Monday, March 17, 2014


Wells Fargo Stagecoach
Wells Fargo Stagecoach (Photo credit: Noel C. Hankamer)

Wells Fargo's Foreclosure Process
Draws New Fire

Wells Fargo has come under a fresh wave of public
scrutiny over allegations that the largest mortgage servicer
developed an in-house, how-to manual for producing bogus 
documents to justify foreclosures.

Bankruptcy attorney Linda Tirelli has unearthed a 150-page document that she says outlines "a step-by-step
procedure" for Wells Fargo's lawyers to request retroactive documentation that another lender has signed
over a loan to the bank. Such documentation, known as an endorsement, is needed to prove that
Wells Fargo now owns the loan and has the right to foreclose on the borrower.
Wells denies wrongdoing. “Wells Fargo’s foreclosure processes—today and back in 2012—are appropriate,
legal and customer focused," says spokeswoman Vickee Adams. The manual "provides guidelines for outside attorneys to be compliant with state and regulatory requirements.”
Tirelli and other consumer advocates who have reviewed the document say it shows Wells has been
fabricating evidence of ownership. While borrowers have been challenging foreclosures on the basis
of faulty documents for several years since the housing crash, the Wells Fargo manual provides a rare
window onto a lender's procedures for foreclosure when papers are missing.
"This is the first internal document that has a blueprint for how to commit the fraud," Tirelli says. "It's
fraud because Wells Fargo is endorsing the note on behalf of another party."
Tirelli included a copy of the manual – which Wells says it believes to be genuine – as evidence in a
lawsuit filed on behalf of a homeowner in bankruptcy in New York’s Southern District court in White
Plains. The lender used the manual as recently as February 2012 – nearly two years after the industry
"robo-signing" scandal broke – according to Tirelli.
Banks use endorsements to verify that the right to a promissory note—which identifies the amount
of the loan and terms of repayment—has been legally transferred to a new lender. The procedures
outlined in the manual suggest that Wells is in the business of producing on-the-spot, "ta-da!"
in order to facilitate foreclosures, according to Tirelli.
"In my two cases (and hundreds of cases over the years), we have a filing from Wells Fargo where
the note has no endorsement," Tirelli says. "I write to ask why and then magically, there is a new
and improved copy with an endorsement."
Wells' attorneys are instructed to enter a code in order to receive an endorsement on page 17
of the manual, a copy of which was obtained by a reporter. The same page also outlines steps
for the attorneys and Wells' default documents team to obtain an allonge—an attachment to a
note showing the chain of endorsements.
The instructions indicate that "before requesting an allonge, the attorney would have to first
determine whether or not [Wells Fargo] has authority to execute the allonge," Tirelli says. "But
there is no such requirement [in the manual] for the endorsement of notes, which seems to
indicate that they will endorse the note itself even if they don't have the authority to do so."
Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda says the manual "has been updated more than 30 times"
since February 2012 to keep pace with new regulations.
"Team members carefully review any endorsements required to initiate foreclosures," Goyda says.
 "The procedure manual ….includes only the information the attorneys need to know, not all the details
of Wells' internal procedures and check points to make sure that endorsement procedures are done properly."
During the housing boom, so many loans changed hands in the frenzy to securitize that lenders often lost,
or failed to create, documentation of transfers in ownership. Complicating matters, many originating lenders
went bust.
The robo-signing scandal, which rocked the mortgage industry in 2010, gives reason to doubt the
thoroughness of Wells’ internal reviews, according to Jim Kowalski, a lawyer in Jacksonville, Fla.,
who represents consumers. Before the nation's five largest servicers, including Wells, agreed to reform
their foreclosure practices as part of a $25 billion settlement in February 2012, regulators found "a high
number of procedural mistakes," Kowalski notes.
"It's always important to pay attention to the paperwork," Kowalski says. "If you're faking an assignment,
chances are you're also the servicer that lost the payment, rejected a cashier's check, or force-placed
insurance on a house in a flood zone that was never in a flood zone. Paperwork and technical problems
are substantive problems that are still plaguing a healthy return to the housing market."
Banking attorney Larry Platt at K&L Gates says lenders are allowed to endorse notes after filing for
foreclosure under the Uniform Commercial Code, a guideline that is "substantially" the same across
all states.
"Article Three provides that you can transfer interest and notes, either by endorsing the note in blank
or by completing the endorsement," Platt says. "Both are effective to transfer the right of the endorsement."
Platt says there is "nothing inappropriate" about a lender filling in a blank endorsement after the fact,
although it can raise ethical questions. Massachusetts law bars lenders from completing endorsements
after they have filed for foreclosure.
Another consumer bankruptcy attorney, O. Max Gardner, says the manual is proof of deficiencies in Wells' documentation process.
“This manual provides a 'road map' for the attorneys retained by Wells Fargo of how to create and
manufacture these fake forms," Gardner says in an email. "And, of course, the fundamental legal
and ethical problem arises out of the institutional mandate by Wells Fargo to implement these
indorsement practices with respect to mortgage notes that were originated, sold and
securitized many years ago without all of the indorsements as required by the
respective trust agreements.”
The allegations against Wells Fargo were initially reported Wednesday by theNew York Post.

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