Wells Fargo (WFC) is in a class by itself when it comes to treating the rule of law and human beings badly. Lying, cheating, paranoid and vicious are the first words that come to my mind in free association with Wells; read and see if you agree.
Transferring Property It Doesn’t Have
Wells’s latest violence against the rule of law was an amazing motion it filed in a consumer bankruptcy earlier this month, in which it says there’s nothing false in telling the Court it was assigned a mortgage that didn’t yet exist.
Imagine trying to spend a paycheck you hadn’t yet received, much less deposited in your Wells checking account. I bet Wells would recognize a problem with that.
See, on March 12, 2007, Anthony Patridge “Vp [sic] of loan documentation” for UBS Mortgage signed the assignment, and Patridge’s signature was notarized on March 12th too. But as Wells Fargo’s motion states, the loan itself, and the mortgage securing it, were created two days later.
Neat trick, isn’t that? Was Patridge psychic, and just knew that the loan was going to go through? After all, when he signed on the 12th, he claimed to be making the assignment on the 14th.
The debtor’s attorney, Linda Tirelli, pointed out to the judge that the assignment appears to be evidence of a felony, because it was obviously false and submitted for recording in the land records as if it were true. So Tirelli asked the judge to reject Wells’s request for the freedom to foreclose. She’s also asked the Judge to punish Wells for its fraud.
Robosigning Incompetently and Criminally
Defending itself against the charge, Wells told Judge Drain: Look, the signature’s only a felony if it’s false and done with the intent to defraud, and it’s not false, because it says it was signed on the 12th, and it was signed on the 12th–the notarization confirms that. (See paragraphs 14 and 15 of the motion.)
Hmmm, that’s a rather narrow view, don’t you think? It separates the signature from the substance of the document. ‘Look, judge, the assignment happened on the 14th because the filled-in blanks at the top say it did, and the signature happened on the 12th because the notary says it did. Both are true and totally unrelated, Judge; the signature itself has no bearing on the content of the document.’
That claim by Wells is probably accurate, in the sense that the signature and the content of the document probably are completely unrelated. My guess is that Patridge signed a bunch of blank assignments, the stack was given to a notary, the notary signed too, and then the stack of pre-executed documents was put in a drawer for future use. Some while later, someone decided the assignment was necessary, pulled out a Patridge form, filled in the info about the mortgage, and dated it the same as the mortgage.
As to fraudulent intent, well, I don’t know what is required but it’s at least likely that Patridge or his company intended people to believe that Patridge’s signature was meaningful and effectuated the transfer of the mortgage, which it was not and did not.
The Tell-Tale Robosigning Signs
Why am I sure something like that happened? Well, a “Vice President of loan documentation for UBS Mortgage” doesn’t have a corner office, and probably doesn’t even get a paycheck from UBS Mortgage. Patridge probably has the same title for a half dozen other banks, and gets paid by a vendor like Lender Processing Services.
Beyond his title, there’s the nonsensical dates involved. No one sitting down and doing an assignment of mortgage in a meaningful sense–that is, no one actually transferring property by assignment–would sign it two days before the property existed. Just can’t happen.
Incidentally, the robosigned, false-on-its-face assignment is not the only lie that Wells told Judge Drain. Wells also said it owned the loan, but after the debtor’s attorneys pointed out Freddie Mac claims to own it, Wells changed its story, saying Freddie did own it. Tirelli pointed out in her reply motion that if true, the note Wells gave Judge Drain doesn’t make sense, because of endorsement on the note.
Freddie requires notes to be endorsed in blank, but this one is specifically endorsed to Wells. Tirelli’s got a great point–if Wells doesn’t own the loan, why is the note endorsed to it? Did a Wells robosigner add the endorsement for litigation convenience?
Tirelli also points out that Wells signed that enforcement fraud mortgage settlement last March, that was supposed to end robosigning. Though I explained awhile ago the enforcement mechanism seems designed to allow robosigning to continue, and that in any case securitization fail makes an end to robosigning impossible, it does seem rather bad faith on Wells’s part to use these bogus documents at this point, doesn’t it?
In both acts, giving the Court the magic assignment and claiming to own the loan, Wells demonstrated that its business convenience is more important than truth or ethical lawyering. Wells’s lawyers must have decided that too, since they’re supposed to verify their clients’ papers when giving them to the Court, and it’s hard to see how Wells’s attorneys did. Tirelli helpfully points that out to Judge Drain as well.
Wells’s Systematic Lying and Cheating
Lest you think the one case is an aberration, consider Judge Magner’s furious takedown of Wells’s systematic theft from borrowers and its profound bad faith in dealing with her court. Or read analyses of it by David Dayen or Yves Smith.
In short, Judge Magner found that Wells was stealing from bankrupt borrowers by using their mortgage payments to cover Wells’s fees–fees Wells seemingly invented on the fly, since it didn’t bother to tell the borrower or court about them–rather than put the money toward the principal and interest due on the loan, as required. Not only was the theft intentional and systematic, Judge Magner found, but in dealing with her Court Wells acted in bad faith. Exhibit A–consenting to an order and then appealing it as beyond the judge’s power. Wells needs to look up “consent” in the dictionary.
Wells’s Paranoia and Viciousness
As to paranoid, well, consider Wells’s vindictive closure of checking accounts to punish a blogger for highlighting how Wells’s actions contributed to a borrower’s suicide. A banking behemoth fears a little ol’ blogger so much it feels the need to retaliate by closing a bank account of a vaguely though not financially affiliated websites? Has CEO John Stumpf lost his mind?
Today, June 22nd, Judge Drain is scheduled to have a hearing on Wells’s conduct and whether or not to sanction it. Drain will also hear arguments on whether or not Wells should be given the freedom to foreclose. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Judge will defend the rule of law by inflicting some needed misery on Wells and its unethical counsel.
Note, I updated this post a few hours after publishing it to add a few more details and smooth the language a little.
HOMEOWNERS TAKE NOTE: The kind of obviously robosigned assignment and falsely endorsed note in this case will not impress every judge. Worse, there are lots of people out there who want to sell you expensive–I mean like thousands of dollars–fraud detecting audits of various kinds that are almost certainly a waste of your money. Tirelli didn’t need an audit to spot the fraud or call it to the attention of the judge. More, New York courts are unusually committed to the rule of law.
The only good advice I can give you is to find a good attorney, and as ever in life, if the huckster pushing a product your way makes claims that are way too good to be true, they’re lying to you.