The Words Do Not Match the Deeds
If you're going to survive the mortgage modification review process, you'd better resign yourself to two things right off: you're going to be lied to and you're going to have to do some (or a whole lot of) research to expose those lies.
Below you'll find an assortment of the "institutional lies" I've encountered along the way. If you want to read the "personal lies," the ones told directly to me by WFHM employees, go to my Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire page.
What they say:
Integrity is not a commodity. It’s the most rare and precious of personal attributes. It is the core of a person’s — and a company’s — reputation.
John Stumpf, Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO
What they do:
What they say:
A couple of
months ago, we started the transition of assigning one person to manage one loan
modification from beginning to end. In other words, our customers will know exactly who
they are working with from start to finish. This improved process will be fully in place by
the end of June, and we expect it to have a substantial positive impact on our customers’
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Co-President Mike Heid in April 2010 testimony to the
House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
Note: As of July 26, 2011, Heid is president of WFHM
The complexities inherent to the home preservation and foreclosure processes can be difficult for customers to fully understand. To improve communication, 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. While that effort has been largely successful, there are areas of improvement on which we continue to work.
Testimony of Alan Jones, Operations Manager, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Servicing
before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
House Financial Services Committee
November 18, 2010
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, 2012
What they do:
Though this policy was to have been "fully in place" by the end of June 2010, since March 2010 I have had phone, mail or email contact with more than 60 people, most of them customer service queue representatives. Of those, the following have been self-designated as my main point of contact, many of them saying "I'll be with you until your review is complete.":
1) Jessica Dahms, Home Preservation Specialist
First contact: June 14, 2010.
Promised: On June 14, 2010, stated she would be with the process until it was completed and told me the review should be done in two to three weeks
Reassigned: July 8, 2010, because my file had been reassigned to the government program HAMP (I thought that was what I was applying for all along!)
Continuity: Did not put me directly in touch with the next person I would work with. Referred me the the HAMP customer service queue, which wasn't able to provide any help. I didn't get another contact person until July 19, 2010, and I had to find someone on my own.
2) Michelle Rush in Home Preservation
First contact: July 19, 2010. She assigned herself to my case because I had not been able to make contact with anyone after Jessica dropped me into the customer service abyss. The HAMP customer service person told me July 12, 2010, that my file hadn't yet been assigned to a processor, but she would “take it to a manager” and call me back to tell me to whom it was assigned. I never got a call from customer service or from any processor.
Michelle told me the review should be done in two to three weeks
Reassigned: July 21, 2010, because my mortgage was not owned by Wells Fargo, only serviced by WF (which I did not know).
Continuity: She said she didn't know who my new preservation agent would be, but she would find out and let me know. She is the only person in this whole organization who has consistently helped me find information and has always called back.
3) Mark Tinsley, HAMP Loan Processor
First contact: July 22, 2010 (even though I found out later he had actually been assigned my file on July 14, 2010, and was the person who was supposed to have taken over after Jessica.)
Promised: On August 20, 2010, "Hopefully we should have a decision within 2-3 weeks."
On Sept. 15, 2010, he emailed me that my file had completed underwriting and was at the investor for final determination in “48-72 hours tops.” I never got any more information from him about this (he had a real talent for completely ignoring direct questions). I don't even know if it was real. The next information I got from him was that my review was being turned over to someone new.
Reassigned: September 23, 2010
Continuity: Mark gave me the name of the new procesor who would take over my review, but said he didn't have her phone number and referred me to, you guessed it, the phone queue. After 12 days and 14 phone calls, I finally tracked down Linda Velazques.
4) Linda Velazques, HAMP processor
First contact: October 4, 2010
She took down a number of the questions that Mark Tinsley had pointedly ignored and promised to get answers. I actually believe she would have done so, but then someone from the WFHM president's office got in touch with me and Linda's position became somewhat uncertain. She wasn't sure how/whether to proceed and didn't get a response from the president's office to clarify for her. She did still continue to return my phone calls.
Reassigned: Not officially, but my file was "taken" from her area
5) Kathleen Wengert, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First contact: October 2, 2010 phone message in response to the letter I sent to John Stumpf, WE CEO. Unfortunately, although she asked me to return her call, she did not leave a phone number.
Promised: To be my liaison and contact
Reassigned: ? No notification, just a phone call from a new person on October 14, 2010.
Continuity: She failed to return three phone calls on October 12-13, 2010, to confirm receipt of the 52 pages of documents she requested from me and I never heard from her again.
6) Wanita Nelson, Exective Specialist, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First contact: October 14, 2010. Phone message from Wanita Nelson said she would be my "point of contact" in the president's office from here on out. Then it took six phone messages before she finally called me back on October 25, 2010.
Promised: To try to have me re-reviewed for HAMP because she thought I should be eligible and to get a decision "shortly," perhaps by "this time next week."
Reassigned: ? No notification from Wanita, just a phone call from a new person on November 19, 2010.
Continuity: None. She didn't acknowledge receipt of my November 12, 2010, letter, nor did she answer it. She just passed me along to ...
7) Jefferson Cooper, Loan Specialist, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First contact: I got two completely incomprehensible messages on November 19, 2010. The only words I could make out were "Wells Fargo Office of the President" and "loan modification request" and a few numbers of a phone number that didn't sound familiar. I called the number I had for the president's office and spoke to Kelly Class, who was super helpful. Apparently the person who "set up" my case, Vong Kavan, had instructed her assistant, Jefferson Cooper, to contact me. When Kelly tried to call him, she got his voicemail with a message that hadn't been updated since "last Tuesday." She also got no answer to an email she sent him while we were on the phone together. It was about 3 p.m. there and she suggested he might have left the office early. She left him a voicemail message on my behalf. (Which he didn't answer; I contacted him Monday morning and he acted like he had no idea who I was.) We did finally connect on November 23, 2010, and he seems like a nice person. But, still no real help.
Reassigned: ? Never heard from him again, in spite of having re-submitted HAMP documents directly to him. No acknowledgement of their receipt and no response to the questions I asked in my cover letter. Blown off again.
8) Angela Cook, Executive Mortgage Specialist, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First Contact: January 3, 2011, got a phone message from Jerry Something in the WFHM president's office saying Ms. Cook has been assigned my correspondence from the Arizona Attorney General's office and my loan. Beginning to feel like a hot potato here, tossed around the president's office. I got a January 4, 2011, letter with her copied or stamped "signature" on January 5, 2010, asking for a document submission by January 10, 2011.
Reassigned: ? As per usual with folks in the presidents' office, I had one phone conversation with her and then she wrote two letters to the Arizona AG's investigator completely misrepresenting WFHM's review process. That seems to be the pattern.
9) Kathleen Halifax, an underwriter in Loss Mitigation
First Contact: January 26, 2011, she called me to "go over my financials." At first, when she just said she was with Loss Mitigation, I thought she was a customer service rep. sicced on my by the autodialer. I explained I was dealing with Angela Cook in the president's office and was just finishing up a package of documents to send to Randy Bockenstedt in Servicing (whom I had never heard from before.) She actually followed up, acknowledged receipt of documents and (shock!) gave me a concrete date by which this review might be completed.
Reassigned: ? She was the person who, on February 21, 2011, gave me verbal notification that I had been turned down for a mod once again. I didn't hear from her again regarding that mod review even though she was supposed to have notified me of the special forbearance agreement. Instead, Amanda Sapir in Rep. Giffords' office did that on February 25, 2011.
10) Jacob Vogel, Congressional Support
First Contact: February 4, 2011, I found out completely by accident that Jacob was involved with my case in partnership with Kathleen Halifax. I called the president's office to find out why I was overnighted a "loan modification starter kit" just a week after I had submitted all that information and the nice guy who answered the phone told me that Angela Cook had "closed her case" regarding my loan (thanks for letting me know!) and Jacob Vogel had been assigned to be liaison with Gabby Giffords' staff. He actually returned phone calls promptly, called of his own initiative to update me on the review and answered questions directly.
Reassigned: February 28, 2011, he called to ask whether I had any questions about the special forbearance offer I hadn't yet been notified of by anyone at WFHM. He said he would be closing my case with the Congressional Support office, but I could contact him in future and he would help. (He noted Angela Cook was still working on my case. Huh?)
11) Gary Lingren, Executive Mortgage Specialist, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First Contact: June 15, 2011 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 and he will be calling me in the next couple of days. He never did so and I have had no direct contact with him. He did write letter to the Arizona AG's office regarding my ongoing complaint there on May 10, 2011, and July 13, 2011. And he was the person who, on June 28, 2011, closed the case on my third mod review saying I hadn't submitted requested documents. He later admitted that he had never sent a letter requesting said documents.
Reassigned: ? I never spoke to him and I have no idea whether he'll be involved in mod review #4 or will continue to handle the AG correspondence.
12) Kathleen Halifax, an underwriter in Loss Mitigation
First Contact: June 27, 1011 I received a letter dated June 21, 2011, in which Ms. Halifax designates herself as my "primary contact" on the "team dedicated to helping" me with my third mod request.
Reassigned: ? Never had any contact with her other than the letter this time around. The same day she wrote her letter, another person in the WFHM president's office was designating himself the "single point of contact."
13) Julian Long, Office of the President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
First Contact: July 21, 2011 my legal counsel was called by Mr. Long, who identified himself as our "single point of contact person" for the ongoing review.
Reassigned: ? He's the person who gave my legal counsel verbal notice that my modification has been turned down again. I never spoke with him and he did not sign either of the two letters I got notifying me of the denial.
14) Sheila Roberts, Loan Processor, WFHM
First Contact: July 26, 2011, I received a FedEx package containing a letter dated July 21, 2011, from Ms. Roberts, who describes herself as “your loan processor and dedicated point of contact for this program." (NOTE: 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. In her letter, she implies the review is just beginning and she says she will follow up with me by Sunday, August 21, 2011, to outline the next steps in the process or request additional documents.
Reassigned: ? Never heard from her again.
15) Larry Parkos, Home Preservation Specialist, WFHM
First Contact: On August 15, 2011, my legal counsel and I called WFHM to ask where to send paperwork to initiate a new modification review. After going over my financials with a customer service queue person, we were transferred to Mr. Parkos.
Reassigned: Mr. Parkos stayed involved throughout this unsuccessful attempt to secure a mod.
16) Anne-Marie Buchanan, Home Preservation Specialist, WFHM
First Contact: January 23, 2012, I made a last-ditch effort to stave off the Jan. 25 trustee's sale by calling WFHM to request that my loan be re-reviewed for a loan mod on the grounds that the income and expense figures had been falsified in my last two mod reviews. Luck of the draw took me to Ms. Buchanan, who worked with me to postpone the sale.
Reassigned: After sending me a letter on May 30, 2012, telling me that I'd been turned down for a mortgage mod because I had declined an offer of a mortgage mod, Ms. Buchanan followed up with another letter dated June 1, 2012, saying she could no longer help me even though she had been my "primary contact, working to help you through the mortgage assistance process." Well, one of 16 "primary" contacts involved in one little piece of the process, anyway.
17) Susan Young, Executive Mortgage Specialist, Office of Executive Complaints
First Contact: I got a voicemail from Ms. Young on Friday, June 1, 2012. She said she was calling in response to a letter I sent to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. (More about that later.) I called her back on Monday the 4th and then called nine more times over the next two-and-a-half weeks with no return calls or messages from Ms. Young or anyone acting on her behalf. She did send me two letters referencing dates she supposedly tried to call me. But as she didn't leave any messages on those dates, I have to wonder whether she called at all. (I mean, if you make a business-related call, you leave a message, right? If only so it doesn't look like you've completely blown off your customer for two-and-a-half weeks.)
Reassigned: I finally gave up on June 19, 2012, and just called the Office of Executive Complaints number without dialing Ms. Young's extension. I spoke with someone who informed me that Ms. Young had closed my case on June 14, 2012, citing an inability to get in touch with me. (Head-desk.) Yes, when you don't bother to return phone calls, it's darn difficult to contact your customers. Amazing!
A total of 17 "single" points of contact? Yep, they are really going out of their way to ensure a substantial positive impact on customer service. Pass the buck is always such an effective way to make customers feel you give a #%^* about them. Of course, it's only a tiny, little insignificant issue, this whole losing one's home thing. So, it's not like it's really worth their while to be bothered with us, is it?
What They're Still Doing
Five years after the initial quote from WFHM President Mike Heid, Wells Fargo still can't figure out how to assign case managers to accounts. It's bad enough the WHAT Office of the Comptroller of the Currency finally had to take action:
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."
"We will continue to work with the OCC to address the remaining items, and we have an action plan in place to complete that work in the coming," Heid's statement said.
In response to a question about assigning customers to single points of contact, a bank spokesman said that Wells Fargo began that process in 2010, and that the bank is now "waiting on final validation of recent changes we made in response to new direction provided by the OCC late in 2014."
Big Banks' Mortgage Units - Still Failing
Customers - Face New Restrictions
June 17, 2015
What they say:
…Wells Fargo is firmly committed to continuing to lead the industry in advocating and conducting fair and responsible lending and servicing. It is critical that mortgage lenders and servicers live by principles that eliminate troublesome practices and help consumers through challenging times. We look forward to continually working with all the participants in the housing finance industry to find more solutions that benefit consumers – expanding homeownership and preserving it.
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Co-President Cara Heiden in 2006 testimony to the
House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
More from Cara Heiden:
Wells Fargo is committed to financial literacy.
Financial Literacy and Making Lending Work
Cara Heiden profile, US Banker, 25 Women to Watch
US Banker, The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking
What they do:
Well, I call this a "challenging time," but I sure have experienced a whole lot of "troublesome practices" as I try my best to help Wells Fargo find a solution that will preserve my home ownership.
What they say:
We provide clear, simple and timely information to consumers, understanding how complex homeownership and financing can be.
Home financing – and all that entails – is second nature to those who work here, but it isn't for many customers. We want to help our customers, and understanding them is the first step in that mission.
- We strive for deeper insight so we can anticipate our customers' needs and proactively serve them.
- We make it easy for our customers to access and use a bounty of helpful information through clear, detailed mortgage statements, and our comprehensive website.
- Our knowledgeable service representatives are standing by to answer questions, resolve issues and make it comfortable for customers to contact us, especially when they experience financial challenges.
Source: Wells Fargo & Company Responsible Servicing Principles
for U.S. Residential Real Estate Lending
What they do:
Oh, where do I start? "Clear" and "simple" don't at all describe the mortgage modification process I have gone through. Take the very beginning. I did research for days just trying to figure out what information needed to be submitted and in what format it should appear. I got zero guidance from the Wells Fargo website. It seems to me that if there is a program for which people need to apply, the agency or company to which the application must be submitted should create a system by which this can be accomplished.
What about making a web page that gives clear and simple step-by-step instructions about how to apply and actually provides the forms that need to be filled out. The forms could even be those nifty pdfs that allow you to type in your information and then both save and print the forms. Even a pdf that can be printed and then filled in is okay, though those who will receive the forms should realize they will be getting a whole lot of hard-to-read handwritten info. Maybe there could be a checklist of what must be sent in. And a general timeline letting people know how long the review of their documents might take. That wouldn't even qualify as a "bounty of helpful information;" to me that would be the basics, the minimum I would expect from a reputable, professional entity. However, when I submitted my first documents, none of that was available. Nor is it now, as far as I can tell. I found what little information I could on the Making Home Affordable government website.
And, as for the "knowledgeable service representatives," although I do have to give credit to most of the customer service queue people I talked to, they were unfailingly polite and some even seemed to genuinely want to help, but they were without exception essentially clueless. By design. If the system is set up so you talk to a different person each time you call in, there's no way any one representative can know anything about your review. Especially after it has dragged on for months and months and the "notes" they have access to must stretch on for miles. I was nearly three months in to my review before I got a contact who could actually give me her phone number and I could call her directly. (Unfortunately she was the first in a long line of people who called herself "the person who will be your contact until the review is completed.")
What they say:
Every time we serve a customer, we should ask ourselves: If I were the customer in this situation how would this experience feel for me? Did the transaction feel simple and easy? Did my problem get resolved quickly? Did the team member I contacted first accept responsibility for making sure I got what I needed? That’s what we mean by One Wells Fargo — imagining ourselves as the customer. Customers want to do business with companies they connect with emotionally, that speak their language, are sensitive to their culture, value what they value, and help them succeed financially. To make that emotional connection, we must put our customers at the center of everything we do.
We’re a circle not a hierarchy. At the center of the circle — our customers. Alongside them — our customer-contact team members. Farther out in the circle are our leaders. At the outside of the circle are senior leaders. All of us partner together to do the best job we can for our customers. Customers expect us to be One Wells Fargo. We have thousands of products and more than 80 businesses. None of us can know everything about all products and services. Customers don’t expect that. What they do expect is One Wells Fargo. Our systems must work smoothly across all our businesses. It should be easy for customers to find the right team member quickly or the right channel to answer their question or satisfy their financial need.
The Vision & Values of Wells Fargo
What they do:
My answers to the questions in the first paragraph are as follows: "Hellish," "Absolutely not," "No, protracted and deceptive," "Not at all," "I have spoken to dozens of people, all of whom passed me along." I have never during this entire process felt like I was being treated like a customer, only like a loan number or someone making an inappropriate request.
Systems that run smoothly? Well, all I can say is no reputable company that is actually trying to serve its customers loses paperwork as often as Wells Fargo and its fellow financial services companies seem to. And what professional, ethical organization forbids its customer service people to provide customers with the contact information they need to reach the people who are supposed to be helping them? It took me 12 days and 14 phone calls before I was able to speak to the person who took over my review in September. I got my first phone contact from Linda Velazques on September 29 and finally got to speak with her on October 4 after having been told by Mark Tinsley on Sept. 15 that my review was within "72 hours tops" of being completed. During the interim, I had no idea what was happening with my review and none of the customer service representatives I spoke to could/would look up and give me a simple phone number. Are we supposed to believe that a big company like Wells Fargo does not have a phone/address directory so employees can contact each other or refer customers when needed. Really?! One Wells Fargo? I'd say the reality is that Wells Fargo is the only One to benefit, and the customers get screwed.
What they say:
We're also gearing up to qualify most borrowers for a HAMP trial modification during our first point of contact. Our goal is to send eligible customers a trial modification agreement within 48 hours. During the three-month trial period, we can then work with you to collect all of the required documents to determine if your modifications can be finalized.
The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog
Jason Menke, an assistant vice president
and communications consultant for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
What they do:
Oh, I seriously doubt there has been a single case where somebody got offered a trial modification after their first contact with WFHM. Even those of us who sent in all the documents that were supposed to be included in the initial request. 48 hours! Who is this guy kidding?
What they say:
"Please note that WFHM adheres to all federal, state and local laws regarding the servicing of a mortgage loan as well as those guidelines established by the Department of the Treasury and the investor on the loan."
Gary Lingren, executive mortgage specialist, WFHM president's office
in a May 10, 2011, letter the Arizona Attorney General's Comsumer Information and Complaints department employee investigating my complaint against WFHM
What they do:
The investor for whom WFHM services my mortgage loan, Freddie Mac, has very clear and specific guidelines about all kinds of actions related to mortgage modification reviews. WFHM seems to pretty much ignore all of them.
For example: “If the Servicer receives an incomplete Initial Package or needs additional documentation to verify the
Borrower's eligibility and income, the Servicer must send the Borrower an incomplete information notice that
lists the additional required verification documentation. The incomplete information notice must include a
specific date by which the documentation must be received, which must be 30 calendar days from the date of the
notice.” Freddie Mac Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide, Volume 2, Chapter 65.5.1(a)
But most of the letters I have gotten from WFHM asking for documents have included the following statement: “If ALL of this information or a request for an extension is not received within ten (10) days, we will consider this request cancelled.”
In my experience, WFHM hardly ever "adheres to ... those guidelines established by ... the investor on the loan." And, Freddie Mac doesn't seem to care.
And even though the much-touted National Mortgage Settlement, completed in February 2012, was supposed to finally force the banks into providing homeowners with the long-awaited single point of contact, that hasn't exactly happened. Wells Fargo is still telling lies about this issue in 2012 and was threatened with a lawsuit in 2012 for failure to comply with the settlement's servicing standards, which include providing borrowers with a single contact person for the duration of their mortgage mod review process.