious, but failed, mixed-use development on the Springs far north side.

A company formed and controlled by Richardson, 60, launched the 153-acre Colorado Crossing in 2007, southeast of InterQuest and Voyager parkways. It was envisioned as a development of 1.6 million square feet of stores, restaurants and offices and 1,600 residences, among other uses.

But work stopped in 2008 amid Richardsons financial troubles, and her development company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2010. A handful of partially finished Colorado Crossing buildings and the rest of the site have stood idle while the bankruptcy plays out. Richardson also filed personal bankruptcy.

Colorado Springs police suspect Richardson may have turned to an old friend to alleviate her financial woes, possibly pressuring him repeatedly for checks totaling thousands of dollars, according to court documents.

Richardson persuaded 84-year-old Nelson Buz Rieger of Colorado Springs to write checks of $350,000, $300,000 and $320,000 in April, according to an affidavit in support of her arrest. The checks were made out to Jessica Stinson, Richardsons 27-year-old daughter; Richardson allegedly deposited them into her daughters bank account, the affidavit says.

Richardson told police she borrowed $970,000 from Rieger for Colorado Crossing, the affidavit said.

However, investigators can find no documentation showing that Jannie Richardson was using any of that money to pay back creditors or start new business ventures, the affidavit said. And, it said, they can find no documentation showing where that money went or what it paid for.

Police suspect Richardson may have the money after withdrawing the cash in smaller increments.

Rieger wrote the checks despite repeated attempts by his wife and one of his daughters to keep Richardson away from him and their requests to Richardson to leave him alone, police say.

The affidavit says Rieger and Richardson were together April 23 at a branch of ANB Bank, where Rieger had his accounts. A confused Rieger sought to cash a copy of a check, which the bank refused to do, the affidavit says.

Rieger then sought to transfer money from a Vanguard investment fund into his ANB account. But that action triggered a call from the bank to Riegers daughter, who had placed an alert on her fathers account to monitor transactions above a certain dollar amount.

Rieger had trouble with recall and was not competent to make his financial decisions, police said. While being interviewed by police, the affidavit says, Rieger couldnt recognize his photo, although he did appear sharp at other times.

In a separate civil lawsuit, Riegers attorneys say their client has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.

The affidavit says Rieger met Richardson about ?20 years ago when she worked as a hairdresser and cut his hair. Rieger and Richardson became good friends because both were interested in business and investments, according to the affidavit.

Richardson later became a real estate developer, spearheading several residential and commercial projects. In 2010, Rieger loaned her about $7 million but hasnt been repaid, the affidavit said, quoting Riegers daughter.

Court documents show no arrest of Stinson in connection with her mothers case. Stinson could not be reached Friday for comment.

In response to a civil suit brought in June by Wells Fargo Bank against Rieger and Stinson, a court filing alleges he was defrauded by Richardson and her daughter.

Wells Fargos suit contends the checks written by Rieger and made out to Stinson were deposited by Stinson – not Richardson, as the affidavit says – into her checking account at the bank in April. The checks were drawn on Riegers Vanguard investment fund, Wells Fargos suit says.

Stinson then made transfers and withdrawals totaling nearly $600,000, and the money was funneled to two outside entities, the Wells Fargo suit alleges.

But because Riegers wife or daughter had placed a stop payment order with Vanguard, it refused to honor the checks, the suit says.

Wells Fargo, which had credited Stinsons account with the $600,000, said it had no reason to believe Vanguard wouldnt honor the checks. Wells Fargo sued Rieger and Stinson to recover the money.

In a response to the suit, an attorney for Rieger says the checks made out to Stinson were obtained by fraud or duress and might have been forged or doctored in some fashion.

The response goes on to allege Richardson forged, modified or doctored the checks, and the money went to entities controlled directly or indirectly by Richardson.

Stinson denied the allegations in her response to the suit, which is scheduled to go to trial in April.

WORCESTER Longmeadow attorney Steven Weiss will address the Worcester County Bar Association bankruptcy session regarding changes to the law governing homestead declarations on Oct. 2.

Change is constant when it comes to the law, Weiss said. No one plans to go bankrupt, but it happens every day.

Weiss said that staying up to date with the recent changes to homestead declarations protects you from losing your home if you file for personal bankruptcy, default on a debt or a court judgment is entered against you.

Weiss is a partner with Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, PC, of Springfield. He concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial and consumer bankruptcy, reorganization and litigation. He represents creditors, debtors and others in both commercial and consumer bankruptcy cases throughout Massachusetts.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Oct. 04Florida Chief Financial Officer

Jeff Atwater holds a $3.6 million to $37,000 fundraising advantage, but challenger

Will Rankin hopes to rip up the script of an easy re-election win by casting the North Palm Beach banker as a lapdog of Gov.

Rick Scott and big-money interests.

He has no voice for the people, said Rankin, 54, of Pembroke Pines. In the 14 years he has been in Tallahassee, Atwater has done nothing measurable for average Floridians while continually supporting insurance companies and big business.

Democrat Rankin acknowledges Republican Atwater, 56, climbed into the bully pulpit in a prominent way within the last year. Atwater asked the states insurance commissioner, who works in the CFOs office, why property rates were not coming down after years of no hurricanes and falling reinsurance costs. Several insurers refiled and most of the top 30 lowered rates.

Of course he did that in an election year, Rankin said. But rates are higher than when he took office. People are not feeling better off. Where has he been for three years?

Atwater says his voice has been loud and clear, from arrests of 5,000 insurance crooks to greater transparency with state contracts to pushing for accountability on rates.

By calling out the industry and asking Floridas Insurance Commissioner to explain why property rates were not falling in line with reductions in reinsurance, this year property rates are starting to fall, Atwater said. Theres no doubt that my efforts have directly resulted in positive results for ratepayers.

Their campaign contribution records are a study in contrasts. Atwaters list of 3,884 campaign contributions as of last week ranged alphabetically from Aamp;A Registered Agent, an insurance concern in Coral Gables, to Zurich American Insurance Co., records show. Rankins biggest contributor: himself with about $15,000.

A former Republican, Rankin submits a resume that lists a campaign budget directors role for GOP vice presidential candidate

Jack Kemp and a post as director of asset management in the Ohio Treasurers Office in the 1990s. This year, he is running as a Democrat, a party convert not unlike

Charlie Crist in the governors race. Unlike Crist, Rankin doesnt have the backing of the state party.


Allie Braswell quit the race following disclosures he repeatedly filed for personal bankruptcy, leaving the field to Rankin. A state Democratic party spokesman declined comment.

Rankins website said he has endorsements from groups including the Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida, the Democratic Womens Club of Florida and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.

By the time voting begins, Rankin hopes to appeal to folks like state workers who were required to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pensions in a plan backed by Scott, in the name of holding down costs to the state. Rankin says the pension fund is in better shape than it is often portrayed.

Where was Atwaters voice? Rankin said. He was silent.

Rankin says he would push for repeal of the pension contribution by state workers and form an insurance commission to promote fair rates and practices, along with initiatives to boost jobs and the economy.

A financial disclosure form for Rankin lists less than $25,000 in checking, savings and investments and $300,000 in intellectual property including Millionaire Lifestyle magazine, a venture he said he was based in South Africa. Income includes a little less than $10,000 from military retirement and disability pay and $144,000 from a bankruptcy settlement involving a Swedish firm.

Honestly, this would be the highest W-2 job Ive had, Rankin told The Posts editorial board about the $129,000 CFO job.

Atwater disclosed a net worth at $1.9 million, including banking, retirement and investment accounts.

During his term, the GOP incumbent defended a 10 percent cap on annual rate increases for state-run insurer Citizens, a glide path he helped create while in the state legislature. He resisted others in his party who pushed for higher rates because he argued it could hurt families and economic growth.

Atwater also lobbied for a homeowner bill of rights passed by legislators last spring. He hailed the one-page document handed to consumers when they file claims as a much-needed resource. Some advocates wanted the bill to go further and take on more controversial topics, like limits on insurers tactics such as examination of consumers under oath.

Not all his appearances in the headlines were ones he welcomed. Atwater, who appoints two of nine board members to Citzens and helps oversee its management, met with the principal of a West Palm Beach law firm,

Scott Link, two days before the Citizens board approved a controversial $6.5 million contract with Links firm, The Post reported in January.

Atwaters aides said the meeting was purely to help consumers resolve insurance problems and was unrelated to Atwaters interest in the presidency of Florida Atlantic University, where

Scott Links spouse and firm partner

Wendy Link served as one of 15 members of FAUs search committee. Atwater interviewed for the FAU job but was not named a finalist.

As CFO, Atwater touts improved transparency in Tallahassee by putting the states $55 billion in private contracts online. US Public Interest Research Group credited his efforts in raising its transparency grade for Florida from a D to an A-minus and a No. 3 ranking in the country, he said.

Atwater holds a 43 percent to 27 percent advantage in a poll released last week by the Florida Chamber Political Institute. That leaves Rankin to find whatever encouragement he can from this statistic: Nearly 30 percent were undecided.


(c)2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com

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NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Link to Fitch Ratings Report: 2014 Consumer Bankruptcy Update
(Aggregate Filings Likely to Fall Below One Million)


The US economys measured improvement coupled with more prudent
consumers will result in personal bankruptcies falling to levels not
seen since 2007, according to Fitch Ratings in a new report.

Personal bankruptcy filings are currently 12% lower year-over-year
through mid-August. Fitch projects total filings for 2014 to fall below
one million for the first time in seven years, the fourth straight year
of annual declines. One notable factor was the continued improvement in
the labor markets. Unemployment stood at 6.2% in July, 15% lower
year-over-year and 38% below the recession high of 10%. Another factor,
according to Senior Director Steven Stubbs, is fiscal prudence by

Consumers are clearly more reluctant to take on greater amounts of debt
despite the labor market improvement, said Stubbs. Wage growth is not
keeping pace with the labor market improvement and there are still a
high number of discouraged workers, which is also driving consumer
consumption declines.

Fitch anticipates total consumer bankruptcy filings for the year to come
in 12%-13% below 2013 levels. Where this has also been a positive is in
chargeoffs for prime credit card ABS, which are now 23% lower than this
point in 2013 and 78% off the all-time high of 11.52% seen over four
years ago (September 2009). This will serve as a boon for the already
strong performance of most consumer asset classes.

Fitchs 2014 Consumer Bankruptcy Update is available at www.fitchratings.com
or by clicking on the above link.

Additional information is available at www.fitchratings.com.