The Wall Street Journal seeks clarification on Chase Loan Modification Answers

May 14, 2020: Two days elapsed before Chase came back to the Wall Street Journal reporter with a revised comment on my situation. In the face of the evidence I provided, Chase had little choice but to modify their intentionally misleading answer.

Per the reporter:

“Below is Chase’s latest statement re your loan. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks. 

Chase: We modified the homeowners’ mortgage in 2008, reducing the interest rate to 6% and locking in until 2013.  The homeowner applied for another modification in 2009.  

In the summer of 2009, in March of 2010, and in May of 2010, we notified the homeowner that she did not qualify for a second modification.  We determined that modifying the loan would produce less value to the loan’s owner than foreclosing, using analysis based on the Treasury’s model.  There also a question about whether it was her primary residence.”

My hair was on fire over this misleading representation of how I’d been strung along and flat-out lied to for over thirteen months. I wanted to run screaming to the reporter but I composed myself. The Wall Street Journal was a conservative publication and the reporter had an obligation to be objective and hear all sides. I was absolutely livid but I composed a measured response:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond. Regarding the statement: We modified the homeowners’ mortgage in 2008, reducing the interest rate to 6% and locking in until 2013. The Loan originated as a sub-prime pick & pay with Washington Mutual on 2/26/06. Over the next eighteen months I received countless marketing solicitations offering to “modify” my loan to a fixed rate; they all seemed to focus on me paying WaMu some lump sum in order to “fix” my interest rate.

By mid to late 2007 I actually understood my loan and the concept of “negative amortization”. I started paying the full mortgage amount each month (the principal and interest) and even made some headway on reducing the negative amortization. Once I focused on the mortgage it was evident that when the loan adjusted, the interest rate was going to jump and the full amount would increase exponentially.

The Washington Mutual solicitations continued and with each “offer” the lump sum amount to “fix” the interest rate kept dropping. By January 2008 I could see that interest rates were going up and I feared the interest rate reset. In February 2008 I folded and paid Washington Mutual $995.00 for the privilege of locking into a 5/1 LIBOR Interest Only ARM at 6.62%.

To call this streamline refinance which I paid for the privilege of getting a “modification” is disingenuous at best; my “mortgage modification” consisted of nothing more than a five-year fixed rate interest only loan with a new higher (not lower) payment. The interest rate was not reduced, indeed, it increased.

Regarding the statement: The homeowner applied for another modification in 2009. This is correct; I initiated a modification request on 2/24/09 and was denied on 8/25/09 because: “Your property equity exceeds our program guidelines.”

Regarding the statement: In the summer of 2009, in March of 2010, and in May of 2010, we notified the homeowner that she did not qualify for a second modification. We determined that modifying the loan would produce less value to the loan’s owner than foreclosing, using analysis based on the Treasury’s model. I stand by my original comments: That is not correct. I have two written letters from Chase, which I have shared with you.

To reiterate: The first denial, dated August 25, 2009, states in one sentence: “Your property equity exceeds our program guidelines.” There is no reference to the Treasury’s model as a reason for denial; nor is there reference to a residency issue. The way Chase has worded this new response is disingenuous at best.  

The second written communication dated March 5, 2010 states “We are unable to offer you a Home Affordable Modification because we are unable to verify that you do live in the property as your primary residence”. There is no reference to the Treasury’s model as a reason for denial; regarding the residency issue, Chase has three years of Federal Income tax returns at the address (I can provide five years worth) & five years of voting records. Chase confirmed my residency was not an issue and reopened the case (which is why they kept working on it and allegedly generated another denial in May 2010).

Regarding: the May 2010 denial Chase references. As previously noted, I have received no written communication of this and know only from a call I placed yesterday (5/13/10) that, per Rafael in Loss Mitigation at Chase, the modification was denied on 5/4/10. It is again disingenuous at best to state Chase notified the homeowner, as, without your intercession, I would STILL have no knowledge of this denial; I waited again for the mailman today before responding and there is nothing from Chase.

Regarding the statement: We determined that modifying the loan would produce less value to the loan’s owner than foreclosing, using analysis based on the Treasury’s model. This has not been communicated to the homeowner in writing at any time. I am aware of this ONLY through your email asking for a comment on Chase’s initial response and subsequently through the above referenced Springboard conference call of 5/13/10. Also, I am not certain but I believe the Treasury’s model applies to HAMP modifications, and was we know, I have never qualified for a HAMP modification.  

Finally, I stand by my statement submitted 5/14/10: The opaque banking procedures practiced by Chase do not help the homeowner, they help only the investors. 

If I knew back in February 2009, or even August 2009, what I know today — that the investors behind my loan find it more profitable to foreclose (negative net present value) than to work with me on a modification — I could have made an informed decision. I would have taken the hit and drained my IRA to bring the loan down to a smaller amount and refinanced while my credit record was excellent. At this point, my savings are depleted and my credit record is distressed; even if I reduce the loan amount, no lender will refinance.

 

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Chase, what’s the problem with equity?

March 3, 2010, 8:45 pm:  Keisha Hackney phoned looking for payment. She told me I was denied because I had “the equity” and that I should list my home for sale; a modification was not available for me. I should liquidate my assets and pay up; consider a short sale. I will receive a denial letter and a letter with intent to foreclose. I was denied because I have “the equity” and I “should have refinanced or pulled all the equity out.”

Ms. Hackney had the unique ability to make having equity sound like I had the clap.

I asked if Chase merely serviced the loan and she said no, “this is an asset loan in the portfolio” (interesting, because I strongly suspected this particularly predatory Washington Mutual loan had been sliced, diced, repackaged as a mortgage-backed security and sold down the river.) I said I was going to make a payment March 5 but had been told it would not be applied if it was a partial payment; she confirmed this. I said I could commit to a full payment with late fees by April 5, 2010. She told me she would note in the file I “was not able to make a commitment at this time”. I said I was making a commitment but she would not hear of it. I ended the call.

The continuing chase for a Chase loan modification

January 13, 2010, 9:00 am: I called Chase (866) 550-5705 and spoke with Amy who indicated the loan modification application was still in review and Chase was not requesting any additional information at this time. She confirmed it went in on 12/15/09 and that it takes 60 days. I told her I could not make my February payment. She said they could do nothing; they needed to hear back from the loan modification team regarding a decision. I asked again about the copies of the 6/30/09 and 8/25/09 denial letters and was transferred to Imminent Default. I listened to a message that Chase was “experiencing a high volume of calls.” I waited on hold then spoke with Jeannine. She offered to e-mail a request to her supervisor that copies of the letters be sent. I said this was the third request; I needed to speak with a supervisor. She said his name was Jason Coates and he was not in, she would send him a message to call me on my cell phone and confirmed the number. Jason never called.

What to do? I thought I could make my February payment but my spreadsheet cash flow calculations were based on getting another one-month summer rental while I was away on business. What if I had no house to rent? The folks who’d rented from me the last two seasons would have paid a deposit, and that deposit would have in turn paid the mortgage, but how could I in good conscience take their deposit to pay Chase when I might not have a home? This would not do.

I would have to miss the February payment. I was a bad person now, the very sort of bad person I’d marveled at months before, the sort of person who did not pay their mortgage; the sort of person who destroyed their credit rating. The sort of person who lost their home. Boy, I hoped I was not that kind of person. Hope, however, is not action, so I took action. I wrote my Senators and my Congressman, and I wrote to Jamie Dimon, again.

Game Over

Phoned Chase/WaMu on July 3, 2009 at 9:30 am and spoke with Chris. After verifying all of my contact information Chris advised me that my loan modification request was reviewed two days ago and I did not qualify due to the amount of equity I have in the house. I do not meet the interior department guidelines. A letter of denial has been sent and I may certainly re-apply if “my situation changes” or maybe, he said, I ought to consider selling as they are open to a short sale. He then terminated the call.

Chasing WaMu

WaMu becomes Chase!

Phoned Chase/WaMu June 5, 2009 at 9:55 am and spoke with Hank who had fond memories of vacationing on the seven-mile island of Avalon, NJ. Hank confirmed my re-submission fax was received on 6/3/09 and that the loan modification clock starts anew. Hank advised there was nothing for me to do but “be patient and pay my mortgage”. The government had changed all the programs in March and the programs change daily; his department had only been established on May 1, 2009. Hank assured me they are working on it and said it was okay to call back and check in every week.

Phoned Chase/WaMu on June 12, 2009 at 9:35 am and endured a recorded collection message informing me this was an attempt to collect a debt. Note: I had never been late nor had I missed a payment. After the message played I was put on hold for ten minutes when Kim B. picked up. Kim’s sole purpose appeared to be to transfer me and introduce me to someone who could answer my questions. I then spoke with Adam who noted I’d called before. Adam confirmed receipt of my 6/3/09 fax and advised that all paperwork was in hand, WaMu had a “complete” package. Adam said I should have an “update” by end of month; it’s taking 20-25 days for an “update”. I pressed him on what an update meant and he said deny, modify, etc.

Phoned Chase/WaMu on June 23, 2009 at 10:30 am and spoke with Brad who advised that as of 6/15/09 the loan was in the Imminent Default department and I should be calling a different number. Per Brad the loan had been assigned to Brad U. – I could see this conversation was going nowhere and asked to speak to someone in Imminent Default. I was transferred to Troy who told me the files had been “sent to Guardian to microfiche” and that should take a week. They are taking pictures of documents and basically my loan is still in the review process. There was nothing he could tell me and nothing I could do. Brad was in Loss Mitigation, now I was talking to Imminent Default and they do not share names. Troy terminated the call by hanging up on me.

Maybe, Maybe Not

Phoned WaMu May 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm and spoke with Amber. Now that they have received the “missing” information, as of 4/15/09 they have 28 business days to assign to a negotiator as the package is now “complete”.  It will go to a different negotiator and within the 28 days I will be contacted.  

WaMu is Becoming Chase!

As it was the one-year anniversary of my salary reduction it seemed time to approach the owners and ask for a salary adjustment. Given that I was still doing 100% of the work at 50% of my salary, I was confident they would see how well the business was doing and make some positive salary adjustment in recognition. In acknowledgment that times were still tough, even though our sales were robust, I offered to take on additional work as part of a salary increase and posed several options. All ideas were rebuffed and no salary increase was granted.

Phoned WaMu/Chase on May 20, 2009 at 8:45 am and spoke with Julie. She indicated my loan was assigned to modification officer Brandon U. on 5/13/09 and it would take 77 days from then. Per Julie, no file was opened until 3/31/09 and anything related to my 2/24/09 submission and all prior communications were null and void. Stanley S-D. may have been an “opener”. I will receive a form letter telling me they are looking at the loan and considering my request for a modification.

May 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm I received a call on my landline, not the cell phone number I had provided to WaMu/Chase as my sole contact telephone number. It was Rich Naylor calling to tell me Brandon U. is a processor. Rich Naylor was in charge of doing the review and my loan was no longer in Loss Mitigation, it was now in the Imminent Default department. The package was considered incomplete as of 5/13/09 and would not be looked at until all updated and additional material was provided.

Rich directed me to the web site and told me to download the forms and submit all of the requested information. This site had no cheerful exclamation points – just a Borrower’s Assistance Form with a lengthy checklist.  Rich also requested:

– Updated/current utility bills showing proof of residency

– 2 pay stubs or 30 days worth of pay documents

– 2008 income tax returns

– Documentation of all assets

– Recent bank statements

– Profit & Loss Statement

– Monthly Budget

All were to be faxed to the Imminent Default department and should be mailed as well. Upon receipt of all documents, the loan would go to review and then be assigned to an underwriter, after which it would take 30-40 days.

Basically, after three months of paper shuffling WaMu, now Chase wanted a complete resubmission of my loan modification request.   

May 23, 2009 was spent assembling, copying and faxing the requested documents, now totaling 53 pages. With the exception of my 2008 tax returns (I’d already submitted 2006 & 2007), most of the documents were updates on the same documents I’d submitted 2/24/09 and 3/13/09.

May 26, 2009 I mailed the same documents to WaMu Imminent Default. No upbeat Home Ownership Preservation moniker at this address.

May 29, 2009 I confirmed the packet had been delivered at 8:51 am via Certified Mail.

April Fools

Phoned WaMu April 3, 2009 at 11:20 am and spoke with Amber. Per Amber, on 3/31/09 a loss mitigation file was set up and the negotiator (a Stanley S-D.) had been assigned and he’d left a note in the account requesting that I provide copies of my last two years of income tax returns and verification of the freelance income I was reporting. She said a letter had been sent to me requesting this information.

Verification was going to be a problem on the freelance earnings. It was just that, freelance, with no guarantees and no real “boss”. No paycheck either – the money was wired to my checking account and WaMu could see that, but they wanted to know why and where it was coming from. After some wrangling I managed to get a letter from my “employer” stating that I did freelance work for them but it wasn’t easy.

Phoned WaMu April 6, 2009 at 9:00 am and spoke with Kimberly and told her I had spoken with Amber on 4/3/09 and I had still not received a letter telling me where to send the requested documents. Kimberly insisted a letter had been sent and gave me a fax number to submit my documents.

Faxed WaMu April 7, 2009 at 10:00 am and submitted the requested documents.

Phoned WaMu April 8, 2009 at 8:14 am and spoke with Kyle. I wanted to follow-up on receipt of the fax but per Kyle, they “are swamped” and I must allow WaMu 7-14 business days to receive a fax; I could try calling back on 4/14/09.

Phoned WaMu April 13, 2009 at 8:49 am and spoke with Kathy. I asked her to verify that a letter had been sent to me and to confirm receipt of the fax. Kathy alleged a letter had been sent via USPS and “the file is still open which means they must have the fax.” She advised it was now taking 79 days from when the negotiator gets it to completion. I asked to speak to the modification officer and was advised she could no longer transfer calls. I then reviewed with Kathy the entire timeline starting with WaMu’s confirmed receipt of the 2/24/09 packet and said I never got a letter acknowledging anything was happening; no one had ever gotten back to me about anything and the only way I knew additional documents were required was by repeated phone calls. I asked if I might get something in writing indicating they were working on my case. She indicated that the file went to the negotiator on 3/31/09 and confirmed my cell phone number as the correct way to reach me. It was not a friendly or productive call.

Phoned WaMu April 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm and spoke with Paula. Per Paula, they forwarded the faxed info to the negotiators on 4/15/09 and it should take 68 days. Per Paula, the negotiator is still Stanley S-D. I should call back every week or two to check on the status.

Phoned WaMu April 23, 2009 at 9:15 am and spoke with Kathy who said there was “nothing new to report at this time.” The negotiator is working on it and the time frame is now 69 days from 3/31/09.

Phoned WaMu April 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm and spoke with Kim who asked if I was just checking in on my loan modification today. Per Kim, the timeline does not start until the file is sent to a negotiator and that it would take 76 days from 3/31/09. I asked if there was anything I could do or if there had been any change since 4/15/09 and Kim said it is frustrating and she understands but there was “nothing I could do at this point.”

April is over and I am the fool.