The always excellent bank watchdog blog, Naked Capitalism, recently looked into the systemic accounting abuses of Wells Fargo as court proceedings continue to reveal just how severely victims of the mortgage crisis have been affected.
But Wells Fargo’s legal team has done quite a job of hindering the legal process. Common cases in which homeowners were being charged erroneous fees and penalties while making regular payments are being held up every step of the way. One judge who reviewed the case described Wells Fargo’s tactics as “reprehensible,” according to post author, Yves Smith:
Wells Fargo has taken the position that every debtor in the district should be made to challenge, by separate suit, the proofs of claim or motions for relief from the automatic stay it files. It has steadfastly refused to audit its pleadings or proofs of claim for errors and has refused to voluntarily correct any errors that come to light except through threat of litigation. Although its own representatives have admitted that it routinely misapplied payments on loans and improperly charged fees, they have refused to correct past errors. They stubbornly insist on limiting any change in their conduct prospectively, even as they seek to collect on loans in other cases for amounts owed in error.
Wells Fargo’s conduct is clandestine. Rather than provide Jones with a complete history of his debt on an ongoing basis, Wells Fargo simply stopped communicating with Jones once it deemed him in default. At that point in time, fees and costs were assessed against his account and satisfied with postpetition payments intended for other debt without notice. Only through litigation was this practice discovered. Wells Fargo admitted to the same practices for all other loans in bankruptcy or default. As a result, it is unlikely that most debtors will be able to discern problems with their accounts without extensive discovery….
Over eighty (80%) of the chapter 13 debtors in this district have incomes of less than $40,000.00 per year. The burden of extensive discovery and delay is particularly overwhelming. In this Court’s experience, it takes four (4) to six (6) months for Wells Fargo to produce a simple accounting of a loan’s history and over four (4) court hearings. Most debtors simply do not have the personal resources to demand the production of a simple accounting for their loans, much less verify its accuracy, through a litigation process.
Wells Fargo has taken advantage of borrowers who rely on it to accurately apply payments and calculate the amounts owed. But perhaps more disturbing is Wells Fargo’s refusal to voluntarily correct its errors. It prefers to rely on the ignorance of borrowers or their inability to fund a challenge to its demands, rather than voluntarily relinquish gains obtained through improper accounting methods. Wells Fargo’s conduct was a breach of its contractual obligations to its borrowers. More importantly, when exposed, it revealed its true corporate character by denying any obligation to correct its past transgressions and mounting a legal assault ensure it never had to.
Society requires that those in business conduct themselves with honestly and fair dealing. Thus, there is a strong societal interest in deterring such future conduct through the imposition of punitive relief….
Smith reflects on how the mismanagement of the situation by the Government does not adequately punish the banks for their criminal acts.
The word “predatory” is not adequate to describe Wells’ conduct. The bank is not simply willing to steal from consumers, via blatant, institutionalized violations of its own agreements on mortgages and later on bankruptcy plans. It has absolutely no respect for the law, whether it be contracts or court procedures. It’s a band of marauders that our society treats as legitimate because the perpetrators wear suits and can afford to hire lobbyists. And the Federal government and state attorneys general are certain to have emboldened Wells and its brethren by rewarding them rather than treating them like the criminals they are.
Read the entire, nauseating piece HERE.