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?

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.

Single Point of Contact My @SS, Wells Fargo

Back in April 2011 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took to task several banks, including Wells Fargo, forunsafe and unsound practices related to residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.”

The OCC’s  “enforcement action” required the banks to “make significant improvements in practices for residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing, including communications with borrowers and dual-tracking, which occurs when servicers continue to pursue foreclosure during the loan modification process.”

One of the improvements specified was providing a single person or “point of contact” to guide borrowers through the loan modification and foreclosure processes instead of making people talk to a different person from the customer service phone queue every time they called in.

That’s something Wells Fargo executives had been telling Congress they are doing fore at least a year before the OCC brought it up.

Unfortunately, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage President Mike Heid and his compatriots seem to have lied to Congress and thumbed their noses at the OCC on this issue.

How do I know? Because I’ve recently been assigned my 17th “single” point of contact at Wells Fargo.  Clearly someone high up in the company really doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “single.” Not so hot on “contact” either, as I never had any actual contact with number 17, Susan Young from the WFHM Office of Executive Complaints (formerly known as the Office of the President.)

You see, Ms. Young left me a phone message on Friday, June 1, 2012, telling me she was responding to some correspondence I had sent to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. (More about that later.) She left a phone number and extension and asked me to call her back. Which I did on Monday, June 4; Tuesday, June 5; Wednesday, June 6; Friday, June 7; Monday, June 11 (twice); Tuesday, June 12; Thursday, June 14; Friday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 19.

Over that 19-day period I had no phone conversations with Ms. Young nor did she leave me any more messages. I did get a letter dated June 4, 2012, telling me she was “the specialist who will be your single point of contact while you are working with our office.”

In that same letter, she referenced having called me that same day. And in a later letter she referenced yet another call she supposedly made. She might well have called, but as she neither reached me nor left a message, I have no way of knowing that.

Finally, on June 19, I gave up trying to reach my very own special contact person and just called the Office of Executive Complaints without dialing Ms. Young’s extension. I talked with a very helpful woman who told me, among other things, that Ms. Young had closed my case on June 14, 2012, listing her inability to contact me as the reason. As if she had been trying and trying and I just wouldn’t call her back, right? Wrong. She me left one message; I left her 10 messages over 19 days. Who was trying hard to get in touch with whom?

So, after 10 unanswered phone calls, I take exception to the word “contact.” And after having endured 17 primary contact people over 27 months, I reserve the right to scoff at “single,” as well. Wells Fargo is flat out lying to Congress, to the media and to borrowers when executives say they provide a single employee to help people seeking honest loan modifications and those on the foreclosure assembly line.

Stop lying, Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Misunderstands the Meaning of “Single” Point of Contact

I can’t believe Wells Fargo is still pretending that it actually implemented its “single point of contact” program back in June 2010.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage executives are still lying to Congress that WF borrowers seeking loan mods have had the luxury of working with just one person all this time. And it seems our elected officials are still buying the lies … or, rather, selling out to them.

“One important lesson we have learned is that the home preservation and foreclosure process is complex and intimidating and can be difficult for customers to fully understand. We needed to provide more consistent and predictable service to our customers so they can be realistic about their options. We had to improve communication. Understanding this, Wells Fargo adopted a Single Point of Contact model for customers who are pursuing a loan modification or working with us to sell their home and avoid foreclosure. Almost two years ago, in June 2010, we began assigning one home preservation specialist to work with a customer on a modification from beginning to end. The Single Point of Contact model has reaped significant benefits for our customers and Wells Fargo by building a one-to-one relationship with customers in default.”

Testimony of Joe Ohayon, Community Relations Manager
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Servicing
before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,
U.S. House of Representatives
March 19, 201

I was assigned my first home preservation specialist in June 2010. Problem is, since then I’ve had a total of 16 “single” points of contact!

Yes, in my case, apparently “single” means “sixteen.” And that doesn’t count the dozens of customer service queue people I have talked with, along with the folks who answer the phone in what used to be simple the “Office of the President” but has been renamed the Office of Executive Complaints or some such. At one point, way last summer, I counted that I had taken notes on phone contacts with 55 different Wells Fargo employees. It has to be closer to 70 now.

Somebody please explain to Wells Fargo and its legislative lackeys that “single” generally refers to one (1).

Meet My Wells Fargo “Single Point of Contact”

 

Introducing:
JessicaMichelleMarkLindaKathleenWanitaJeffersonAngela- KathleenJacobGaryKathleenJulianSheilaLarryAnneMarieSusan

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”
JessicaMichelleMarkLindaKathleenWanitaJeffersonAngelaKathleenJacobGaryKathleenJulianSheilaLarry

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