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Still chasing answers from David Lowman CEO Chase Home Lending

May 12, 2010: Having not heard back from anyone at Chase regarding my April 19, 2010 letter to David B. Lowman, CEO Chase Home Lending, even though I had a USPS Certified Mail delivery confirmation dated April 21, 2010 at 10:54 am, I decided to try sending my letter to an alternate e-mail address. I thought I’d deduced the Chase e-mail protocol and had already sent David.B.Lowman@chase.com  a copy of my letter; it was not returned as undeliverable. But I’d heard nothing after almost a month, so I tried an alternate e-mail address and sent the letter to David.B.Lowman@jpmchase.com to see what might happen.  It was not returned as undeliverable, but who even knew what that meant.

Mr. David Lowman probably had someone intercepting his e-mail along with his regular mail and routing it to who knows where. I really needed answers about my loan modification.


The Wall Street Journal seeks answers from Chase

May 10, 2010: I went back and forth by e-mail throughout the day with the Wall Street Journal reporter, answering questions about my financial situation, why I was still waiting, why I hadn’t just sold my house, etc. At the end of the day the reporter told me he’d just asked Chase why I hadn’t gotten an answer after almost 15 months. I was stunned.

Would it take the Wall Street Journal to get an answer from Chase about my loan modification? That was crazy! Why couldn’t regular people get straight answers from Chase?

It seemed to me that Chase was continuing the deceptive practices originated by Washington Mutual. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner vowed to crack down on shoddy practices…maybe I should write him a letter as well.

Chase Home Lending Executive Office returns a call

May 10, 2010, 4:46 pm: Shawnte Trowlsdell from the Chase Home Lending Executive Office called. She was returning my call about my letter to Mr. David Lowman earlier in the day and the e-mail she’d received from Marissa. Shawnte told me she’d just started her job a week ago Monday (assuming this was 5/3/10); she got my case on Friday (assuming 5/7/10) and that she was taking on Olga Danilova’s entire caseload of about 100 cases – per Shawnte, it was all a “big mess”. I asked her if she was just filling in for Olga since I knew Olga was out of the country for two weeks; Shawnte said she wasn’t really sure about that but Olga would not be coming back; she was “no longer in the department”. Shawnte said she was trying to sort through everything; she did not have a lot to go on and no one had briefed her. Per Shawnte, it really was a mess as Olga had taken no notes and never called anyone back; customers were very upset.

I said that Olga had actually called me twice and e-mailed me three times; Shawnte interrupted to say with surprise and some relief that I was the first person to say anything like that about Olga, no one else could ever get in touch with her. I said that although Olga had occasionally made contact nothing much ever came of it but the purpose of my call was to follow-up on my letter to Mr. David Lowman.

I told Shawnte I was happy she’d called and while I’d like to talk about my loan modification, right now I wanted to find out why I’d not heard back from Mr. Lowman. Shawnte was very nice and said there was an awful lot in my file to go through and she’d quickly looked for the letter…had I sent it in May? I said no, it was dated 4/19/10 and confirmed received 4/21/10; perhaps she should look more in that date range. Shawnte couldn’t find the letter but she did mention that she saw in my file a letter was to have been sent out to me on April 30, 2010, but for some reason it did not go out; perhaps it was in editing? She could not see the actual letter to me nor could she see what the letter might be about. She trailed off and said “something” happened to the letter; it did not go out. That was interesting. So what was the phone call from Olga all about?

Shawnte went on to ask me more about my letter to Mr. Lowman. I explained about his testimony before Congress… and that I’d written regarding same. She said she would need to read up on my file and get back to me, most likely by the end of the week. I asked Shawnte about her schedule and she told me she was in Ohio; her hours were 9 to 5 but because she was so new, she was in training each day from 1 to 5, which was frustrating as it made it difficult to return homeowner’s calls. Her direct phone number was (614) 422-3764 and she was going to speak with her supervisor to see what could be done about getting a response to my letter to Mr. David Lowman.

Mr. David Lowman offered something to the American people when he testified to the House Committee on Financial Services. He said that people who sought answers from Chase about their loan modifications should come to him…where the heck was he and how could anyone reach him?

Mr. David Lowman Chase Home Lending CEO, I need answers!

May 10, 2010, 3:08 pm: It had been thirteen business days since confirmed USPS Certified Mail delivery (April 21, 2010) of my letter to Mr. David Lowman regarding his testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services. It was time to place a follow-up call to the Chase headquarters in Manhattan. I dialed (212) 270-6000 and asked to speak with Mr. David Lowman. I was told to stay on the line; after about a minute on hold Marissa from the Chase Home Lending Executive Office picked up and asked for my loan number!

I told Marissa I was calling regarding a letter to Mr. Lowman dated 4/19/10, mailed to New York and with receipt confirmation dated 4/21/10; was she in New York? Marissa said she was not, she was in northern Louisiana. She asked repeatedly for my loan # which I declined to provide. Instead I asked what happened to the calls and mail directed to the New York office. Marissa said she was an “operator” and operators could be located in OH, LA & FL. She went on to say that any correspondence sent to Mr. Lowman would be tracked, filed and retrievable by loan number; with that, I reluctantly provided my loan number. Marissa asked permission to put me on hold while she pulled the file and read the notes. I agreed and reiterated I was seeking a response or at least an acknowledgement of my letter to Mr. David Lowman, Chase Home Lending CEO.

After a few minutes Marissa came back on the line to report that she could see my letter was received and logged into the system under my case, but she did not see any other notations of any kind. I asked what would happen? Had Mr. Lowman ever actually received the letter, and had he read it? Marissa replied that she was “not saying that he doesn’t read it”, she was just reporting what she could see in my file. I asked if I should fax the letter to him, or mail it again.

Marissa said she could verify the letter had been received and that my case had been assigned to Shawnte Trowlsdell. Marissa said she would send an e-mail to Shawnte and ask her to respond. Marissa was very polite and genuinely trying to be helpful. She confirmed my telephone number and told me she would see to it that Shawnte got back to me. I thanked her and we ended the call.

Can the Wall Street Journal get Chase loan modification answers?

May 10, 2010: A reporter from the Wall Street Journal responded to a copy of my letter to Mr. David Lowman, CEO Chase Home Lending. He wanted to know if I’d heard back from Mr. Lowman and I told him I had not. It had been thirteen business days since confirmed USPS Certified Mail delivery (April 21, 2010) of my letter to Mr. David Lowman regarding his testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services and I’d planned to place a follow-up call later in the day.

With that we spoke about a story the Wall Street Journal was developing about people who were worse off after having applied for a loan modification. I knew that simply applying for a modification resulted in a ding on your credit record and as we spoke it became clear I was much worse off having waited for almost 15 months with no definitive and actionable response from Chase on a loan modification.

I had drained my savings, damaged my credit rating and spent countless hours chasing answers about how I might work something out with Chase to revise the terms of the mortgage. I knew I did not qualify for a HAMP modification but I also knew Chase had an in-house modification program; everything in life is negotiable if you can meet face to face with a decision-maker. I wondered if the Wall Street Journal might be able to get answers when I could not, and decided I had little to lose by participating in the article.

Chase Home Finance only calls when they want to

May 10, 2010, 2:00 pm: Natalia Carrillo at Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158 had not returned my call; it had been over 48 hours if we were counting business days only, although Natalia had called me once on a Sunday (April 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm), so it had really been over 72 hours without a call back, or any contact from Chase. It had also been eleven days since my financial interview with Chase – so what exactly were these new processes? They seemed like the same old Chase processes: ignore, obfuscate and deny.

Chase home loan modification new processes mean…

May 6, 2010, 1:49 pm: Called Natalia Carrillo at Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158. It had been a week since my financial interview with Loss Mitigation Solicitor Bailey; Natalia had referenced “new processes” so I was eager to learn more. My call was taken by Customer Care Professional Jack who confirmed my contact information and reinforced the fact that Chase was attempting to collect a debt. I asked to speak with Natalia Carrillo and Jack transferred me but the outbound message was clipped. I missed the beginning and while it did not replay, I’d heard the part that said to “leave a message, press 1; otherwise, stay on the line”. I stayed on the line only to reach Brandon. I said I wanted to leave a message or speak with Natalia Carrillo and Brandon said he would transfer the call. I heard the same clipped outbound message so I pressed 1 to leave a voice mail for Natalia Carrillo. Her outbound message said to expect a call back in 24-48 hours. I certainly hoped a timely call back was part of the new processes at Chase since my track record on callbacks was holding steady at slim and none.

Chase Home Lending sends an email…what does it mean?

April 30, 2010, 11:11 am: I received this e-mail from Olga Danilova:

Hello Ms. Wright,

We are unable to provide you with a modification at this time. We will be sending your [sic] our detailed response in a letter. 

Thank you 

Olga Danilova

Chase Home Lending

Home Lending Executive Office

Phone: (614) 422-2260

Toll Free: (888) 310-7995 ext. 2260

Fax: (866) 480-1239

I decided there was not much else I could do until I either received a real letter in the mail from Chase or heard back from Natalia Carrillo, especially if Olga was going to be out of the country for two weeks. Either way, this made no sense. Why had I done the Financial Interview on April 29, 2010 if my modification had been denied on April 28, 2010? Was Chase playing games, stringing me along and pretending to offer this struggling homeowner help when all they really wanted to do was drain my last dollar in savings and then take my home? It felt that way, especially after being denied a modification because I had three months cash reserves on hand. Three months was a nano-second in the life of this mortgage.

Was Chase continuing the predatory lending practices established by Washington Mutual, masquerading as a friend of the family while they fleeced you…I sure hoped not.

Chase loan modification denial?!

April 30, 2010, 10:00 am: Olga Danilova called from the Chase Home Lending Executive Office. She’d been out of the office for two days and was calling to tell me I’d been denied for a loan modification. According to Olga, I could afford the monthly mortgage payment and I “did not qualify”. I asked her to repeat herself as this just could not be true. She said that based on the documents I’d submitted, I could afford this mortgage.

I said what she was telling me simply could not be right; there was some kind of mistake. I went on to say that the documents I’d submitted clearly showed my W-2 take home pay was a thousand dollars a month less than my mortgage payment plus insurance and taxes. What on earth was she talking about?

Olga paused, re-read the file and blithely said, “Oh yes, I see that. I meant to say you’ve been denied because you can’t afford to pay this loan.” No kidding! I said of course I couldn’t afford to pay the loan as structured, that’s why I’d sought a modification. Olga replied, “Well you don’t meet our requirements for any program.” I said I knew I didn’t qualify for any HAMP government program; I was pursuing the Chase in-house program. Olga reiterated that I did not meet the criteria so I asked her what exactly the criterion was. Olga said, “It has to be 31%”. I was so darn mad I forgot to ask 31% of what, or to point out that if Chase reduced the interest rate to 2%, it would be 31% of my gross pay and I could pay the loan. My hair was on fire and I couldn’t see straight.

I said if you knew that, why didn’t you just tell me back in February 2009 or in December 2009? Olga retorted by pointing out I’d also been denied on 3/5/10 and I rebutted. I told her Chase had alleged they were unable to prove residency; that had been resolved and on 3/8/10 the case had been reopened. Olga’s reply: “Oh yes, I see that. Well, you were denied two days ago because you can’t afford the loan. You need to sell your house.”

I could see that Olga really didn’t know what she was talking about and apparently didn’t know how to read the file, so how valid was this communication? I asked her if I would get a denial letter, something in writing explaining exactly why I’d been denied. She said she wasn’t sure, “probably”. I asked how long it would take to get a letter and she said “a couple of weeks”. I got the feeling she was just making up the answers and said that a “couple of weeks” was not acceptable. Could she fax something? No. E-mail? No. I then asked why I’d been on the phone at six o’clock the night before for over an hour giving a financial interview. Olga wanted to know who I spoke with and I said Natalia Carrillo and Bailey; she then asked if they were with Chase!

(This had to be a parallel universe). I said of course they were with Chase, where else would they be from but she didn’t seem to care. Olga said, “Well, you were denied two days ago. Maybe they didn’t check the system.”

I had a feeling about who might or might not be checking the system and I was not going to let Olga off the hook without a fight. I said I needed a letter and I did not consider this modification denied without something in writing. Olga said the letters come from Loss Mitigation but the Chase Home Lending Executive Office sends them. She went on to say she would be out of the country for two weeks. I said that really would not do, I needed something to acknowledge we even had this conversation. I convinced Olga to send me an e-mail telling me that I would get a letter. It wasn’t much but it was all I could get her to commit.

Will the Chase Financial Interview help to get a loan modification?

April 29, 2010, 6:39 pm: Natalia Carrillo Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 transferred me to Bailey, a Loss Mitigation Solicitor. I asked Bailey if she was an attorney and she laughed and said no, even though she was called a Loss Mitigation Solicitor, she was just in the call center and she was going to “help me out”. She asked for a few minutes to “read the file” and then told me that after the financial interview she would e-mail the negotiator and things would move along. I asked if there was a financial interview form I could complete and submit and if not, might I get a copy of the completed financial interview. The answer was no. With that, Bailey asked what my monthly salary was; she wanted net, not gross, so I was a bit surprised and unprepared but still able to produce the monthly net for my W-2 earnings by quickly checking my bank account online. Next she wanted my net monthly 1099 pay; that was not so easy because who really knows what their net will be after taxes? I don’t know how much I’ll make on a freelance basis so I can’t determine the net. I had to estimate. Not good.

Next Bailey asked how much the mortgage, taxes and insurance were (Was this a test? The taxes and insurance are escrowed and Chase knows the numbers). Bailey then asked about secondary loans and/or home equity lines (I have none); credit card debt (I have none); college tuition and/or student loans (I have none).

Bailey went on to ask about utilities. At this point I was especially grateful to Doris B. at the CCCSDV for the time spent going over my budget on a monthly basis. I had at the ready my documents from our January 5, 2010 credit counseling session and they proved invaluable. To prepare for my meeting with Doris back in January, I’d had a friend create a yearly spreadsheet of my expenses, so in our meeting it had been a relatively easy task to break out monthly averages for all expenses and properly account for every penny. That was the very same worksheet I’d reviewed and updated in preparation for this financial interview and I clung to it like a life raft.

No one should ever enter into a Chase financial interview without knowing all of the answers in advance and to the penny. Had I estimated off the top of my head or answered on the fly as Natalia had suggested the day before, it could have been disastrous.

Bailey didn’t probe for anything. She just wanted a number for utilities. It was incumbent on me to mention gas, electric, water and sewer, and if I’d missed something, it would not have been counted. It’s easy to overlook or underestimate smaller bills, and with a winter like we just had, I needed to revise the numbers to address greater gas and electric consumption, something I’d remembered to do before the interview. But the way Bailey was asking required me to add up various expenses, yet another opportunity to make a mistake. Thank goodness I had a calculator at the ready!

After utilities, Bailey moved on to automobiles (I have no car payments). She asked about automobile insurance (I drive clunkers so I carry only liability insurance and have no collision coverage) and then gasoline costs. With that, Bailey was ready to move on. Hold the phone! If the category is Automotive, what about tolls? Between the Garden State Parkway and the NJ Turnpike, I throw money out the window almost every time I get in the car. And parking? Automobile registration, inspection, driver’s license renewal and how about maintenance? Things like tires, oil changes, tunes-ups?  I could see right then that Chase wanted to breeze through this interview so the “modification” would be as small as possible. It was a set-up to fail. No wonder so many homeowners who had been given a trial modification couldn’t keep up. They probably didn’t really understand their actual operating costs until they ran out of money before month’s end, and by the time they figured it out it was too late.  

Bailey seemed to be asking questions in a random fashion, and there was no reference to categories. I suggest anyone facing a Chase financial interview ask in advance for the categories as Chase accounts for them so they can compile their expenses accordingly. She seemed to be working through a spreadsheet of some kind and entering numbers, but she jumped all over the place.

I hunkered down. When Bailey asked about health insurance, I made sure to add in co-pays, medications (I have no prescription plan), dental, optometrist and eyeglasses. Next was food, and at this point I was glad I was single. I know what I eat. The prospect of doing this for a family was daunting.  We continued through a few more questions like clothing, toiletries, life & disability insurance (I have none) and Bailey was ready to call it done.

I asked, “what about the telephone?” Bailey’s response: “Oh, that’s entertainment”.  Really? What about “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” I have a waterfront property and yes, I have a landline so anyone can dial 911 in the event of an emergency. There will be no fumbling for a cell phone if someone’s fallen into the bay and is being swept away by the current. I also have a cell phone (the size of a brick with no features at all) which I use for business, but it didn’t matter to Bailey. She filed it all under “entertainment”. Maybe there’s someone out there who finds my phone calls to Chase entertaining; I sure don’t.

I soldiered on and mentioned charitable contributions, newspapers (to look for a better-paying job!), job search expenses, pet food, gifts, etc. but I soon realized it was all going to be lumped under “entertainment”. There also didn’t seem to be a category for office supplies and loan modification application expenses like having a phone line and access to a fax machine; I sure knew Staples, FedEx and the USPS were beneficiaries of the Chase paper trail.  That was probably still considered “entertainment”.

Bailey quickly ran through some of the categories and totals she’d come up with including: Income, Expenses, Medical, Auto, Health, Transportation, Utilities, Food & Toiletries and Other. My head was spinning. It had been 45 minutes and I was done. I agreed to dollar amounts and categories I could not see and would not be given a copy of and we ended the call. Chase was really beginning to wear me down and it was not at all entertaining.