Hedge fund manager and famed short seller David Einhorn is right: no matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.
Consider this pious statement by David Holland of Rust Consulting, the firm responsible for sending out settlement checks, at the Senate Banking subcommittee hearings on the Independent Foreclosure Review earlier this week:
Mr. Holland, Rust: We have a call center and we’re taking calls, you know, currently from people who have received the postcard notice as part of the settlement and now our first wave of checks that went out on Friday. So we do have a phone bank ready to answer any and all questions that we get from affected borrowers. We have on-site Spanish-speaking operators that can assist Spanish-speaking people, and there is a process by where we can use a third party to help translate I believe it’s up to 200 languages if somebody calls, you know, and has a language that we’re not supporting live with Spanish or English, and we can get an operator on the phone that can help them. In terms of the – your other question about, you know, are we making efforts to reach out to people? You know, we’ve had the data, the mailing data, for this group of people going back to the IFR and it went through several levels of mailing address correction that we performed. So when we had the settlement, we started with that address information and once again ran it through the national change of address database, and we’re mailing checks, you know, to the best address that we have currently. Some of those will be returned as undeliverable, and we will make other attempts to find better address information for those that are undeliverable. And there’s nothing in place yet, but we’ve had conversations about taking additional steps beyond what we’ve done in terms of address trace. We could implement an outbound calling program, e-mail blasts. There’s all sorts of things that may be available to us. Nothing’s set yet, but those discussions are happening.
We’ll not trouble ourselves with how a call center that handles only two languages can have a backup service that can correctly determine which of the 200 other languages it professes to be able to handle can determine accurately which one is actually being spoken.
In our post yesterday on botched IFR settlement, we mentioned how a law firm that was not even in the mortgage or foreclosure business got a settlement check for a woman it never heard of, and was then given a 30-minute run-around by Rust when it asked what it should do. That elicited reader comments of similar horror stories.
This account comes from Julia:
I haven’t seen anyone else post about this so hear I go. I sent my paperwork in for the IFR before the first deadline. I corresponded with them all the way up until December 27, 2012, when they called and asked for some additional documentation. At the end of February I called in to verify they had received my documenation – and my address had been changed. Apparently, Rust consulting, updated addresses from the National Address Change Register or something along those lines. I informed Rust that it was the incorrect address and that they had the right one on file – I had not moved since we started this.
All of the websites, the OCC, The Federal Reserve Board, all of the news releases – state to call Rust Consulting to update your contact information. THIS CANNOT BE DONE! They will not update your information over the phone, I was asked to submit a letter with my reference number the “old” address and state my new address. I submitted a letter, 4 times. Rust can confirm that they have received the letters, they can even tell me what the correct address is, but they WILL NOT change it. I am now being told that I need a form that they will mail me to change my address. I have been waiting since March 11th for the form. Oh but it really doesn’t matter if I get it or not, because whatever address they had on file as of March 1st – is the address they will mail payment to. In my case the wrong address – even they for 2 years they had the correct one and they know it is wrong. I was advised to go to the post office and ask for an address change or contact them at the end of May to start the re-issue request. They are really working hard reading from their scripts, refusing to help anyone who calls and not doing what their website states by updating contact info…
On top of that the address they decided should be mine, is a business. The USPS will not allow me to put a forward on for an individual from a business address. I have called the OCC, The Federal Reserve Board, Rust Consulting’s main office, the IFR hotline, even my state Attorney Generals office.
What is the justification for changing an address for borrowers who submitted claims under the IFR? This is rank incompetence. Rust is the firm that did the outreach and received and sent the borrower letters to servicers. Are they incapable of tagging their own data fields? Or just to cheap and lazy?
And recall this from Holland’s testimony:
Some of those will be returned as undeliverable, and we will make other attempts to find better address information for those that are undeliverable. And there’s nothing in place yet, but we’ve had conversations about taking additional steps beyond what we’ve done in terms of address trace.
So this is completely consistent with Julia’s experience. There’s “nothing in place” beyond rooting through other databases to find better, which simply means different, addresses. I once had my identity merged (this a full 15 years ago, clearly incompetence rather than identity theft) with someone in the neighboring zip code whose first and last names were the same as mine but had a different middle initial. The credit bureaus were remarkably unperturbed by a credit report with two Social Security numbers on it, a clear sign that this was two separate people they’d put in the same records, and didn’t care to straighten it out until my attorney started sending nastygrams. And this reliance on big (and as Julia’s experience shows, inaccurate) databases increases the odds that people who have similar-enough names to the intended recipient who get checks will cash them.
This is from Shayla:
Omg, I am having the exact same problem! I spent $15 on a certified, tracked letter with my new address information, the letter was received on April 3… When I called on April 8th and 11th my address had not been changed. Rust consulting does not know what the hell they are doing, they can not even update our contact information. I had to go through the postal service and submitt another change of address, online, thankfully that only takes 3 days to process… WE have to do something about this whole mess…at first I thought everyone cash their checks and then close their accounts, I still think that’s a good idea for those that can do it, but I think we should use these forms to organize a meeting. First, with those in the same city and state, then everyone in the state, then all together! I’m ready to fight this system….I’m in my early 30s and I refuse to live in this corrupt country and I am ready to do something about it!
And Wake Up America!:
I too had updated the OCC and the IFR with my new address. Long before Rust sent their postcards.
I called Rust after I read the postcards were mailed to verify my address. They still had my old address and advised me to send my new address in writing. They received my letter but refuse to change the address! The rep yesterday advised me to send the change of address again. This sounds like a repeat of all the “lost” mod paperwork hell the servicers put millions through.
Finally, LAMK, via e-mail:
Basically, we tried to get a loan mod in 2009, made the trial payments, and was then denied. We moved out of the house because we couldn’t handle the problems with the bank anymore, and they had already filed a NOD. We then rented a house from Feb 2010 until Feb 2013.
In January of 2012, we were served a lawsuit from our bank (Aurora) stating that there was a problem with the deed, in which the legal description was incorrect, so they couldn’t foreclose. Mind you, this was three years since we defaulted and two years after they gave us the NOD. The lawsuit is still pending, and the house had been vacant for three years while we rented. So we decided to move back in in March of 2013. The house is still in foreclosure, and now when they finally do foreclose, we will have to wait to buy for years… uuggghhhh!
Anyways, we figured out that checks were being mailed out, but they had been sending the correspondence to our rental address. I called them to change the address, and they told us to send a letter because they couldn’t change it over the phone. Then, when we called a week or so later, and they said that we actually have to wait for them to send us a doc to fill out (which will take a couple weeks). Yesterday, the woman told me that they have to escalate the change of address and she didn’t know anything about a form. Essentially, I was told three different things about a change of address, but the one consistent piece of info was that they would not change it over the phone.
Consider the numbers. Only one mailing has happened so far. For one non-MSM site to get five examples when we didn’t put the Rust name in the headline says the inability to correct mailing addresses is a widespread problem.
For starters, complain to your Congressman and alert your local media outlets. Congressmen are sensitive to coverage in their district. And complain to the Treasury Inspector General, which supervised the OCC and the GAO, which previously criticized the servicers’ and Rust’s outreach efforts. The more people who complain (and it sounds like there are a lot of people with grounds to complain), the higher the odds that Rust will be pressured to remedy its disgraceful performance.