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.
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.
The following story is about HSITrust client, Rebecca McClellan’s quest to have her mortgage modified by Bank of America. I’m sure her story will resonate with many of our readers.
My name is Rebecca McClellan. Like many others, I am a struggling homeowner. In 2008, the market began to crash and my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer. The doctors at Stanford were not optimistic about his survival chances. He was unable to continue working. I struggled on, overwhelmed by the prospect of losing my life partner and trying to tend to his mounting needs. He needed to be taken weekly for 6 hour chemo-therapy sessions and doctor appointments at Stanford; each time a 3 hour round trip drive. We went from a two income family to me being our sole support, barely making our mortgage payments while trying to be a rock of support for his situation.
The government announced the first of several modification programs that applied to people like us, who needed help, an adjustment of our interest rate, maybe even a lowering of our principal down to the level that the house would be worth to the bank if they sold it. I began calling Bank of America to talk about a modification and was, on virtually every call, routed back to the front desk of the “Have a Heart” desk where they claimed they were taking and processing loan modification requests. Every time that I called, I had to re-explain my story. The people who answered the phone didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, much less what they were doing. I sent hardship letters and I sent new budgets to them every several weeks, each time at their request, and each time that I called up the front desk, again, to find out my status from the person at the front desk who had no idea what was going on, I was, usually after 30 minutes on the phone waiting, told that they couldn’t find my paperwork and I should resubmit it. I was told again to submit an application and to write a “hardship” letter about my husband’s condition. I did so immediately.
I talked to Sumat Jain in Home Retention, who told me to call back in October. In October I talked to Greg Knox. Then I talked to Joyce in home Retention who would not give me her last name. Then I talked to Carol on the “Heart Team” who couldn’t find our package. Then she found them, said it was being processed and I should call back at the end of November. In December Cindi Bustamante from the “Heart Team” called to ask why I hadn’t signed the loan mod papers and then began an investigation into why I hadn’t received the papers. Did these phantom papers even exist? Then I talked to Donna, Karen, Cindi, again, and was told I would be contacted by Monique, a supervisor. Monique never called me.
The next day I talked to Tamara who transferred me back to the “Hope Team”. Natasha in the “Hope Team” told me that my loan mod was, actually, still in review. Then I talked to Dave and John, Dave’s supervisor. My next call put me in India and they transferred my call to Gabriel in customer Service and then he transferred me to Josh, another supervisor. Josh said he was going to escalate the mod request and I got transferred to India, again and then to Jessica. Then I talked to Patrick who announced that they had closed my file and returned it to “normal” status. Then I talked to Nikee Woods, a negotiator. Then I talked to Hugh and then Lydia. Then I talked to Ansenija, another supervisor, who was going to call me back but didn’t because she was “too busy doing other things” she told me later. Then I talked to Shannon and Tierra and then Michael who, out of the clear blue, announced that I had a pending modification on my second, even though I had been told we were only working on my first and we would work on my second after the first was resolved. Then I talked to Adrian Woods, another negotiator, who announced that my loan app had been cancelled. Then Margaret from Making Home Affordable called up and put me through to Mykie Vyas.
These exchanges went on for two years with virtually no resolution of our situation. We finally ran out of money and stopped making our mortgage payments. Within one month of not making the first payment, Bank of America started calling us instead of us trying to get them to even talk to us. I got calls from Tamika, Nathan, Adrian, Suzanne in India, Maria, Ebony, David and Adam, an assistant supervisor who told me that my loan modification app had been cancelled, and Aron from India. Then I got calls from Shannon, Tierra, and Michael. Then Adrian Vargas called back to say that I would deal only with him and that they couldn’t find our file and that I should resubmit everything. Then I talked to a supervisor in India, Stephen and then I talked to Adrian Vargas’ supervisor.
Next, I received a letter from Bank of America, no name, saying that our mod had been turned down because our ratios were too high. I knew, from many conversations with independent mortgage brokers, that our ratios were not too high. Adrian Vargas of Bank of America told me to appeal, because he agreed with me.
Then I talked to Danny and Vanessa who told me to talk to Gwen Hall, the underwriter. Then I talked to Arlene who said there was nothing new to discuss and then I talked to Robert who acknowledged that my ratios were below the 31% ratio and that I did, indeed, qualify. Then I talked to Chris who said he was starting the whole process over. At this point I was assigned to Gwen Hall as my permanent Loan Representative in the process. I also got a letter warning me that I was delinquent and that they would start foreclosure proceedings.
Even though Adrian Vargas had assured me that nothing would happen while they were working on this, Gwen said they were going to start foreclosure proceedings but she assured me that they would not publish a sale date while the negotiations were going on. Within a month I was given a new “permanent” rep, Kyete Meyers. Then on Christmas Eve we came home to find notices tacked on our front door announcing a sale date for 2 weeks later. I tried to call Kyete but her phone didn’t work so I called her manager, Joseph Smith and he never returned my call. Then Kyete Meyers started asking for all my documents, again. Five days before the sale date they postponed the sale for one month. Since then, they have done it once more, again asking for the same documents they had in their possession since mid 2008.
It is now March, 2012. My husband is in remission from cancer but his long term survival prognosis is still an open question. That aside, chemo significantly damaged his heart and he is on a variety of heart medicines for the rest of his life and unable to work. I continue to work 12 hour days. I am still employed in a management position by the same Fortune 500 Company and I/we meet all of the criteria set forth in all the Federal government guidelines for a modification.
These guidelines, designed to put the real estate industry back on its feet, to stem the glut of foreclosed houses depressing the values of all the rest of the houses, and to give millions of us a renewed, ongoing stake in the American dream. The banks have signed agreements with the Federal government to support the unraveling of housing market crisis. But banks want to wash their hands of this part of their commitment. They prefer, instead, to leverage their capital, the money they are borrowing from the Federal government at 0%, in order to loan the money back to the Federal government at 3.5%, buying T-Bills.
My husband and I are, again, facing a Trustees Sale on our house on March 14, 2012. The Trustee, again, is ReconTrust, a company that is required by law to have a fiduciary responsibility to both Bank of America and to us; a company that is a wholly owned part of Bank of America.
I think it is important to note that I agree with Bank of America on one thing; that there are rules and that we need to play by those rules.
My problem with the Bank of America is its policy that only rules to acknowledge are those that put the homeowner in jeopardy. Even if I don’t like some of the rules, obviously, I am trying to play by all of them, all the same. The banks, clearly, don’t like other rules. Bank of America does not believe that they need, also, to play by all the rules. Rules about processing loan modification applications, rules about mortgage documentation, rules about foreclosure and due process and rules about fiduciary responsibility, notification and integrity are all rules that Bank of America has chosen to ignore. The banks do not want to be inconvenienced by these rules.
No one can tell me that having 40 or more people in 4 different programs, with 3 different “permanent” loan process representatives in 5 different states, in 2 different countries over a period of 3 years, over one mortgage, with an unpublished set of rules and arbitrary decisions with no accountability isn’t designed, with intent, to deter anyone from asking for fair or, at a minimum, due process. To call these programs “Have a Heart”, “Hope Team” “Making Homes Affordable” or even “Home Retention” is a slap in our collective face that crosses the line from the absurd to the Kafkaesque.
Make banks play by the same rules that they are reasonably demanding of us.
Bruce Judson nails it again! Here is an excerpt from the Huffington Post article. Please see the link at the bottom to read the article in its entirety.
Extreme economic inequality is among the most destructive forces in a society. As inequality grows, it undermines the effective functioning of the economy, the basic tenets of capitalism, and the foundations of democracy.
Unfortunately, the housing crisis and now the housing settlement increasingly look like an example of how this mechanism works.
One of the central characteristics of highly unequal societies is that two sets of laws develop: One set for the rich and powerful and one set for everyone else. The more unequal societies become, the more easily they accept the unacceptable, and with each unrebuked violation, the powerful actors at the top of the society gain an ever greater sense of entitlement and an ever greater sense that the laws that govern everyone else don’t apply to them. As a result, their behavior becomes increasingly egregious.
In contrast, sustainable capitalism requires that all participants in a contract or bargain believe their interests will be enforced equally by the courts: Capitalism requires that Lady Justice wear a blindfold. When powerful players are permitted to alter established rules at will, capitalism ultimately collapses. Contracts and the idea of a fair bargain become meaningless as less powerful parties to an agreement know their rights will not be enforced. Over time, citizens lose faith in government and their own ability to thrive in what becomes a corrupt economy. This uncertainty leads the small businesses, which are so often cited as important to our economy, to shy away from new activities that might put them at the risk of unequal treatment.
I would suggest that the robo-mortgage scandal is a strong indicator that this type of unequal justice is now becoming ever more commonplace in America. Past bank abuses are typically discussed without a sense of outrage. They have, in effect, become a recognized practice of deception with no consequences. Here are three prominent examples from the past few years:
First, the robo-mortgage scandal was discovered. As powerful members of society, the banks effectively decided what laws they wanted to follow and disregarded others. The banks claimed that their violations were technical and harmed no one. Nonetheless, the activities of the banks constituted massive fraud, perjury, and conspiracy. Bank officials have testified in court that they filed as many as 10,000 false affidavits a month. These are effectively undeniable admissions of law-breaking on a massive scale.
It’s a federal crime, punishable by up of five years of imprisonment, to knowingly file a false affidavit with the court. From the perspective of the law, you are guilty of the same perjury, when you falsely testify in court or when you submit a false affidavit. In most states, filing false affidavits with the court similarly constitutes a felony offense of perjury.
If an individual citizen perpetrated this kind of massive perjury, he or she would be prosecuted. For illegal activities to take place on this type of massive scale, other serious crimes, such as conspiracy, are almost certainly committed as well.
We’ve started a petition for Susan Leonard because she is an excellent example of how banks put homeowners in more jeopardy.We hear different variations of Susan’s story every day.
Susan had surgery, missed time at work which reduced her income. Following her illness she was laid off from her job. She was able to find another job, but the pay is lower which reduced her income significantly. Susan applied for a Homes Affordable Modification with Bank of America and was approved for a trial modification. She was told if she made the three trial payments on time she would be considered for a permanent loan modification.
After completing the trial plan Susan inquired with Bank of America and was told that she was approved for the permanent modification, but because the program was so popular they were having a difficult time getting the permanent loan modification packages out to homeowners. Susan was told to continue to make the trial payment amount each month. Bank of America deceived and mislead Susan into believing she had been approved for a permanent modification for 25 months! She made her 26th payment, but Bank of America sent it back to her and told Susan her home was in foreclosure. On December 21, 2011 her home was sold at auction.
Susan has a very modest home with a $88,000 mortgage. She is a hard working American who wants to pay her mortgage. But Susan’s mortgage had PMI – that’s mortgage insurance. Bank of America would much rather collect on the mortgage insurance policy than work with Susan to keep her in her home. Bank of America put Susan in more jeopardy by leading her to believe that the 26 month trial modification would lead to a permanent modification and then later demanding the arrears. With a reduced income and the belief that she would be paying the new modified payment for the life of the loan, she could not possibly pay the past due amount that Bank of America claimed she owed. Bank of America set her up to fail!
Unfortunately, Susan’s story is not unique.This is happening to homeowners across the country. It’s by far the most common story HSITrust hears from homeowners.
Join us in demanding that Bank of America rescind this wrongful foreclosure and discontinue unfair and deceptive practices against homeowners. Please sign our petition for Susan Leonard.
Help us create change!
Bank of America mired in negative publicity for improper foreclosure activity and debit card fees.
At best, this round of relief will reach about two million former and current homeowners. Under the agreement, banks will grant some $10 billion worth of principal reduction, $3 billion in refinancings and $7 billion in other mortgage relief, like forbearance for unemployed borrowers, covering roughly one million borrowers in total. Another $1.5 billion will be cash payments of about $2,000 to some 750,000 borrowers who were treated unfairly in foreclosures from 2008 through 2011.
And $3.5 billion will go to state and federal governments for what has been described as resources for legal aid and other counseling for borrowers facing foreclosure. Such aid is vitally important, but it appears that the earmarked money also could be used to plug state budget holes, rather than empower homeowners in their fights against the banks. That would be a mistake.
What do banks get in exchange for the relief? The answer, in short, is a sweet deal.
The banks did not get the blanket release they originally sought from legal liability for all manner of mortgage misconduct. But the settlement still shields them from state and federal civil lawsuits for most foreclosure abuses, including the wrongful denial of loan modifications, excessive late fees that enriched the banks but could make it impossible for borrowers to catch up on late payments, and conflicts of interest that led banks to favor foreclosures over modifications. Going forward, the banks will have to adhere to tougher standards for servicing loans and executing foreclosures. But past sins in servicing and foreclosure are largely absolved.
The banks are not off the hook for criminal prosecutions related to the mortgage mess or for private lawsuits. They are also not off the hook for wrongdoing in their aggressive pooling of mortgages into securities and other practices that inflated the bubble. Thanks for the settlement’s narrower legal releases goes to New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and a handful of other state attorneys general, who refused to accept a deal that would have blocked further legal action.
Which brings us back to the question of whether a new investigation will indeed get off the ground. We are skeptical. The Obama administration squandered several months resisting Mr. Schneiderman’s insistence on a broader investigation, raising questions about its willingness to now get tough with the banks and bankers. As a practical matter, that delay has allowed some potential violations to draw closer to expiration under statutes of limitation.