By Travis Waldron, Think Progress
Posted on April 20, 2012, Printed on April 21, 2012
That Wells Fargo has fraudulently processed mortgage documents using a process called robo-signing has been evident for nearly two years, since scandal enveloped the mortgage industry in 2010. That it kept doing it even after the scandal broke has been known for months. The practice, at Wells Fargo and other Wall Street banks, has led to waves of improperforeclosures and a $25 billion settlement with the federal government and state attorneys general.
A new report from MSNBC, however, provided an inside account of how Wells Fargo’s robo-signing department works. Unqualified employees with salaries ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 are given titles like “vice president of loan documentation” so they can sign foreclosure documents. Actual supervisors institute quotas on employees, forcing them to sign a certain number of foreclosure files each day — sometimes telling them they can’t eat breakfast or take lunch until they’re done. Documents required for homeowners to avoid foreclosure were ignored, left sitting on an unattended fax machine.
The result: the nation’s largest mortgage servicer often improperly foreclosed on homeowners who weren’t past due or owed little interest while pushing the files out the door as fast as possible, as an insider told MSNBC:
Some families apparently were denied loan modifications after only cursory interviews, she said. Other borrowers applying for help sent comprehensive personal financial documents to a fax machine that she discovered had been unattended for weeks. Others landed in foreclosure after owing interest payments of as little as $1.18 a day, according to documents she said she reviewed. […]
“There was one file where they weren’t even past due and they were in foreclosure status,” the loan processor said. “They’re pushing these files and pushing these files….”
The MSNBC report comes just a month after a similar report from the inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which found many of the same occurrences at Wells Fargo. In that report, Wells Fargo allegedly put an employee who had previously sold pizza in charge of loan documentation. Worse yet, the report found that executives at the banks knew about the practices and refused to stop them.
Higher-ups at Wells Fargo, however, are still denying that these abuses take place. “No one here is asked to sign anything they don’t understand. Period. End of story,” Michael DeVito, executive vice president of Wells Fargo’s Home Mortgage Default Servicing, told MSNBC. “There’s no production quota and if a team member says, ‘I don’t understand this I’m not going to sign it,’ that’s fine.”
Another Wells Fargo employee had a different account. “It’s exactly like an assembly line,” a loan processor told MSNBC. “You sign it, you push it off to a notary, they stamp it, you put it in a box and it goes somewhere else.” The next step, unfortunately, is that someone loses their home.