Due to the segment that was aired on Nightline July 4. 2012 we are experiencing high call volumes and an overwhelming number of emails from homeowners asking for our assistance.
If you are trying to contact us please be sure to let us know if you have a sale date on your home by including that in your phone message or typing it into the subject line of your email.
Please be patient. We will do our best to get in touch with everyone who has contact us.
In a quiet office in downtown Charlotte, N.C., dozens of Wells Fargo’s foreclosure foot soldiers sit in cubicles cranking out documents the bank relies on to seize its share of the thousands of homes lost to foreclosure every week.
They stare at computer screens and prepare sworn affidavits that are used by lenders in courts across the country to seize homes. Paid $30,700 to start, these legal process specialists, the title that goes with the job, swear an oath under penalty of perjury that they’re corporate vice presidents. They’re peppered with e-mails from managers to meet daily quotas of at least 10 or 11 files day.
If they fall short, they face a verbal warning. Then written. Two written warnings could cost them the paycheck that supports a family. As more than one source for this story told msnbc.com, “I can’t afford to lose this job.”
Pressured to meet daily production quotas, they are likely making mistakes that inadvertently could toss a family out of its home and onto the street, according to these workers.
State and federal prosecutors, in a recent settlement with five banks that included Wells Fargo, agreed. The joint state and federal settlement spelled out how the document procedures at the five banks resulted in “loss of homes due to improper, unlawful or undocumented foreclosures,” according to the complaint.
“These are mistakes that could cost someone their home,” a Wells Fargo document preparer told msnbc.com.
We’re tired of watching banks destroy homeowners lives. It’s bad enough to be a homeowner who may have lost a job or is struggling with a health issue. We’ve all seen how banks take advantage of homeowners when they are the most vulnerable. We’ve created a petition and we’re aiming it at the top!
Collectively we can band together, stop the madness and force banks to do what’s right for homeowners. Help spread the word by sharing this petition with friends and family.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. It’s time for homeowners to stop being silent and stand up for their rights.
There are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.
The first is that it’s corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.
The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it’s a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.
But Bank of America hasn’t gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the “Too Big To Fail” concept. Because it is considered a “systemically important institution” whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.
This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.
The inevitable result of that new form of corruption is this bank, whose continued, state-supported existence should naturally outrage all Americans, be they conservative or progressive.
Moreover, Bank of America has ruthlessly preyed upon millions of homeowners, throwing them out on the street on the strength of doctored, “robosigned” paperwork created through brazenly illegal practices they helped pioneer — the firm sped struggling families to foreclosure court using perjured affidavits produced in factory-like fashion by the hundreds or thousands every day, with full knowledge of management. Through the firm’s improper use of an unaccountable private electronic mortgage registry system called MERS, it also systematically evaded millions of dollars in local fees, forcing some communities to cut services and raise property taxes.
Even when caught and punished for its crimes by the authorities, Bank of America has repeatedly ignored court orders. It was one of five companies identified in two separate investigations earlier this year that were caught continuing the practice of robosigning, even after promising to stop in a legally binding consent decree. Last summer, the state of Nevada sought to terminate a settlement over mortgage abuses it had entered into with Bank of America after it found the company was brazenly violating the agreement, among other things raising payments and interest rates on mortgage customers, despite the fact that the settlement only allowed them to modify loans downward.
Over and over again, we see that leveling fines and punishments at this bank is not enough: it simply ignores them. It is the very definition of an unaccountable corporate villain.
Moveon.org’s nationwide Save Our Homes rally touched Lincoln March 15. From left, Rachel Kendall, Raeleen Lester (Kendall’s mother), Marlene Koons, Linda Kuruhara and Howard Koons gathered in front of Lincoln’s Wells Fargo as part of moveon.org’s nationwide Save Our Homes Rally. The rally was organized by Lincoln resident Kendall, who said she “almost lost” her Lincoln Crossing home in December. Kendall owed $7,000 on her home after she went on disability and was not paid for four months, according to Kendall. She said Wells Fargo bank put her home up for sale in December. After working with HSI Trust Home Savers, Kendall said, she “was able to negotiate with Wells Fargo and keep” her home. The March 15 protest coincided with a meeting between President Barack Obama and the Senate’s finance committee “to discuss people staying in their homes,” Kendall said.
Excerpt from Huffington Post:
The greatest moral hazard now confronting the nation is what appears to be increasingly brazen criminal activity by financial industry executives. With each decision not to prosecute, Wall Street executives justifiably conclude that they are immune to the rules. As a result, it appears that Wall Street criminal activity is increasing in frequency and severity, as opposed to the reverse. The activities surrounding the collapse of MF Global are one example.
So what can be done about it? We can change the behavior in the financial service industry for a full generation in just seven days. This plan may seem to be tongue and cheek, but it harkens back to a similar action in the era of the Great Depression. In the final months of Herbert Hoover’s presidency, the Senate Banking Committee began an investigation into the causes of the Great Crash of 1929, and a young prosecutor named Ferdinand Pecora was appointed as Chief Counsel. Subsequently, the Roosevelt administration conveyed to Pecora that “the prosecution of an outstanding violator of the banking law would be the most salutary action that could be taken at this time. The feeling is that if the people become convinced that the big violators are to be punished, it will be helpful in restoring confidence.” Ultimately, this investigation, which came to be known as the Pecora Commission, led to the indictment of one of America’s most prominent financiers; demonstrated widespread self-dealing in the financial sector; and, as noted by historian Alan Brinkley, generated “broad popular support” for Roosevelt’s reform agenda, including the creation of the SEC and the Glass-Steagall Act.
My seven day plan is based on a simple premise: When criminal laws are egregiously violated, the guilty parties should face appropriate punishment. Here’s the plan:
Day One: Read the HUD Inspector General’s reports and the public records of past mortgage foreclosure cases from across the nation.
Day Two: Meet with the team at the Office of the Inspector General at HUD that prepared the audits. Obtain the names of all the bank officials, lawyers, and notaries whose behavior, as cited in the audit reports or otherwise known to the investigators, represent clear and unquestionable criminal violations. Add to this list other individuals who have similarly demonstrated or testified to behavior unquestionably constituting criminal acts, as indicated by the public records of the mortgage foreclosure cases reviewed in day one.
Day Three: Indict all of the individuals on the list compiled on day two.
Day Four: Indict banks and financial institutions on criminal charges where criminal behavior by employees (as demonstrated by day three indictments) appears to be endemic. The Justice Department guidelines for prosecuting firms include: (1) the pervasiveness of such activity, (2) the compliance procedures in place, (3) attempts by the corporation to end bad behavior, and (4) cooperation with federal investigators. In 2008, the Justice Department adopted a policy of accepting “deferred prosecutions,” involving agreements to change corporate behavior without damaging innocent third parties through prosecution.
Corporations receive the benefits of “legal persons,” as demonstrated by Citizens United. But they must also bear the responsibilities of these privileges. A reading of the HUD reports, and other public records, suggests several banks should clearly be prosecuted.
Day 5: Discuss plea bargains with indicted lower-level officials in return for cooperating in investigations of higher-level officials.
Day 6: Consider plea bargains with indicted banks, which require the removal of all remaining officers and directors who were serving when egregious criminal activity occurred, as well as senior officials who were in a position to exercise appropriate supervisory responsibility but chose to look the other way.
Day 7: Indict any senior Wall Street officials implicated by new cooperative testimony resulting from activities on day five. Adopt and announce a policy that future criminal violations will be prosecuted in a similar fashion.
What is particularly disturbing is that a look at the evidence already in the public domain (much less what investigators already know) shows that none of the actions discussed above are entirely absurd. The purpose of prosecution is not simply punishment. It acts to deter further illegal activity and to restore public confidence in our system of governance. The nation desperately needs both of these benefits today.
Moreover, these ongoing, almost certainly criminal activities are ultimately dangerous threats to our economy, the success of capitalism, and our democracy. In his recent New York Times column on the collapse of MF Global, Joe Nocera noted that “customers need to be able to trust” the laws protecting their money. “Otherwise, the markets can’t function.”
Today, as in the era of FDR, we must send a message to the financial community that illegal behavior will not be tolerated. By prosecuting blatant felonies now, we will deter future misbehavior and begin the process of recreating a fair society where equal justice prevails.
From The Huffington Post:
The five banks that agreed to a $25 billion settlement to resolve fraudulent foreclosure claims consistently hindered a government watchdog’s investigation into those practices, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector generals office.
The findings, based on a review of foreclosure practices at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial over a two-year span from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010, essentially confirm what has been reported extensively for nearly two years. Bank employees, in order to speed foreclosures, signed hundreds of legal documents a day without reviewing the accuracy of the foreclosure information, notarized signatures on documents that purported to verify a bank’s legal right to foreclose without ever checking whether that was true, and hired law firms that forged signatures en masse — all with the encouragement of management.
The report was issued by the HUD’s Office of Inspector General a day after the government finally filed in federal court documents that set the terms of the banks’ settlement to resolve a 16-month foreclosure investigation. The Department of Justice used the HUD review in negotiating the settlement.
Though the report describes a pattern of misconduct that appears widespread, it fails to quantify the damage to homeowners or, ultimately, how many home loans were affected. It also clearly reflects the frustration that investigators felt in conducting the review. Even as negotiators for the banks were fighting to win the best possible deal, their lawyers were stonewalling other government investigators trying to ascertain the scope of the “robo-signing” abuses.
Wells Fargo provided a list of 14 affidavit signers and notaries — but then stalled while the bank’s own attorneys interviewed them first. The bank then tried to restrict access to just five of those employees. The reason? “Wells Fargo told us we could not interview the others because they had reported questionable affidavit signing or notarizing practices when it interviewed them,” the report says.
In other words, Wells Fargo did not want the government to talk to employees who might discuss wrongdoing. Eventually, the bank allowed investigators to talk to the remaining employees — but only on the condition that bank management and attorneys attend the interviews as “facilitators.” This condition resulted in delays that may have limited the effectiveness of the interviews, the report says.
Bank of America only permitted its employees to be interviewed after the Department of Justice intervened and compelled the testimony through a civil investigation demand. Even so, the review was hindered, the report says.
“On a number of occasions, Bank of America’s attorneys refused to allow employees to answer questions, stopped them in the middle of clarifying information already provided, or counseled them in private before allowing them to provide a response. Further, [the bank] would not permit an effective walk through of its document execution process that would have facilitated an understanding of its process.”
The investigation into Citigroup’s mortgage division was “significantly hindered” by the bank’s lack of records. Citigroup simply did not have a mechanism for tracking how many foreclosure documents were signed.
Both JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial refused to provide access to some employees or documents or otherwise impeded the investigation, according to the report.
Bank employees interviewed by the inspector general’s office described a range of pervasive abuses that happened with the consent, and in some cases, active encouragement of management.
Wells Fargo employees testified that they signed up to 600 documents a day without attempting to verify whether any of the information was correct. Employees that notarized documents, including sworn statements that purported to verify a bank’s legal right to foreclose on a home, told investigators that they notarized more than 1,000 documents a day — often without having witnessed the signature of the documents. The bank also relied on low-paid, unskilled workers to do the reviews: a former pizza restaurant worker, department store cashier, and a daycare worker, to name a few.
A vice president at Bank of America testified that she only checked foreclosure documents for formatting and spelling errors. Employees in India supposedly verified judgment figures in foreclosure documents, but none of the U.S. employees interviewed by the inspector general could explain how that process was supposed to work. One former employee described signing 12 to 18 inch stacks of documents without review.
Employees at Wells Fargo and Bank of America testified that they complained about the pace and lack of care given to reviews, but instead of relief, were told to sign even faster. One Bank of America notary said his target was set at 75 to 80 documents an hour, and he was evaluated on whether he met that target. One notary even notarized her own signature on a few documents.
Abuses at the other banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial — appear just as pervasive. Citi, for example, routinely hired law firms that “robo-signed” documents. An exhibit included with the report shows eight different versions of one attorney’s signature — all apparently signed by different people.
“The matters raised in the report cover observations that are two-four years old and they have been addressed,” said a statement emailed by Wells Fargo spokeswoman Vickee Adams. “Wells Fargo has made significant strides with implementing a number of changes in line with industry and regulatory servicing standards.”
Citigroup has implemented procedures to ensure “that no foreclosure goes forward based on an inaccurate or defective affidavit,” according to a statement emailed by spokesman Mark Rodgers.
“The memorandum references activities from over a year ago that have been addressed as we do all we can to modify loans when possible and to ensure foreclosures are fair when they are unavoidable,” said Bank of America spokesman Richard Simon in an email.
Ally Financial spokeswoman Gina Proia responded in a statement, “As we have stated previously, we regret that possible procedural deficiencies with respect to certain affidavits occurred; however throughout reviews of this matter, there was no evidence of someone being foreclosed on without being in significant default of their loan.”
JPMorgan Chase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.