Wells Fargo Compounds Misbehavior with Retaliation

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Bank Closes Accounts of Critics

Editor’s Notes:  

Wells Fargo’s story has been as bad or worse than many of the stories that have been published about banks committing crimes (forgery), misrepresentations is court, and fraudulent foreclosures. But Wells escaped a lot of media attention even with mammoth fines and penalties imposed by enraged Judges. We shouldn’t be too surprised by all this bullying and intimidation — after all, it is even a huge problems in schools which makes one wonder what is happening in the homes.

Their strategy seems to be to say anything that gets the job done (foreclosure) regardless of the facts or the law. It starts off with them having their attorney represent them in court, proffering “facts” that are not in evidence and turn out to be completely untrue. More specifically, they tell the court and the borrower that they are the creditor and then later, when it turns out the representation was completely untrue, and it is time for the homeowners to get attorneys fees and costs, they tell the Judge that they made a mistake and that they are not really the creditor, just the servicer, through America’s Servicing Company, which is not even a legal entity but simply a department within the Bank.

Now they are striking back through their commercial banking operation finding excuses to close or freeze accounts of those organizations that are critical of Wells Fargo behavior. We can expect more of this bullying and intimidation, rather than less. I expect that the other big banks will start doing the same thing. We have already seen how our own effort here at LivingLies have been hampered in getting simple title reports, because the sources of this on-line data, while open to the public, often mislead any inquirer into “plans” that won’t give them the right data.

Matt Weidner has cataloged some of the events in the article below. Hat tip to him for the effort. The media problem will heat up against the banks when the investigative reporters finally get the point: the mortgages are invalid, there was no financial transaction between the parties recited on the “closing” documents, and the terms of repayment shown to the lender (pension funds etc., who advanced the money for the loans) were different from the terms shown to the borrower.

And when the media realizes that the money never followed the document trail from beginning to end the fun will really start. The transaction was between the homeowner and the pension funds through an undifferentiated commingled escrow account where there were no decisions on “bundling” (which never actually took place). It was just money in an account that was used to fund mortgages without getting a signature from the homeowner borrower on the actual transaction and without the investor lender knowing the true nature of the underwriting and funding process.

In order for these proceedings to start leaning toward the borrower, the borrower and their attorney must educate themselves enough to deny the debt, deny the default, deny the note, deny the mortgage and everything else that is being presumed by the would-be forecloser. It is the borrower’s job to to argue passionately and persuasively that there are material facts in issue on which the borrower is entitled to a fair hearing on the merits. Instead borrowers and attorneys are reading the pablum fed to them by the banks’ publicists and they are failing to object to misrepresentations in court without facts in evidence, failing to object to lack of foundation, competency of witness and hearsay.

By the time the case gets argued by the homeowner, it is already established in the Judge’s mind that you took a loan, it was from these people who are foreclosing or one of their affiliates, you failed to pay it and you defaulted on the terms of repayment. Now you want that same judge, with those thoughts in his/her head, to start ruling for you because some of the documents were improperly prepared. The biggest mistake homeowners make is trying to win the entire case in the first hearing or in their first pleading. Any good trial lawyer knows that is impossible. The pleading and argument of the homeowner should focus on denial of any facts that would support any lawsuit, foreclosure or sale. You have had lots of loans, but none of them were with these people or their predecessors. Thus the note was procured by trick (fraud in the execution) based upon false pretenses (Fraud in the inducement) and predatory lending practices (violations of TILA).

It was all a living lie. And instead of taking their just deserved punishment, Wells Fargo is leading the way to punish those who tell the truth. Brad Keiser who co-presented in our first national tour liked to quote George Orwell who said something along the lines of “In a world of lies, the most courageous act is to tell the truth.”

WOW- Writing Against The Banks Can Get You Punished…


By Matt Weidner

Scary stuff from Zombeck:

A wrap-up of stories and posts you might have missed or overlooked — the ones below the fold.

For quite some time Wells Fargo managed to stay below the media’s radar and let the other guys like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, for example, bear the brunt of consumer and activist outrage. Lately, it seems, they’ve had to prove that they’re equally nasty and contemptible as the others. Foreclosing on priests and temples; closing bank accounts without apparent reason; promoting and profiting from private prisons; and ripping off towns, states and counties with bid rigging that skimmed money slated for schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

Wells Fargo can’t seem to get enough bad press these days. While working with the “any press is good press” theory may work for loud mouths like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, it’s not a strategy normally employed by most consumer based businesses.

In a piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago I speculated that Wells Fargo had closed the bank accounts of ML-Implode’s Aaron Krowne out of retribution for Martin Andelman’s articles about Wells Fargo’s egregious and reprehensible track record in respect to homeowners and foreclosures. It’s important to note that Andelman blogs independently, is not paid by ML-Implode, and ML-Implode does not dictate or control what he writes. His blog, however, is hosted on ML-Implode. In essence, it would be like closing Arianna Huffington’s bank account because of something I wrote on Huffington Post.

Wells Fargo took particular offense, asserting that the headline was factually incorrect, but claimed that for privacy reasons they cannot disclose publicly the specifics behind the decision to close accounts. They asked that the title of the article be changed to not use the word “retaliation” and that somehow the original headline, “Wells Fargo Freezes Account in Retaliation,” was inaccurate since one of the articles mentioned, “Husband’s Suicide Yesterday, Wells Fargo to Evict Wife Tomorrow Anyway,” by Martin Andelman was written after they had made the decision to close the account. Andelman’s article was written on May 14 and Wells Fargo made the decision to close Krowne’s account on May 11.





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Editor’s Comment: 

Thanks to Home Preservation Network for alerting us to John Griffith’s Statement before the Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives.  See his statement below.  

People who know the systemic flaws caused by Wall Street are getting closer to the microphone. The Banks are hoping it is too late — but I don’t think we are even close to the point where the blame shifts solidly to their illegal activities. The testimony is clear, well-balanced, and based on facts. 

On the high costs of foreclosure John Griffith proves the point that there is an “invisible hand” pushing homes into foreclosure when they should be settled modified under HAMP. There can be no doubt nor any need for interpretation — even the smiliest analysis shows that investors would be better off accepting modification proposals to a huge degree. Yet most people, especially those that fail to add tacit procuration language in their proposal and who fail to include an economic analysis, submit proposals that provide proceeds to investors that are at least 50% higher than the projected return from foreclosure. And that is the most liberal estimate. Think about all those tens of thousands of homes being bull-dozed. What return did the investor get on those?

That is why we now include a HAMP analysis in support of proposals as part of our forensic analysis. We were given the idea by Martin Andelman (Mandelman Matters). When we performed the analysis the results were startling and clearly showed, as some judges around the country have pointed out, that the HAMP loan modification proposals were NOT considered. In those cases where the burden if proof was placed on the pretender lender, it was clear that they never had any intention other than foreclosure. Upon findings like that, the cases settled just like every case where the pretender loses the battle on discovery.

Despite clear predictions of increased strategic defaults based upon data that shows that strategic defaults are increasing at an exponential level, the Bank narrative is that if they let homeowners modify mortgages, it will hurt the Market and encourage more deadbeats to do the same. The risk of strategic defaults comes not from people delinquent in their payments but from businesspeople who look at the principal due, see no hope that the value of the home will rise substantially for decades, and see that the home is worth less than half the mortgage claimed. No reasonable business person would maintain the status quo. 

The case for principal reductions (corrections) is made clear by the one simple fact that the homes are not worth and never were worth the value of the used in true loans. The failure of the financial industry to perform simple, long-standing underwriting duties — like verifying the value of the collateral created a risk for the “lenders” (whoever they are) that did not exist and was present without any input from the borrower who was relying on the same appraisals that the Banks intentionally cooked up so they could move the money and earn their fees.

Many people are suggesting paths forward. Those that are serious and not just positioning in an election year, recognize that the station becomes more muddled each day, the false foreclosures on fatally defective documents must stop, but that the buying and selling and refinancing of properties presents still more problems and risks. In the end the solution must hold the perpetrators to account and deliver relief to homeowners who have an opportunity to maintain possession and ownership of their homes and who may have the right to recapture fraudulently foreclosed homes with illegal evictions. The homes have been stolen. It is time to catch the thief, return the purse and seize the property of the thief to recapture ill-gotten gains.

Statement of John Griffith Policy Analyst Center for American Progress Action Fund


The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

Turning the Tide: Preventing More Foreclosures and Holding Wrong-Doers Accountable

Good afternoon Co-Chairman Grijalva, Co-Chairman Ellison, and members of the caucus. I am John Griffith, an Economic Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where my work focuses on housing policy.

It is an honor to be here today to discuss ways to soften the blow of the ongoing foreclosure crisis. It’s clear that lenders, investors, and policymakers—particularly the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—must do all they can to avoid another wave of costly and economy-crushing foreclosures. Today I will discuss why principal reduction—lowering the amount the borrower actually owes on a loan in exchange for a higher likelihood of repayment—is a critical tool in that effort.

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

1      First, the high cost of foreclosure. Foreclosure is typically the worst outcome for every party involved, since it results in extraordinarily high costs to borrowers, lenders, and investors, not to mention the carry-on effects for the surrounding community.

2      Second, the economic case for principal reduction. Research shows that equity is an important predictor of default. Since principal reduction is the only way to permanently improve a struggling borrower’s equity position, it is often the most effective way to help a deeply underwater borrower avoid foreclosure.

3      Third, the business case for Fannie and Freddie to embrace principal reduction. By refusing to offer write-downs on the loans they own or guarantee, Fannie, Freddie, and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, are significantly lagging behind the private sector. And FHFA’s own analysis shows that it can be a money-saver: Principal reductions would save the enterprises about $10 billion compared to doing nothing, and $1.7 billion compared to alternative foreclosure mitigation tools, according to data released earlier this month.

4      Fourth, a possible path forward. In a recent report my former colleague Jordan Eizenga and I propose a principal-reduction pilot at Fannie and Freddie that focuses on deeply underwater borrowers facing long-term economic hardships. The pilot would include special rules to maximize returns to Fannie, Freddie, and the taxpayers supporting them without creating skewed incentives for borrowers.

Fifth, a bit of perspective. To adequately meet the challenge before us, any principal-reduction initiative must be part of a multipronged

To read John Griffith’s entire testimony go to: http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2012/04/pdf/griffith_testimony.pdf

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