The Only People Banks Abuse More Than Their Customers Are Their Employees

A company in the service industry that browbeats employees to using high-pressure tactics to sell things customers don’t need or want. Does this sound like the kind of company you want to do business with? No way!

“Wells Fargo & Co. is the nation’s leader in selling add-on services to its customers. The giant San Francisco bank brags in earnings reports of its prowess in “cross-selling” financial products such as checking and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages and wealth management. In addition to generating fees and profits, those services keep customers tied to the bank and less likely to jump to competitors.

“But that success has come at a cost. The relentless pressure to sell has battered employee morale and led to ethical breaches, customer complaints and labor lawsuits, a Times investigation has found.

“To meet quotas, employees have opened unneeded accounts for customers, ordered credit cards without customers’ permission and forged client signatures on paperwork. Some employees begged family members to open ghost accounts.

“These conclusions emerge from a review of internal bank documents and court records, and from interviews with 28 former and seven current Wells Fargo employees who worked at bank branches in nine states, including California.”
~ Wells Fargo’s pressure-cooker sales culture comes at a cost, an investigative report by the Los Angeles Times

Don’t imagine the very same things go on at Chase, Bank of America, Citi and the rest. Why support companies that abuse both clients and employees to feed executives hunger for big bonuses? Keep your money in your community by support local or regional banks and responsible credit unions. It’s that simple. Don’t give the big banks your money and eventually they’ll shrivel up and die a death of their own making.

Good News for Homeowners Cheated by Wells Fargo With Bogus Trial Loan Mods

Yippee! All the homeowners Wells Fargo blatantly cheated with their bait-and-switch trial mortgage modifications finally have a legal leg to stand on.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (whose decision is law in several  western states hard hit by foreclosure, such as California, Arizona and Nevada) said “Wells Fargo was required under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program to offer loan modifications to borrowers who demonstrated their eligibility during a trial period.”(Reuters article)

Nice that some part of the legal system has called out the bank on its the obvious game playing, requiring people to complete a trial modification plan to show ability to pay the lesser loan amount and then making up some fake reason to deny the permanent mod. The banks have raked in millions of dollars with this strategy, never intending to re-structure the loan but still giving people hope and getting them to pay money that was never credited toward their mortgage loans.

Way to call a fraud a fraud, 9th Circuit! And bravo to homeowners Phillip Corvello and Jeffrey and Karen Lucia Phillip Corvello whose lawsuit led to the ruling. From Reuters again:

Both the unsigned majority opinion and a concurring opinion by Circuit Judge John T. Noonan faulted Wells Fargo’s drafting of the trial period plan, saying that to rule in the bank’s favor would render the benefits for borrowers illusory.

“No purpose was served by the document Wells Fargo prepared except the fraudulent purpose of inducing Corvello to make the payments while the bank retained the option of modifying the loan or stiffing him,” Noonan wrote. “‘Heads I win, tails you lose’ is a fraudulent coin toss.”

If you completed a trial mortgage modification and then were denied a permanent mod, you can sue the b@$t@rd$!!

(Oh, and by the way. Guessing Wells Fargo wasn’t the only one gaming the HAMP program in this way. The other big banks seem to have coincidentally jerked mortgage holders around in exactly the same ways.)

Someone Notices Wells Fargo is Still Cheating Homeowners

Wells Fargo and Bank of America are in the news for failing to comply with the provisions of last February’s National Mortgage Settlement and maybe someone is finally going to stand up for homeowners.

For anyone still out there fighting to keep the foreclosure-frenzied loan servicers from taking a house, it comes as no surprise that these two banks have not been following the guidelines detailed in their agreement with 49 of the 50 state attorneys general.

It’s not as if anyone is still expecting to get any of the $26 billion that was supposed to provide direct help to wrongfully foreclosed homeowners. Most of that was stolen appropriated to plug holes in the states’ budgets.

But the settlement emphasized a number of servicing standards that should have been very helpful to homeowners seeking loan modifications to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. Among those was a requirement that loan mod applications be reviewed in 30 days, a specific mandate that borrowers be assigned a single knowledgeable contact person to work with them through the review process and provisions that limit the process known as “dual-tracking” whereby banks race to complete foreclosures whilst dragging out loan mod reviews.

(Never mind that HAMP and at least one of the big pretender-lenders, Freddie Mac, included most if not all of these items in their guidelines for loan mods starting as early as 2009 and the banks have summarily ignored them in favor of protracted delaying tactics.)

What may seem surprising is that the two banks only failed to comply with one or two of the requirements as measured by the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, which is supposed to be keeping track of the banks’ progress at finally implementing systems to deal with loan mod reviews in a timely and professional manner.

Or, maybe not so surprising. If the OMSO is anything like the other faux oversight agencies, the banks “self-report” their level of compliance and this self-serving data is taken as accurate. Right. Because no bank would ever lie about its treatment homeowners, most of whom it discarded as customers the second their mortgage loans were sold to “investors,” who then became clients of the banks’ “mortgage servicing” tentacles.

The OMSO website mentions a number of “metrics,” or tests, but doesn’t tell us from whence the data to fuel them comes. The agency’s FAQ page is pretty vague on the subject. “Specifically, the Monitor will receive and review periodic reports from the banks, and will then make his own determinations and findings as to the banks’ compliance with the settlement.”

Despite this blatant cheerleading by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, it sounds to me like this is another of those idiotic “self-policing” programs in which the banks assert they are doing everything they can to help homeowners while in reality they’re stringing people along with ridiculous delaying tactics.

I think New York AG Eric Schneiderman has a better idea of the scope of the problem, but even his citation of more than 200 violations of the settlement standards sounds low to me, notwithstanding that the settlement excluded a vast majority of borrowers in the first place by excluding loans “owned” by the big government-supported entities Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

But at least the NY AG is pursuing some course of punitive action. Maybe. Let’s hope this isn’t just another psuedo-investigation for show to be followed by another toothless “no admission of wrongdoing” settlement that somehow fails to provide meaningful restitution to those the banks have cheated.

Time will tell whether the efforts of Monitor Smith or AG Schneiderman will have any effect at all in reining in the banksters’ foreclosure free-for-all.

Update June 28, 2013: How disappointing. Turns out Schneiderman has rolled over for the banksters.
BofA, Wells Fargo Won’t Face Mortgage Deal Enforcement Case

 

Did AG Settlement Help Homeowners? Not So Much.

One year after the attorneys general of 49 states negotiated what became known as the “National Mortgage Settlement,” are loan servicer banks more responsive to homeowners seeking to have their mortgage loans re-structured?

The settlement included a number of servicing standards that should have been very helpful to homeowners seeking loan modifications to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. Among those was a requirement that loan mod applications be reviewed in 30 days, a specific mandate that borrowers be assigned a single knowledgeable contact person to work with them through the review process and provisions that limit the process known as “dual-tracking” whereby banks race to complete foreclosures whilst dragging out loan mod reviews.

Here’s what the settlement promised, according to the official website.

“The banks have agreed to major reforms in how they service mortgage loans. These new servicing standards require lenders and servicers to adhere to a long list of rights for those facing foreclosure.  For example, borrowers will have the right to see all of their loan documents to make sure any potential foreclosure is legal; they will be given every opportunity to first modify their loan before facing foreclosure; lenders and servicers will be required to have an appropriate number of well-trained staff members to promptly respond to the needs of distressed borrowers; and finally, borrowers will have the right to deal with a reliable, single point of contact so they have access to a person from whom to obtain information throughout the process.  This is very important because, throughout the foreclosure crisis, borrowers have lodged widespread complaints about their frustrations in trying to work with their lenders.” (FAQ)

So, have the banks complied? Judging from the comments on this blog, the answer is a resounding “NO!”

Despite including a “very robust enforcement mechanism,” the settlement doesn’t seem to have significantly changed the way the big banks are working with homeowners. People seeking loan mods are still being strung along for months or years sending paperwork over and over or stuck in bogus trial modification plans that trash their credit while the money disappears. The whole “single point of contact” thing doesn’t seem to be working too well, either.

Oh, and then there are the states that stuffed their settlement $$ into the general fund so homeowners got absolutely nothing after losing their homes to lies and fraud. (Yes, the AGs were complicit in that, at least in my state.)

So, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who lost your home to a questionable foreclosure over the past few years, you might want to send your state’s attorney general a big thank-you for all his or her help in bringing to justice the perpetrators and preventing the same nonsense from going on and on.

Send me a copy of your letter and I’ll post it on the blog for our fellow foreclosed homeowners to see.

Update 4/12/13: Banks Continue to Violate Nationwide Servicer Settlement
Update 6/11/13: Well, at least Florida AG Pam Bondi has noticed: Bondi gives Wells Fargo a Wednesday deadline to respond to settlement concerns

Big Banks Still Too Big to Jail?

Justice for the millions of people who lost their pensions to the financial crisis? Or the millions who lost their homes to schemes and lies perpetrated by the banks? Nope. Jobs gone, communities devastated, people strung along and then dumped by their financial institutions. And, of course, nobody held accountable because in this country, money buys power and influence.

These two videos do a pretty good job of telling the story of how the financial services industry is getting away with years of lies and fraud.



The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive

Is There Anyone Wells Fargo Won’t Cheat or Lie To?

As you may have noticed by now, I really don’t like Wells Fargo. It may have something to do with the way they strung me along for more than two years as I tried to restructure the mortgage loan WF originated and then sold to somebody-or-other, keeping only the servicing rights.

It could be the fact that the first bogus review of my loan for modification took more than seven months, during which time I sent the same documents 11 times. Or the lies about things like not being eligible for a loan mod until I was default by 90 days – coincidentally the magic number that triggers the foreclosure process. Blah, blah, blah. Same story as millions of other people at all the big fraud-factory banks.

Thanks to the internet, though, I know I’m not alone in despising Stumpy & Co. for the unprofessional, idiotic and crazy-making way they chose to treat their customers and borrowers.

Take, for example, this guy who found out that in addition to providing piss-poor customer service, Wells Fargo can’t (won’t?) do math. That’s right, nobody in the bizillion-dollar mega-bankster-lair can figure out how to compound interest.

One of my personal favorites is the “you refused to send the documents we never asked for” gambit. They pulled it on me several times.

It’s not just mortgage-holders that Wells Fargo messes with and the problems didn’t just pop up post-bank-induced-economic-meltdown, either. Imagine the frustration of these business owners who were made to fill out forms three times because the bank employee setting up their account couldn’t type their names correctly even when he had their drivers’ licenses in front of him.

What other ridiculous and dishonest deeds did I find Wells Fargo getting up to?

  • Playing the “we didn’t get the paperwork” game with a real estate agent trying to complete a short sale and
  • with a student regarding his student loan.
  • Screwing an account holder on the exchange rate for an international wire transfer.
  • Giving a borrower the run-around when all he wanted was to make a double payment to bring his auto loan current.

Still thinking of banking with this awful institution? Read the Jan. 24, 2012 saga of poor Anit who went round and round just trying to find out whether his account had indeed been frozen for security concerns or whether he was the victim of phishing (pishing?!).

And we could all read for days and days at the very active Wells Fargo Sucks! site. Amazing stories of the crap WF tries to pull on its customers. Not too great to be an employee there, either, according to Kevin, who writes in Entry #2482 about the pressure employees are under to sell people services they don’t want or need. (Interesting employee perspective in the comment to this post, too.)

Save yourself lots of time, energy and frustration and don’t bank at Wells Fargo. Or any of the other too-big-to-serve banks. Find a friendly local or regional bank or credit union that will treat you like a human being and won’t try to cheat you at every opportunity.

Even Bankers Don’t Trust Banks

Those in power didn’t learn anything from the financial crisis we’re still riding out. The banksters have so much power over government and regulators that they keep growing in both size and risk.

The Atlantic reporters Jesse Eisinger and Frank Partnoy dug into Wells Fargo’s annual report and what they found scared them and should scare you, too. These bloated power-hungry entities are truly too big to manage and destined to fail and bring the U.S. economy down with them.

Read What’s Inside America’s Banks?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Another Foreclosure Settlement Farce?

So, the powers that be have decided the Independent Foreclosure Review being carried out by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve wasn’t working out and wouldn’t have helped many homeowners anyway.

Instead, we got yet another settlement that is supposed to provide billions of dollars to homeowners whose homes were wrongfully taken in shady foreclosure actions and to those still deluded into thinking their loan servicers will modify their loans.

The 10 banks are supposed to pay $3.3 billion to 3.8 million borrowers whose homes were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010. And they are required to provide $5.2 billion in other assistance, like loan modifications and forgiveness of deficiency judgments.

The headlines sound great, don’t they?

Banks to pay $8.5 billion in foreclosure settlement

Trouble is, instead of the regulators reviewing each case and assigning compensation to those most harmed by the banks, now the banks get to decide how the money is distributed.THE BANKS! Yes, it appears this is just the latest in a long line of settlements that say homeowners are supposed to get real financial help fighting foreclosure and foreclosure fraud, but that lets the banks get away with business as usual.

Somehow, in these big settlements, the money doesn’t seem to actually find its way to those homeowners and the banks don’t mend their wicked ways.

Take, for example, back in February 2012 similar headlines touted a $25 billion settlement reached between the five largest banks and the attorneys general of 49 states. The settlement supposedly provided $17 billion for principal reductions and loan modifications and $2.5 billion for states to help their homeowners fight foreclosure. Too bad the vast majority of mortgages (those involving Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) were excluded from receiving principal reductions and several of the states re-allocated their money to shore up their budgets without providing any foreclosure relief at all.

In addition, the AG settlement also supposedly required the banks to follow certain rules when working with homeowners facing foreclosure. As far as I can tell, these were just words on paper. For example, the terms of the settlement specifically prohibit banks from using robo-signers to create  foreclosure documents. I’m pretty sure there are already laws against forging legal documents, laws the banks had been skirting without penalty for years – even during the AG settlement talks.

Now here we are, a year later, and the banks are once again paying up for continuing to flout the law and the previous agreement. It doesn’t take a genius to see it will take more than billions of dollars to prod bank executives into behaving. They seem to believe they are above laws, rules, ethics, even basic professional behavior.

Take, for example, another of the AG settlement’s impotent rules: one that  prohibits banks from foreclosing on a homeowner who is working through the mortgage loan modification process. Well, the government’s HAMP program guidelines, put in place in early 2009 and clarified in 2010, stated that same prohibition. But the banks have been ignoring HAMP and dual-tracking foreclosures for years.

My personal favorite of the AG settlement rules – and something banks have been saying they’re doing for years now – is the so-called “single point of contact.” As far as I can tell from commenters on this blog and my Twitter feed, homeowners seeking mortgage mods are still getting the run-around from all the big banks.

Anyone want to place any bets about how much of the $5.2 billion in the new settlement will fund loan mods that will actually keep people in their homes. (Seems the AG settlement mostly covered the banks’ losses in short sales, which left homeowners out on the street as surely as a foreclosure would.) Or how many people wrongly foreclosed on will get any meaningful compensation from the same banks that screwed them in the first place?

Oh well. It’s not as if the Independent Foreclosure Review was that independent, anyway, seeing as it was basically being carried out by the banks themselves.

When will someone in power realize that sending the fox into the hen house to count the eggs is just plain stupid?

Update 1/10: Tellin’ it like it is …
Pending Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Achieves New Level of Abject Regulatory Failure

Why Can’t Banks Figure Out Single Point of Contact?

The single most common search term that leads people to my blog is this: Single Point of Contact. SPOC. That thing the banks have been required to provide their borrowers who are seeking mortgage modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program.

That thing banks like Wells Fargo have been saying for several years they ARE providing their borrowers.(Yeah, well, not exactly.)

So, why am I still seeing all the searches? It’s not like it’s a difficult concept. Single. Point. Of. Contact. One person who is familiar with your case, handles all your paperwork and can explain the process in words that ordinary humans understand. A bank employee who gives a customer his or her direct phone number and email address. Someone who actually responds to phone messages and emails in a timely manner with real, true and binding information.

This is not some newfangled concept. In the not-so-distant past it was simply how business was done. A customer called the bank to ask for information and that information was provided quickly, accurately and even politely. Unfortunately, today’s better/stronger/greedier bankers don’t seem to understand that.

So, four years into the financial debacle caused in large part by those very same bankers, these big, rich corporations still aren’t quite sure exactly how to set up a functioning SPOC system? Apparently not.

In a recent report, the Treasury Department (which, frankly, hasn’t been a whole lot of help to beleagered borrowers up to now) tracks the different SPOC models being used by the big banks and tells about the thousands of people they’ve hired to implement these programs.They’re still not sure which approach is best. They’ll get back to us on that later.

Judging from the searches and comments on my blog, I feel pretty confident telling them none of the big banks is complying with the SPOC requirement. Homeowners still aren’t getting even the most basic assistance from all these so-called professionals. What they’re getting is the run-around. Sending forms over and over because they get “lost” or “stale.” Fighting through a phone queue instead of having someone to call directly. Or getting a SPOC only to have the person ignore phone calls, provide wrong information or even seemingly evaporate right into thin air.

Yep. More of same. Been there, done that.

Apparently Wells Fargo told Treasury it employs 3,026 SPOCs and 121 support staff members who work with borrowers in specific market segments, so certain employees specialize in handling GSE loans and private-label mortgages.

Gee, that’s the same model I was told was in place way back in July 2010 when I was being tossed around like a hot potato through a loan modification review that took nearly seven months to complete. The one and only Wells employee who was ever diligent about things like returning phone calls and following through on finding out information couldn’t continue as my SPOC because she only worked with Wells-owned loans. I went on to have 16 more SPOCs over the two-plus years I battled to keep my home.

So. Same old delay-and-deny game, stringing borrowers along until they’re so bogged down they can’t recover and retain their homes. It’s almost as if the banks don’t want borrowers to succeed in modifying their loans so they can avoid foreclosure and keep paying the investors who bought the loans from those same banks.

If Wells Fargo and cronies wanted to implement an efficient system for reviewing loan mods, don’t you think they could have done so by now? They’re certainly efficient enough when they’re making the mortgage loans.

So, either these bank execs are so stupid they can’t understand concepts such as “single” and “contact.” Or, maybe, they are so craven that they have absolutely no intention of doing anything that quells their grasping, greed-driven foreclosure feeding frenzy. And maybe Treasury, Congress, the President and every fake regulatory agency in this country, plus most of the courts, attorneys general and state legislatures are standing back and letting it all happen. Maybe.