Wells Fargo Executives Embarrassed by Employee Incompetence?

Poor Wells Fargo. It must be really distressing to CEO John Stumpf that his mortgage division is being called on the carpet yet again.

Big Banks’ Mortgage Units — Still Failing Customers — Face New Restrictions
On Wednesday, the OCC announced that six banks that manage home loans — EverBank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Santander Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo — haven’t implemented all the reforms they promised to make as part of the 2011 deals.

As punishment, the regulator has imposed new restrictions on the banks’ mortgage departments, limiting their ability to acquire residential servicing rights in some circumstances, and forcing them to seek OCC approval before hiring senior officers in their mortgage servicing and compliance departments.

The restrictions vary, with Wells Fargo and HSBC strictly prohibited from certain types of new business acquisition, while the other banks must first seek OCC approval.

Let’s face it, things must be very obviously bad if the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has finally taken its head out of the sand and noticed something was wrong with the way Wells and the other big financial institutions deal with consumer requests for mortgage loan modifications in the wake of a past “enforcement action” and a so-called punitive settlement that set servicing guidelines for the banks.

One of the many issues cited when the OCC sanctioned Wells and others last week was the ongoing inability of the bank to assign each loan mod review to a single, knowledgeable employee tasked with, among other things, keeping the consumer informed throughout the process.

Wells Fargo, the OCC said in a new consent order, “continues to engage in unsafe and unsound practices.” Among the bank’s points of “noncompliance,” the regulator said in regulator-speak, is its failure to ensure “effective communication with borrowers, both oral and written.”

According to the OCC, Wells Fargo still has yet to ensure that each borrower is matched with a single customer service representative at the bank to handle their modification request or foreclosure — a basic first step to ending the cycle of confusion, lost paperwork and endless hours on the phone that many homeowners have endured while speaking with a succession of uninformed bank employees.

Mike Heid, the president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said in a statement that the bank has “implemented significant changes to our mortgage servicing operations and achieved compliance with major elements of the original Consent Order.”

I would imagine Stumpf and Heid must just be beside themselves with shame and distress because none of the many hundreds of company executives is intelligent enough to set up a system to assign cases to the employees trained and empowered to manage them. You’d think the nation’s largest mortgage bank and second-largest mortgage servicer could afford to hire somebody to help with that.

How embarrassing for Heid and other WFHM executives who have been telling no less an auspicious audience than the U.S. Congress since April 2010 that the company is diligently working on creating what has become known as a “single point of contact” system. How distressing that the no-doubt earnest testimony of those well-paid men was made into lies by the base incompetence of those idiot employees who, after years and years of being paid salaries still can’t manage to create a database and develop a protocol for working with consumers.

More than five years later, they have to hang their heads in shame that they can’t manage to do what countless private and government organizations do every day – assign clients, patients, students, etc., to a contact person they can count on to help them through a bureaucratic process.

Back when I worked in a tiny academic advising office at a small university, we somehow managed to create and administer a system that could divvy up the students among trained advisors, maintain an electronic database to record  every communication we had with those students, and track their academic progress and choice of major. Little did I know back then that we lowly functionaries were geniuses compared to the high-dollar executives at the nation’s fourth-largest bank.

While I was trying to work with Wells Fargo to restructure my loan, I experienced the terrible incompetence of its system firsthand. Over two and a half years, I was assigned no fewer than 17 people who were supposed to help get my case reviewed. Oddly enough, most of them weren’t very helpful at all. Some of them even seemed to completely lack such basic skills as how to read a bank statement, how to add simple numbers and how to return phone calls.

One wonders how the very same company has managed to keep the paperwork straight and organize all the steps required to facilitate the hundreds of thousands of foreclosures it has committed over the past few years. Of course, we now know there was a special manual created to help Wells Fargo employees fabricate the reams of documents necessary to achieve this profitable outcome.

Perhaps Stumpf and Heid could hire the same people who wrote the Foreclosure Manual to create a Loan Mod Manual. Wouldn’t that be helpful? I wonder why none of their expensive executives thought of that?

Meet My Wells Fargo “Single Point of Contact”


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Back in April 2010, just as I was initiating my first request for modification of my mortgage loan, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s soon-to-be-solo president, Mike Heid, told a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee that the bank was a couple months into a policy of “assigning one person to manage one loan modification from beginning to end.

Then, in mid-November 2010, Alan Jones, operations manager of WFHM servicing, told another subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee that “this year we introduced a 1:1 customer service model to enable at-risk customers to work with one person from beginning to end on their home preservation options.”

In between those two pronouncements, I had spent three months dealing with a never-repeating series of customer service phone queue people. Finally, on June 14, 2010, I finally got connected with a person who actually gave me her direct phone line. She said she would be working with me until the review was completed. But that was not to be. Instead, my case was passed along to five more people – all of whom told me they’d be with me ‘til the end – before that review ended.

I made a second mod attempt starting just before Christmas 2010. This time I had three different contact people, two in the WFHM office of the president and one on the Congressional Support team (thanks to staff at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Tucson office.)

Yet, on February 18, 2011, HousingWire reported that Jones, speaking on a panel, said that since June 2010 WFHM had “established a single-point of contact strategy where troubled borrowers are assigned to one loss mitigation representative.”

“The single-point of contact does work. It has helped to avoid foreclosures when the borrower has one person to call will filling out their documentation,” Jones said. I can imagine that’s quite true. I just don’t think it was happening anywhere but in the prepared statements of these executives.

You see, three days after Jones’ statement, I was informed the second review of my loan had ended. By that time, I had been assigned a total of nine different people as my “single point of contact.” Despite the fact that WFHM execs were testifying to Congress that they had been matching borrowers with a single contact person for the past year.

In April 2011, in response to a bit of largely impotent pressure from regulators, Wells Fargo and the other big banks vowed to fix the failing loan mod/foreclosure process. One of the key points was, you guessed it, agreeing to provide customers with a single point of contact.

Single Point Of Contact: Why Won’t Banks Pay More Attention To Homeowners?

A full year after Jones said WFHM’s “single point of contact” strategy was in place and a full 14 months after Heid’s testimony to Congress, I initiated a third mortgage mod review. Surely, by now, WFHM will have perfected this system to match up customers with a single contact person.

Or not.

In just six weeks, between June 15, 2011 and July 26, 2011, I had four (4)!! different people inform me and my legal counsel that they were the “single point of contact” for my case. Four! Here’s the list:

  1.  On June 15, 2011, the day the paperwork to initiate the third round of mod requests was faxed to WFHM, I got a phone call from Tanya Williams in the WFHM president’s office telling me that my case has been assigned to Gary Lingren, executive mortgage specialist in the president’s office, and he will be calling me in the next couple of days. He never did so and he failed to answer several voicemails from my legal counsel. He did, however, later order my case closed because I didn’t send documents in response to a letter that was never actually sent to me.
  2. On June 27, 2011, I received a letter dated June 21, 2011, from Kathleen Halifax, an underwriter in Loss Mitigation. In the letter, she designated herself as my “primary contact” on the “team dedicated to helping” me with my mod review. I never heard from her other than the letter, though another WFHM employee did manage to interrupt her in a meeting to get the list of documents Mr. Lingren needed but never bothered to actually call or write to ask for.
  3. On July 21, 2011 my legal counsel was called by Julian Long from the WFHM president’s office, who identified himself as our “single point of contact” for the ongoing review. He was the person who, just eight days later, notified my legal counsel that my request had been denied.
  4. But, in the meantime, on July 26, 2011, I received a FedEx package containing a letter dated July 21, 2011, in which Sheila Roberts, loan processor, describes herself as “your loan processor and dedicated point of contact for this program.” (Note that this letter was generated the same day Mr. Long was telling my counsel he was the point of contact.) Neither I nor my counsel has had any other contact from Ms. Roberts and I have no idea what her actual role might or might not have been in the review that supposedly ended three days after I got her overnight package.In her letter, she implied the review was just beginning and wrote that she would follow up with me at latest by Sunday, August 21, 2011, to outline the next steps in the process or request additional documents. I hope someone tells her somebody else completed the review already.

Somebody should tell Wells Fargo that “single” means “one.” And “point of contact” implies, well, contact. Communication. Exchange of information.

Instead, “single point of contact” seems to be a phrase used to placate Congress and the “regulators” and mollify the media while the loan servicers continue to play the delay and deny game with homeowners. In short, another scam.

Update 9/13/11:
Add name number 15 to my “single point of contact”

Update 6/2012:
Up to 17 “single” points of contact now. Although “contact” might be a bit of an exaggeration.