Following is an excerpt from my most recent letter to my state attorney general’s staff. Ever since I filed a complaint related to the way my mortgage servicer strung me along after I requested my mortgage loan be reviewed for modification, personnel from the Office of the President of Wells Fargo have been telling tall tales about all the reasons it was my fault the review took seven months.
The more these people from the president’s office say about their internal systems, the more confused I become about whether there is even meant to be any sort of rational system. It’s not as if this is rocket science. Handling large numbers of documents in an efficient and effective way isn’t fun work, but it is very ordinary work for large corporations like Wells Fargo, which probably employs at least a few people specifically trained and tasked to create, implement and monitor such systems. And it’s not as if mortgage modification was an entirely new concept. As long as there have been loans, there have been circumstances causing some borrowers to need to modify terms.
By the time I first requested a mortgage modification, the company was well into HAMP. So if there was intended to be a system for efficiently processing loan modification requests, I would have expected it to be up and running by then.
I have come to believe the disjointed, highly unprofessional brand of feigned incompetence that Wells Fargo and the other large loan servicers seem to have in common IS the system. I believe the banks fully intend to string people along, to play on their hopes and fears, to wring every last dime out of the borrowers and the investors and then foreclose. That explains very neatly why homeowners seem to have the same types of experiences with all the big servicers – the stories of “lost” documents, phone queue mazes, endless trial mods, two-track systems with foreclosure winning out over promised modifications are too much the same to be mere coincidence.
Why else would it be so difficult even to figure out what paperwork the servicer/investor requires, in what format and submitted when? That’s just a simple checklist that should be part of each loan servicer’s website, updated as needed using information directly from servicers, investors and anyone else overseeing the various programs. If your loan is owned by investor A and serviced by bank E, here are the documents you need to submit, here is the timeline your review will follow, here are the standards that must be met and here’s an actual human being you can call if you have any questions. Not. Rocket. Science.
Yet, WFHM can’t even get straight how often it requires borrowers to update income documentation to keep their loan mod reviews moving forward. From April 2010 to January 2011, I got 11 different answers to that seemingly simple question. (See Lie #14.) Were all 11 of those people just coincidentally incompetent? No. They were doing what their superiors, what Wells Fargo executives, told them to do.
Intentional “incompetence” explains why WFHM’s customer-service queue representatives are forbidden to either transfer a borrowers’ call to anyone else in the organization or to provide the borrower with any direct contact information for the people who are reviewing their loans. They can only log your question or request to be contacted into the electronic notes system, where it might be seen the next time someone refers to the notes and you might get contacted by someone who can and/or will answer your question. Or not. That kind of inefficiency in a mom-and-pop operation might just be believable. But for a multi-billion-dollar global corporation to operate that way in this age of information and technology absolutely is not believable, unless the inefficiency is built into the system intentionally.
Inefficiency and obfuscation by design explains why written communication from Wells Fargo has no signature or even a printed name of someone the customer can contact for further information. And why letters from WFHM generally provide no return address that is connected with a real human being and only a generic customer-service queue phone number.
None of this represents standard business practice as I was taught and practiced in several industries – publishing, insurance, finance, higher education. This is the new brand of “customer disservice” that seems to be endemic to big corporations.
None of this is an accident. Masses of fraudulent foreclosure paperwork manufactured by robo-signers isn’t a “technicality” or a “clerical error.” The banks weren’t “overwhelmed” by an unexpected number of homeowners seeking mortgage help. They knew exactly how many sub-prime mortgages they had on their books and they knew exactly how many borrowers whose loans they services were either slow- or late-pay customers. That’s just P.R. hacks trying to spin these systems banks implemented to intentionally derail HAMP and other programs that, at least on the surface, appeared to be aimed at helping average people adversely affected by the economic crisis those very same banks caused.
It’s the same insidious spin tactic that sticks the label “deadbeat” on people who jump through hoops for months to qualify for and then meet all the terms of trial modifications and then expect the permanent modifications they earned. The bank shills also chide those people who go to court to demand the banks abide by foreclosure laws and prove they have legal right to foreclose for just “trying to get a free house.”
Update 3/2012: HUD IG Report Released With Settlement Details Servicer Abuse Directed From the Top
Like I said. The BS the banks are putting borrowers through is an intentional, institutional strategy put in place by the top executives. Not just “paperwork errors” and “mistakes by low-level employees.”