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Wells Fargo Takes Revenge on Blog for Posting How Bank’s Improper Foreclosure Led to a Suicide

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It appears Wells Fargo is not happy about bad press about how it has blood on its hands and is not above taking petty revenge. Even though some major sites like Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture have publicized the San Francisco bank’s petty and possibly illegal treatment of mortgage blog ML Implode-o-Meter, casual readers may miss the real scandal. Wells closed the blog’s bank account on dubious grounds and with no notice, and appears to have impounded customer funds. That’s tacky, but the real meat of the story, the revelations in ML Implode-o-Meter that appear to have triggered Wells to act, comes fairly late in most of these accounts.

Martin Andelman, proprietor of Mandelman Matters who sometimes has his posts picked up by ML Implode-O-Meter published a hard-hitting story about a suicide that was precipitated by an improper foreclosure action by Wells Fargo. It was picked up by ML Implode-o-Meter and was re-reported by Truthout (with attribution). The short version of this story is that Norman Rousseau paid his mortgage by cashier’s check at the branch, on time. But Wells claimed the payment had not been made and moved to foreclosure. Andelman dismissed the bank’s bogus justification:

The Rousseaus file a dispute with Wells Fargo over the supposed missing payment. Wells Fargo “investigates” and comes back saying that the Rousseaus had stopped payment on the check. They stopped payment on a Cashier’s Check? Seriously?..

The teller’s receipt establishes that the cashier’s check was in the custody and control of Wachovia on April 1, 2009, and the research by the Cashiering Department should have concluded that Wachovia screwed up by not applying the cash-equivalent funds to the Rousseau’s account. After delivery and acceptance to the branch office, it was Wachovia’s responsibility to safeguard the instrument; Wachovia itself effectively stopped payment on the cashier’s check.

The fact that the Rousseaus had a receipt should settle the matter. The payment was submitted on time. Nevertheless, they enter loan modification hell, rather than simply having the error corrected. And although all modification stories are awful, this one was worse than usual even before its awful denouement. This account comes from via Truthout:

On and on this went, with the bank telling them they were in the loan modification program while demanding money then refusing to accept money and demanding documents while saying it had received them, and all the while proceeding with foreclosure notices. Then they were told they were denied their loan modification, went through a process to reinstate the loan, back and forth, late fees, loan fees, unspecified additional fees, more fees, then some fees, then some non-payment fees, and then given ONE HOUR to send payments to TEXAS and it goes on and on.

Read the court case the Rousseaus filed. It’s all there, and is even worse than this summary.

This is a story of what happens when, as Senator Dick Durbin said of the Senate during the effort to pass legislation to get the banks under control, “Frankly they own the place.”

This last Sunday the bankers claimed one more victim. Norman Rousseau shot himself at 10 in the morning. Oriane Rousseau doesn’t even have the money to bury her husband, she is looking to the VA for help. If you want to help, please contact their attorney, Chris Gardas: chrisgardas@comcast.net

Now we don’t know for certain that this story and other critical stories (see here and here) were the proximate cause of Wells closing down the ML Implode-o-Meter account, but its heavy-handedness is awfully sus (see here for details, which includes a discussion of why this action may be illegal).

Now if you are moved by the Rousseau story in a position to help, the first thing to do is make a donation to his wife and family. And other thing to do is circulate this story widely, either by e-mailing or tweeting this post, or sending the short, readable, but nevertheless gripping Truthout story along. Wells is trying to muzzle those who expose its conduct, and the best way to put a stop to that is to make those coverup efforts bring even more attention to the underlying crime.

If Wells wants to claim that this reading is all wrong, then fine, reinstate the ML Implode-o-Meter account, with an apology. But if this situation goes uncorrected, it says at best that the San Francisco bank, as it demonstrated in the Rousseau case, is at best operationally incompetent and unwilling to remedy egregious mistakes, and at worst is a callous predator.

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38 comments

  1. Hayduke

    Break off a pin in the front and back door locks of your local Wells Fargo bank branch and don’t forget the ATMs’ locks as well. remeber to wear a hat and glasses because hte cameras will get your picture. Harware stores sell little syringes of epoxy for gluing seismic hold downs in place. One of those would probably destroy 40 to 50 locks.

    This is for entertainment purposes only, just pointing out a nice psychic release.

  2. Robert Asher

    The horror here is also the failure of the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the victims of bank terrorism and bullying.
    Obama knows what is going on and clearly does not care. It is that simple. FDR cared about the suffering of people during the Depression. The current President does not care. Actions speak louder than words. He can talk till he is blue in the face. He does not care.

    1. YankeeFrank

      When I look at his image now all I see is a hideous mask of malign power and obscene viciousness. The man is going to hell and he knows it. He just doesn’t care. Like W, he thinks this is all there is.

    2. Warren Celli

      Robert Asher said; “The horror here is also the failure of the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the victims of bank terrorism and bullying.”

      I agree wholeheartedly!

      Wells Fargo — scum bag murderers — take revenge on a blogger for whistle blowing about an improper foreclosure that led to a suicide by closing said bloggers account for dubiously suspicious reasons.

      This now puts the whistle blowing blogger — who had his account closed by the scum bag murdering Wells Fargo bank — in a weakened state of anxiety, harassment, and agitation, in many ways, very similar to the poor victim of the foreclosure that he was whistle blowing about.

      Haven’t we seen this movie somewhere before?

      Billionaire Michael Bloomberg — scum bag murderer — takes revenge on OWS protesters for whistle blowing about the psychopathic self anointed elite’s corrupt mismanagement of the world that leads to the deaths and degradation of millions globally by setting his goon squad cops on said OWS protesters for dubiously suspicious reasons (public safety is the over riding dubious rationale).

      This now puts the whistle blowing OWS protesters — who were beaten and viciously abused by the scum bag murdering Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s bully goon squad cops — in a weakened state of anxiety, harassment, and agitation, in many ways, very similar to the poor victims of the psychopathic self anointed elite’s corrupt mismanagement of the world that lead to the deaths and degradation of millions globally that they were whistle blowing about.

      Rinse and repeat.

      The core issue then becomes the charge of murder levied against Wells Fargo, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and all of the others who so egregiously each day usurp the rule of law through blatant corruption and selective enforcement of that now scam ‘rule of law’. Is it really murder? Are they the true causative agents because they have immorally and illegally, behind closed doors, corruptly institutionalized their schemes of graft and corruption that favor their wealth, like pac money, super pac money, big money gerrymandering of voting districts, privatizing prisons, the public commons, etc., and on and on?

      I believe it is murder, and that if we had just and fair rule of law that was enforced with integrity that these scum bags, like those who operate Wells Fargo bank, and Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and many other Xtrevilists in positions of usurped power, would be wearing striped prison suits.

      http://www.fountainofbaloney.com/fb2images/univcode.html

      This is a moral crisis not a financial crisis. Are we ready for the election boycotts yet?

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  3. bxg

    I’ve never seen the word “sus” before but as of a week or so ago your blog seems to use it at least once per day. In its context it always, sort of, seems as if “suspect” or “suspicous” is a reasonably close replacement, but you obviously are not laboring under an electron- or character- count limit so there’s presumably some other deliberate nuance that wouldn’t be there if you had used normal English. Can you spell it out, please?

    1. H. Alexander Ivey

      Your comment about “sus” is true, but tone deaf and too verbose for the accused crime of slang abbreviations. So I will accuse you of troll blogging. You seek to distract from the posting of possibly criminal actions by Wells Fargo and trying to hijack the comments. For shame.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      “Sus” is Australian slang. It means “does not pass the smell test.”

      1. skippy

        Confirmed. Also I would add the slang “she’ll be right” as POTUS and the FIRE would have us believe.

      2. Thomas

        “Sus” is proper English.
        Hey you getting drunk, so sorry!
        I’ve got you sussed.
        –We’re Not Gonna Take It, The Who

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Where did you get that nonsense from? Wells, ironically, is the only TBTF bank with which I have never never ever had any business relationship. Better trolls, please.

      1. Joe User

        No, he means the blog in question, not YOUR blog.

        And I wondered the same thing while reading this item – if you (Mr. ML Implodeometer) are running a blog with a lot of critical material about WF, why would you be a customer of WF ?

      2. Guy Fawkes

        Yves, I didn’t mean to imply YOUR blog, I meant the blog that is “under attack.”

        I cannot believe that there are people who are fighting the banks that are continuing to do business with these criminals. Why did they not find a local bank who did not fund subprime loans? I found two in our metropolis. I can be done.

        I feel this is the height of hypocrisy. STOP DOING BUSINESS WITH THE CRIMINALS.

  4. H. Alexander Ivey

    Once is a mistake, twice is incompetent, three times is criminal. The TBTF banks are not bound by legal limits, they are bound only by their own greed and sense of control.

    1. Amanda Matthews

      And enabled by the frauds that we elect and pay to represent us, the ‘people’. Us. The tax payers and cannon fodder.

  5. Enraged

    Well, Martin. As one of your doers, I have to ask: Why on earth do you still have a WF account? I expected more from you…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To clarify: Martin Andelman wrote the post. ML Implode-o-Meter is an aggregator run by Aaron Krowne and picked up Andelman’s piece, giving it a ton more visibility. Krowne’s name isn’t in any of the posts on this but it is hardly a state secret.

  6. psychohistorian

    I would suggest that the American soldier a day that we are losing to suicide is another example of the rent we are experiencing in the social fabric.

    It is a sick testament to our “civilization” that innocent individuals can and are being convinced to off themselves for others moral transgressions. Maybe F Beard would say they just didn’t have enough faith.

    My intention is not to offend here (everyone’s life is sacred) but to point out the dissonance level in understanding of the current social contract in peoples minds versus our reality. The pot is boiling…..

  7. Fiver

    I’m kinda surprised there are so few comments on such an horrific display by WF. It’s one thing for a bank or any business to screw up a payment (or whatever happened) in early 2009. But to just pound this man into dust as depicted is beyond the pale.

    One begins to understand why, given a population as armed as that of the US, the top priority of Homeland Security is to protect the corporate/government complex (aka TPTB) from savaged citizens. Expect the first drone strike inside the US within 3 years to drive home the security message.

  8. Nathanael

    Honestly, too many people internalize their anger. If you’re considering suicide, don’t do it — do your best to get the bastards who are hounding you instead. What’s the worst they can do? Kill you?

    1. YankeeFrank

      No. They can incarcerate you in the prison/torture industrial complex. That is often a fate worse than death.

      The dystopian future described in hundreds of sci-fi stories of the past 60 years is slowly becoming a reality: a cheap technological veneer over a hideous and inhuman system of alienation, fascistic corporate conformity, and outlaw resistance. All we need to light the match and make it explode is $500 barrel oil or similar seismic event.

      1. Dan B

        It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where oil could reach $500. Currently, $100 appears to be a point at which further demand destruction occurs. While few here accept it, the scarcity of cheap energy underlies the present slow motion collapse of the economic order that is going on. It will be difficult for corporatism to prevail because the trend imposed by thermodynamics on human organization is towards contraction. Small Is Beautiful, even it will be extremely ugly and destructive getting there.

  9. Conscience of a Conservative

    I’d like to know more about what laws protect a bank from closing down without just cause anyone’s bank account and how Federal and State laws come into play. Who provides the adult supervision here to protect the banks from abusing their power. This is after all a core reason why banks exist and why we as a country extend tax payer guarantees to them, so that they can perform commercial activities, of which this is one.

  10. burnside

    If such a thing were to occur in my (smallish) hometown, the bank would have to close its doors, finding they had no business and no prospects there.

    What Yves suggests in the way of circulating the story is an excellent idea and, as I see it, brings the possibility of shame even to large institutions like Wells or Wachovia. Rightly, provided the tale unfolded much as described, departures from wells should shutter them forever.

  11. Mary

    Is there a web site where we can donate money to help this poor family? This is the most horrible criminal behavior by a bank that I have ever heard about.

  12. PQS

    Re: not cashing a cashier’s check…I recall taking a large cashier’s check to USBank way back in 2000 so I could put down a deposit to buy my house. Teller tried to tell me it had to be put “on hold” for 10 business days….when I argued, she got very snotty and, as I recall, they DID put it on hold.

    That wasn’t the first time I hated the TBTF institutions, but I’m sure it was a good precurser to the white-hot disdain I currently have.

    These people are inhuman, their system is inhuman, and they ignore us at their peril. THey don’t exist without us.

  13. Tom Crowl

    Wells stole my home as well… or at least… stupidly misappropriated it despite much better alternatives… leaving me in a very distressed condition which continues.

    But a better alternative than suicide… and actually part of a necessary restructuring of a landscape currently biased in favor of large institutions (both corporate and governmental)…

    and, I suggest in future becomes a core element for a VRM-enabled user…(VRM = Vendor Relationship Management)…

    is the Commons-dedicated Account Network… a neutral utility for certain kinds of transactions not now possible.

    I wake up every day with hatred for Wells Fargo and its management. But I also understand these tragedies are connected to scaling issues reaching beyond individual failings.

    My best revenge… and the wisest response… will be the construction of this transaction network and a landscape for citizen’s participation. Banks (and other powerful interests) will have some counter-balancing force on the other side.

    So this is where my efforts go.

    There’s a feedback loop between a tool and the user of a tool. Give people the tools of citizenship and they will become citizens.

    Neither corporations nor government really want that, rhetoric notwithstanding.

    Response to OCC: TBTF and the Housing Collapse

    Issues in Scaling Civlization: The Monsters-from-the-Id Dilemma

  14. ALiveH

    Why are you still banking / doing business with these crooks? You’re more knowledgeable than 99% of people out there – documenting all these abuses, yet you’re setting a nice example [/sarcasm] when you should be encouraging people to boycott these institutions… You know there’s thousands of “clean” community banks & credit unions out there… right???

  15. JR in SF

    Excuse me, but I am a little confused as to why ANYBODY, especially a blogger who is critical of the “too big to fail” banks, keeps money in said bank.

    I’ve closed my accounts, checking, saving, credit etc with all “too big to fail” institutions. I’ve moved my money and accounts into a credit union and advise everyone to do the same.

    Complaining about the TBTF banks while on your way to the TBTF ATM to get some cash to buy your morning coffee seems a littel ridiculous to me under the circumstances.

    You’ve got to vote withyour dollars!

  16. Jordana

    Wells pulled a retaliation on me and, as far as I know, will continue to as long as I continue to be a vocal opponent. I say, “Bring it! I don’t have accounts with them but they have many methods of punishing the loudmouths!

  17. Doug C.

    This is Doug from Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo certainly respects people’s rights to express their opinions, and would never close an account based on an opinion expressed in an article or blog post.

  18. CDA Law Center

    Great piece Yves. As a friend of Martin’s, I can assure all the poster’s here he does NOT bank at Wells Fargo Bank. The owner of the blog who hosts his site, a young law student, happened to bank there. I was with Wells for 26 years and closed all 9 of my accounts and moved next door to my local community bank. The story of the Norm Rousseau is not even the tip of the iceberg at Wells. This is the bank that brought you the non-industry standard of procesing ATM withdrawals in order of greatest to smallest amount, to maximize overdraft fees, accounting malfeasance in mortgage payment applicaion, and they will not even HAMP modify their own portfolio loans. REMOVE YOUR MONEY FROM THEM NOW!!!
    And Doug, you need to open your eyes to the corruption and criminality that occurs in the C-ring of your employer!

  19. JC

    WF foreclosed on me even though I had the full back payments due ready to send to them electronically (wire or any other means) the day before. They kept quoting “policy” of only being able to accept a cashiers check, which could not be done on the same day.
    I am not excusing myself entirely; I had taken a job out of state while my wife stayed in the house and continued working in that state, and communications could have been better. However, WF had twice in the past showed my insurance not paid (I paid it directly to the ins. company), causing payments to “appear” 1-3 months due to duplicate insurance payments they applied even though I was able to eventually prove in both cases that the insurance had been paid directly. This third time the same thing occurred and and I was told the insurance was behind, which it was not. Long story short, it was a more complicated escrow situation and the customer service representative mistakenly attributed it to the insurance. I did not act as proactively as I should have since I thought it was the “twilight zone” insurance issue again that always tooks multiple calls to resolve (WF would confirm it was paid but then a week or two later start it all over again).
    My guess is since my payoff was lower than even the depressed value of the home, they preferred to foreclose rather than allow the funds to be sent to them via a wire that day. Do not believe their commercials about working with homeowners when all they had to do with me was accept a bank wire to make the payments current.

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