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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Judges’ Frustration Grows With Mortgage Servicers

Judges’ Frustration Grows With Mortgage Servicers

PHOENIX — Bobbi Giguere had no luck in securing a loan modification from her mortgage servicer, Wells Fargo. For months, she had sent the bank the financial documents it requested to process her modification. But each time she called to check on the request, she was told to send her paperwork again.
“I submitted the paperwork three times, and nothing happened,” said Mrs. Giguere, 41, who has a high school education and worked as restaurant manager before losing her job.
On Thursday, something happened. She questioned a Wells Fargo official about the bank’s lack of response — under oath.
The spectacle of a high-ranking banking executive being grilled by an ordinary homeowner was the result of an unusual decision by Judge Randolph J. Haines of the United States Bankruptcy Court to summon a senior executive from Wells Fargo to appear in Mrs. Giguere’s bankruptcy case.
At the hearing, Judge Haines made it clear that he was acting out of concerns about Wells Fargo’s mortgage modification practices generally.
“This is certainly not an isolated case,” he said. “The kind of story I hear from this debtor is one that I and other bankruptcy judges around the country are hearing over and over and over again.”
With consumers complaining about the difficulty of getting any response from their mortgage servicers, the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s plan to provide homeowner relief is being threatened. As they wait for an answer on whether they might qualify, homeowners are succumbing to foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings and winding up in courts — at times in front of judges who are also frustrated.
Ms. Giguere filed for bankruptcy protection as she was trying to keep her three-bedroom house in a Phoenix suburb, where she lives with her 15-year-old son. Representing the bank at her hearing on Thursday was Joseph Ohayon, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Servicing.
Under preliminary questioning by one of the bank’s lawyers, Mr. Ohayon stated that Mrs. Giguere had repeatedly failed to provide a financial worksheet, a critical document in processing a loan modification.
Under cross-examination by Mrs. Giguere (who had a little assistance from Judge Haines), the bank’s defense withered. From her files, Mrs. Giguere produced a letter from Wells Fargo describing the paperwork that she needed to file for a loan modification. In the witness chair, Mr. Ohayon read the letter.
“Mrs. Giguere is right,” Mr. Ohayon concluded. “The letter did not ask for a financial worksheet.”

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