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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.

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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.

The Chase Home Lending Shell Game

April 25, 2010, 3:55 pm: Natalia Carrillo called from Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158, wanting to discuss my loan. I figured she was looking for money but as the call unfolded I realized she was my new contact. I asked what happened to Olga Danilova, was she off the case? Natalia said a lot had changed at Chase and there were “new processes”; she was tasked with getting the files moving. She went on to say that previously Chase had been doing three-month trial modifications and then determining if the loan qualified for a permanent modification (implying that Underwriting was reviewing the loan during or after the trial modification).

Natalia said Chase was “not going to waste people’s time” putting them in a trial modification and then determining they didn’t really qualify. (Interesting – Chase had wasted fourteen months of my time when even a three-month trial modification would have made a world of difference to me). Per Natalia, they were now doing the Underwriting first; she required a complete package so there would be no questions for Underwriting and after a decision from Underwriting they were only doing trial modifications on “qualified” loans. I should have asked right then what a “qualified” loan was…

I told Natalia it seemed like we were in a parallel universe…what happened to all the stuff I’d submitted since February 24, 2009 and what about my conversations, follow-up, denials, re-openings and re-submissions with Jacqueline Ham, Megan Valdivia and Olga Danilova at the Chase Home Lending Executive Office? Natalia said since I was now over two months past due, the file had moved on to her area and she was responsible.

Natalia went on to review much of the paperwork I’d submitted and told me that some additional and updated paperwork would need to be submitted. She was extremely thorough and opened many files (the files seemed to be in a pdf format). She asked questions about some things she found unclear and she walked me through a required list of documents which she said could all be found on the Chase web site at https://www.chase.com/ccpmweb/chf/document/Borrowers_Assistance_Form_Chase_2009.pdf  She told me I needed to download, print, complete and return several forms, and provide more copies of checking statements and pay stubs. She said my 4506-T had expired (it was only good for 90 days) and it was essential I submit a new form, the RMA Hardship Affidavit. Essentially Natalia Carrillo was requesting yet another loan modification application. She noted there was a “Hardship Letter” in my file dated April 5, 2010, but I still needed to submit the RMA Hardship Affidavit.

Natalia’s reference to an April 5, 2010 “Hardship Letter” made no sense. I told her I’d submitted a handwritten hardship form “inside the box” on the modification application sent 12/11/09, as well as the original submitted February 24, 2009 – what letter could she be talking about? Natalia opened the file and said, “Oh, it’s a letter to Jamie Dimon. She then scrolled down further and saw additional faxes and letters I’d sent, none of which had anything to do with hardship.

I could now understand why I’d not heard back from Jamie Dimon – all of my letters to Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO JP Morgan Chase, were electronically filed and forgotten, along with faxes offering explanations, clarifying details, outlining the situation and offering solutions. I should have asked if my letter to David Lowman Chase Home Lending CEO was in there but I didn’t.

Natalia next looked at a utility bill and asked about my residency; I said perhaps she’d want to scroll down further in the “Hardship” file to my Cape May County, NJ Voting Record. Natalia demurred; saying, “I see your 2008 tax return has the address, that’s sufficient”, then she requested updated utility bills at the service address anyway! Natalia asked if I could submit everything within a week and I said it would be in her hands by 4/28/10 at the latest. She said she’d mark the files for a 4/29/10 follow-up and we ended the call.

Mr. David Lowman, Chase promised loan modification answers!

April 22, 2010, 1:44 pm: I emailed a copy of 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 really needed answers about my loan modification. It made sense to test out the Chase e-mail protocol I’d deduced and verify the David Lowman Chase contact information, so I sent David.B.Lowman@chase.com  a copy of my letter; it was not returned as undeliverable. Mr. Lowman might be like Jamie Dimon – his assistants might intercept his mail and redirect it to the Chase Home Lending Executive Office; this sort of document hand-off often resulted in problems. Of course Mr. David Lowman might also be out of the office to testify before Congress again.

Mr. David Lowman, Chase promises loan modification answers…

April 19, 2010, 4:47 pm: I decide to write a letter to Mr. David B. Lowman, CEO Chase Home Lending, and take him up on his testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services. In addition to the letter I outline my attempts to get loan modification answers in a nineteen page enclosure and send it to Chase Home Lending CEO Mr. David Lowman via Certified Mail, copying Jamie Dimon, Chase CEO; Senator Frank Lautenberg; Senator Robert Menendez; Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Philadelphia Inquirer real estate columnist Alan J. Heavens. Mr. Lowman promised answers; after almost fourteen months of trying to play by Chase’s ever-changing and secret rules, I need an end to opaque banking procedures and I need straight answers. This predatory loan originated by Washington Mutual and serviced by Chase must be modified.