“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, Chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo Bank
Doug and Holly built their home in Raleigh, North Carolina back in 1994. It’s the only home their four children… ages 12, 13, 15 and 18… have ever known. For something like 18 years, they never missed a mortgage payment. I spoke with Holly for a couple hours last night… she’s simply as nice a person as I can imagine exists.
In 2009, the recession hit Doug’s business pretty hard… but no surprise there right? He certainly was far from alone. And I would think that Wells Fargo should at least somewhat understand that situation. After all, the federal government’s taxpayer funded bailout that year sent $38.6 billion Wells Fargo’s way, isn’t that right Mr. Stumpf? No matter.
Holly wrote to me yesterday… her message began by saying:
“Time is of the essence. I am writing to you today for your help.”
Here’s how her message ended:
“We really need to be out of our house today but Freddie mac put it out in the public that we have until January 3, 2011. I asked Wells Fargo and their attorney to put that in writing but they wouldn’t. They just agreed to it.
However, I am afraid that they will send the sheriff out today to lock us out of our home. We have not moved yet as we are still under review. Can you help us by pointing us in the right direction? We are so desperate.”
I’m going to tell you their story in a moment. But, first I want to point something out to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and the folks at Wells Fargo.
Holly asked you and the bank’s attorneys at Brock & Scott, if her family should expect to be evicted today or whether they had until the 3rd of January and you agreed that it would not be until January. You wouldn’t give her anything in writing, but that shouldn’t be necessary… you agreed.
But you see, Mr. Stumpf, as Wells Fargo’s CEO, at least one point should not be lost on you… she doesn’t TRUST you… she can’t trust you, and I don’t blame her.
She doesn’t believe your bank even when it comes to something like whether she and her four children will be evicted today or next week. Just before New Years’ Day or right after. She can’t trust your bank to answer a question like that and she has damn good reason… it’s because you and your bank have been proven to be entirely untrustworthy on so many occasions that she’d rather trust a convicted felon off the street than someone from Wells Fargo Bank.
And so would I, Mr. Stumpf, so would I. And the same will go for her four children… someday.
Mr. Stumpf, you were one of the 100 highest paid CEOs in the country last year, with almost $19 million in total compensation. That seems like a lot considering we don’t seem to be able to trust you to answer a question like the one Holly asked, does it not, sir?
Holly and her husband separated in August of 2009. I didn’t ask why, it’s none of my business, but I could tell that they were very loving and caring parents because she explained how they’ve alternated staying in the home with the kids, 4 days on, 3 days off. They didn’t want their marital problems to disrupt the lives of their children, so she stays at an apartment and he sleeps at his office.
Perhaps it was their financial difficulties that put too much strain on their marriage, it certainly couldn’t have helped. Doug’s business was coming back slowly but in October of 2010, Doug couldn’t make the mortgage payment for the first time in over 16 years. He didn’t tell his wife, I’m sure I know why… he couldn’t. Like I would have done, he probably devoted all of his time to work so he could catch up as soon as possible.
Holly received a letter from Wells Fargo in February of 2011. It said their home was in foreclosure. She called the bank immediately to make payment arrangements that would bring loan up to date right away, but the bank wouldn’t talk to her. She learned that she was not on the loan, she was just on the Deed of Trust.
She went to see Doug at his office, and the two of them called the bank on speakerphone to arrange to make up the back payments. Holly had $12,000 in her IRA, and she owned a second home that had equity of roughly $60,000. And wouldn’t you know it, that mortgage was with Wells Fargo too, and she had never missed a payment.
But, Wells Fargo said they couldn’t accept payments at that time, the couple would have to contact the bank’s foreclosure attorneys at the law firm of Brock & Scott.
SIDEBAR: I’m no banker, but I hear about this sort of thing happening all the time. Why the hell can’t banks accept a payment… ever? And don’t bother telling me there’s a rule or a law, because banks treat either like a speed bump when it suits them, that much is clear. When a homeowner tries to make a payment, figure out how to accept it and get them back on track as quickly as possible.
Doug ended up asking Wells Fargo about a loan modification. There were delays on Wells Fargo’s end, according to Brock & Scott, so for the purposes of our story, let’s fast forward.
On October 7, 2011, Doug received a letter from a Wells Fargo Preservation Specialist, Katerina Williams. The letter said that all Doug had to do was have all of the required documents submitted to Wells by October 22, 2011 and he would be reviewed for a loan modification or some other program offered by the bank.
Here’s what the letter of October 7th said:
“As your mortgage servicer we want to help you stay in your home. If you do not qualify for a loan modification, we will work with you to explore other options available to help you keep your home.”
Doug submitted and Wells Fargo confirmed receipt of all required documents by October 19th, three days before the deadline of October 22nd. (Holly has the fax receipts showing the date.)
So, the bank immediately started doing what Katerina Williams said the bank would do… they began reviewing Doug and Holly’s file for a loan modification? No, I’m afraid they didn’t do that.
What Wells Fargo did do was sell their home at a Sheriff’s Sale on October 21, 2011… a day BEFORE THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS.
I can only imagine the feelings of panic Holly and Doug were experiencing as they made call after call to their Wells Fargo Preservation Specialist who “wanted to help them stay in their home.” They had been told that there would be no sale assuming everything was submitted by the 22nd. But, now Katerina couldn’t be reached.
I’m sure she was busy. Perhaps friends had unexpectedly come in from out of town, or maybe she had a dentist appointment… that lasted for the next two months. What? It could happen.
Holly and Doug were finally able to reach the woman’s supervisor who said all she could do is submit their file for review after the sale because no one had bid on it and so it ended up going back to Freddie Mac.
So, the supervisor did exactly what she said she’d do and submitted the couple’s file for review? No, I’m afraid not… once again.
Next thing the couple knew two letters arrived from the foreclosure attorneys at Brock & Scott. One was an eviction letter, which said they had 10 days to get out of the home they had built in 1994 and for which they had paid without incident for 16 plus years. The other was a cash-for-keys letter that said they could stay in their home until December 29, 2011.
They checked and were told that if they left the home it would be considered abandoned and any review of their situation would be over. So, with no other choices apparent, they chose the cash-for-keys offer, hoping the extra time would allow them to fight the foreclosure and allow them to get an answer to their case, still supposedly under review.
The couple wrote to Wells Fargo, to Freddie Mac, and to Brock & Scott asking that the eviction date be postponed as their review was still pending. Not even one person even responded.
Out of desperation, Holly sent an email to the bank’s CEO, John Stumpf. (Oh good… that’s you John. Here’s your chance to help your customer stay in her home. For almost $19 million a year, I’m thinking you can at least make sure the nonsense stops, right John?)
Holly and Doug heard from Paula Kingery, who said that Mr. Stumpf had forwarded Holly’s email and that she was now on the case. And what a relief that must have been. The bank’s CEO had taken action, and thank the good Lord for that.
Today is the 30th of December… and still no response from anyone, even though Holly has called, faxed and emailed too many times to count them anymore. The couple assumes that their originally assigned Preservation Specialist, Katerina Williams, must be dead, as they have been unable to reach her via phone, fax or email since before the date of the Sheriff’s Sale.
Here’s the situation in Holly’s own words, as I could not improve on them no matter how I might have tried…
“Paula Kingry called me last night to let me know that she has a phone call in to the lead investigator on our case to see if they can do anything to lift the eviction date. I don’t understand how they don’t know if they can do that and how they can ask us to leave our home when we are still under review. We were told that if we leave we will give up our rights to that review, but if we stay I’m scared that the Sheriff will forcibly remove my four children, and me… and any belongings in the home will be forfeited.”
That’s very nice John Stumpf… very nice indeed. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt afraid that the Sheriff would soon be coming to forcibly evict you and your four children from somewhere? Probably not, would be my guess.
By the way, I should have asked earlier… are you having a nice holiday, Mr. Stumpf?
I only ask because Holly’s living through her own personal hell because of your bank, Mr. Stumpf. You foreclosed on their home illegally… and if it wasn’t technically illegal because your industry’s lobbyists have made it so, I don’t care one bit… it was WRONG. And I am going to assume you know the difference between RIGHT and WRONG.
Your bank sold Doug and Holly’s home the day before the submission deadline for the paperwork required to apply for a loan modification. Then your people told the couple that they were in review to see if the sale can be rescinded… and never called, nor could anyone involved be reached again.
Mr. Stumpf… I want you to know that I take absolutely no pleasure in any of this. It is now 5:29 AM, and I’ve been up all night writing this article for Doug and Holly because I care about them. I have a family and I could be doing other things, not the least of which is sleeping… if only Wells Fargo were able to treat its customers like anything above the way a state penitentiary treats its inmates.
You see… I’ve been writing about the financial and foreclosure crises for just over three years now… I’ve written over 600 articles on the subject. Your bank, meanwhile, has not gotten any better at this whole loan modification thing during that time. How is that even possible, Mr. Stumpf? How can you not be any better at this after three years of doing it every day?
It seems, for example, that you still can’t answer the phone with any consistency. What’s the problem? Is it all those buttons?
Here’s what you were supposed to do in this situation, and trust me… although it may seem presumptuous, I feel safe speaking for EVERYONE in America…
As Holly has informed your people, she’s prepared to make the payments to prevent the loss of her home. In fact, she tried to do just that on several occasions. She has more than $10,000 in her IRA, and she owns another home on which Wells Fargo has the mortgage… it’s current, by the way… and there’s approximately $50,000 in equity. She’ll sell it and use that money to pay for her home, if that’s what is required.
Also, she’s working, earning $4-5,000 a month on her own. Doug’s insurance agency business is also doing better, and he’ll likely make close to $100,000 this year. They remain separated, but he still supports the family. Plus, they only have 10 years left on their loan. If Wells could extend the term to a 30-year loan, there would be no problem making the payments as they always have.
I imagine that there could be some issues because she’s not on the loan, and only appears on the Deed of Trust, but they’re not divorced… and regardless, those are the sort of issues that a bank is supposed to help their customers with… what the bank is not supposed to do is screw around for months, lie, stop responding to calls, and then sell someone’s home the day before the bank told them to submit the paperwork required to apply for a loan modification.
In fact, I had a woman in Tennessee that I had to write about a couple of months ago… same problem, but Bank of America figured it out and got her mortgage modified… after I wrote about them too, of course. (And if you’re not already familiar with me, feel free to ask Brian Moynihan about me, he’ll fill you in, I’m quite sure.)
Doug and Holly were excellent customers of your bank for over 16 years, and then they hit a rough patch. They needed the bank’s help… some guidance to get them through difficult times. You had a chance to earn the trust of a customer for life… (and the good news is you still do… but as Holly said in her message to me: Time is of the essence.)
Here’s an excerpt of what Mr. Stumpf wrote about his company’s Vision & Values…
“Our progress has not been perfect. We learn just as much from failure (perhaps more) as we do from success. Companies are made up of human beings who make mistakes. When we make them we admit them, learn from them, then we keep moving forward with even more understanding, guided by the same values toward the same vision.”
I like the sound of that, Mr. Stumpf.
Here’s what Holly said at the very end of our conversation:
“We went to the courthouse yesterday Dec 28, 2011 to file a TRO but they didn’t have forms there for us and we weren’t sure how to do it, but they told us we had to have a attorney file them. We are having a very difficult time finding an attorney here in Raleigh, NC on such short notice. I have called a few but they can’t help and am waiting for phone calls to be returned from others.”
You see, the thing is… I DO KNOW LAWYERS IN NORTH CAROLINA, lots of them, actually, and one in particular… a good friend… Max Gardner. And I’m going to have to call Max later today and find out what can be done through the courts to stop you from sending the Sheriff to Holly’s to throw her children into the street. I don’t want to, mind you… especially since you could so easily correct this.
See, and I’d like to think that what I’ve written here would be enough… but I fear it won’t be. So, if you’ll excuse me for just a moment… I’m going to introduce you to some friends of mine… Mandelman out.
Ahem… Excuse me…Are there any DOERS in the house?
CALLING ALL DOERS!
Doug & Holly Niemic
Loan Number: 0157248618
And look what I found… a whole list of Email addresses for Wells Fargo execs, but let’s start with letting Mr. John Stumpf know how littler we think of this situation his bank has created. Let’s let him know we’re here and we’re paying attention… and that there are quite a few of us.
Chairman of the Board, President, CEO: John.G.Stumpf@wellsfargo.com
John Stumpf (415) 396-7018
CEO: John G. Stumpf
420 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94163
Sharon Cecil, Assistant to Both
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE
Todd M. Boothroyd
Senior Counsel, Real Estate Division
**** Kovacevich (415) 396-4927
John Stumpf (415) 396-7018
CEO: John G. Stumpf
420 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94163
Mark Oman (515) 324-2035
Cara Heiden (515) 213-4040
Executive number for members to use to escalate the mod process 1-800-853-8516.
MAC X2302-02J 800 S. Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266
Executive Mortgage Specialist, Office of the President, WF Home Mortgage
1 Home Campus
Des Moines, IA 50328
Cara K. Heiden, CEO
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE
Mary Coffin, Vice President
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE
And a few more… just in case…
Executive Vice President, General Counsel: James.M.Strother@wellsfargo.com
Executive Vice President, Controller: Richard.D.Levy@wellsfargo.com
Senior Executive Vice President – Wholesale Banking: David.A.Hoyt@wellsfargo.com
Senior Executive Vice President David.M.Carroll@wellsfargo.com
Senior Executive Vice President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Executive Vice President, CIO: email@example.com
Senior EVP, Community Banking: Carrie.L.Tolstedt@wellsfargo.com
Senior Executive Vice President: AVID.MODJTABAI@wellsfargo.com
The Board of Directors, Wells Fargo Bank: BoardCommunications@wellsfargo.com
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