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Protesters at Wells Fargo Shareholders Meeting Arrested for Refusing to Leave Building

May 10, 2011

Our Riverside foreclosure defense attorneys deal every day with clients who feel betrayed and manipulated by lenders that change their stories, don't respond to phone calls and deny loan modifications for spurious reasons. So we were disappointed but not surprised to read that several homeowners and homeowner advocates were arrested in San Francisco for misdemeanor trespassing after speaking at a Wells Fargo shareholders meeting. According to the Bay Citizen, several protesters spoke at the public comments part of the meeting, sharing stories of bungling by the bank and pointing out the high pay its CEO receives. Eight protesters were later cited for trespassing and released when they refused to leave the lobby.

The article focused on the remarks by Sarah Kershnar of Berkeley during public comments. Kershnar said she has been trying for two years to modify her loan, after she was laid off from her job. She told the audience that she had sent the same paperwork many times, but the bank has somehow managed to keep losing it, which she called either "negligent or incompetent." By contrast, she said, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf receives an annual pay package of $30 million. (The shareholder report put it at around $17 million.) Stumpf denied that Wells Fargo has an obligation to pursue loan modifications more aggressively because it has taken "bailout" money, saying the bank never asked for it. He later told the meeting that "it's not only about making money, it's about doing things right."

That comment comes as a surprise to our Costa Mesa foreclosure defense lawyers. We work with many homeowners who have had experiences similar to Kershnar's, with their paperwork lost or judged "incomplete" even though they sent everything requested. The media has many more similar tales. At least at this level, "it" doesn't appear to be about doing things right -- either in the sense of correctly or in the sense of doing right by customers. However, this does create delays in loan modifications, which are often long enough for "dual tracked" foreclosures to go through while the borrower still pays the mortgage payment, plus any fees and fines. Thus, the bank can still make plenty of money from desperate borrowers, without committing to a loan modification it might see as a money-loser.

At Howard Law PC, we have long since concluded (with help from several studies) that banks prefer not to grant loan modifications. Loan servicers in particular have no ownership of the loan itself, so foreclosing doesn't cost them a thing -- but it allows them to heap on inflated fees. That's why they take every step they can to draw out loan modification applications, deny loan modifications and pursue foreclosures even when considering a modification. Our Gardena foreclosure defense attorneys fight back with aggressive negotiations and, when necessary, lawsuits to protect our clients' legal rights. Under state law, banks may not foreclose without discussing alternatives with the borrower, and those participating in HAMP must meet specific criteria in order to reject applicants for loan modifications. We can sue right away over these issues, sometimes stopping pending foreclosures within days.

If you're tired of calling and writing your lender and getting no helpful response, you should call Howard Law instead. For a free, confidential case evaluation, send us a message online or call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925.