I’ve harbored the sneaking suspicion that JP Morgan Chase is the worst behaved of the big US retail banks, based on a couple of experiences with them a bit more than two years ago. Not to bore readers with details, but basically, bank staff lied to me persistently regarding the terms of various products. Of course, the real terms, spelled out in difficult to decipher language in itty bitty print in a very long document, were far more unfavorable to me. It was only a credit card and a supposedly fee free checking account, both of which I promptly closed, so all I suffered was a teeny bit of inconvenience and the annoyance of being had. But if a fairly finance savvy person like me can be fooled by Chase, image the field day it has with normal marks.
Further confirmation of Chase’s duplicity comes via an e-mail from Lisa Epstein, who runs ForeclosureHamlet.org in Florida. If I’ve parsed this document correctly (and lawyers are welcome to opine), it’s a doozy (you can download it from ScribD if you prefer).
The critical bit starts in the third paragraph. There JP Morgan Chase points out that it is becoming more common in Florida for judges to require the bank to take action, meaning file a motion, which then leads to a hearing and and order of cancellation, to stop a foreclosure. It also points out that this is a change. In the past, If the bank merely failed to appear at a judicial sale, most courts would cancel it.
Now here’s the sneaky bit. JP Morgan Chase never bothers to say that it regards filing that motion and going to the trouble of attending a hearing is just too much cost and bother to stop foreclosure action when it has started loan mod negotiations. And to add insult to injury, its sneaky wording makes it sound as if it lacks the power to halt the foreclosure process, as opposed to incur more costs (boldface ours):
Because Chase, as a plaintiff or servicer of your loan, is no longer able to unilaterally cancel a judicial sale in many Courts in the State of Florida….
In other words, JP Morgan Chase offers an irrelevant excuse as a pretext for the borrower to make an astonishing concession:
I/we the undersigned Borrower(s), understand and agree that any and all loss mitigation agreements entered into with Chase……..that requires the cancellation of a judicial sale, shall be made expressly conditional upon the Court rendering a valid and final Order cancelling the judicial sale….any and all loss mitigation agreements shall be deemed null, void, and of no further force and effect…..Chase, as plaintiff or as the servicer of your loan, may proceed with the lawsuit to foreclosure your mortgage, including, without limitation, the upholding of any judicial sale and the issuance of certificate of title, as if no loss mitigation agreement was entered into…
So effectively, what the borrower has agreed to is for JP Morgan Chase to proceed with the foreclosure and to waive all rights to using the existence of a loss mitigation negotiation, or even a signed loss mitigation agreement, as a reason for stopping the foreclosure action. The letter has a faux borrower friendly sixth paragraph, that it “may” attempt to cancel a foreclosure sale, but there is no obligation.
Its true stance is blindingly obvious in the first two paragraphs on the second page. In the first paragraph, it
says that all signed loss mitigation agreements will have a paragraph added that the judicial sale has to be canceled for the loss mitigation agreement to be valid, and in the off chance all this isn’t clear, this little two page letter, which gets JP Morgan Chase off the hook as far as doing anything to stop the foreclosure sale, and further asking the chump borrower to waive any rights he might have to protest, controls.
To put it even more bluntly, this has all the appearances that Chase wants to foreclose, and is pressing borrowers to agree to terms that guarantee that loss mitigation negotiations have no force if a foreclosure action is underway.
This document is consistent with complaints we reported on earlier from Florida’s rocket docket, that foreclosures were finalized even when borrowers protested to the court that they were in loan modification programs. This is yet another example of how the banks are gaming the latest loan modification program, HAMP. Servicers collect fees for foreclosures and have the opportunity to apply the proceeds to the principal and interest advances they have made to investors. Those incentive far outweigh the puny fees the Treasury pays them to mod, but hey, if they can have both and placate Treasury by going through the motions of doing loan mods, why not?
Now some readers may argue that this is a cover your ass letter, but I don’t buy that. The language is sweeping and absolute. One rule in negotiations is never make a free concession (as in give something up without getting something back) and the concession that Chase demands is huge. A more reasonable document would have concessions to the borrower, like a requirement that Chase would make good faith efforts to halt any foreclosure, with a caveat that it could not guarantee outcomes. A carve out that Chase demonstrate, if pressed, that it had taken reasonable steps consistent with following through with the loan modification effort would make this a relatively fair agreement. But JP Morgan Chase is clearly not in the business of being fair.