UPDATE: Today we received payment from the Independent Foreclosure Review program conducted by the government. They found us eligible to receive a payment in connection with “enforcement action related to deficient mortgage servicing and foreclosure processes.” Deficient, in this case, being defined as “deceitful” and “egregiously dishonest” and “purposely, willfully, insidiously false”.
What did we receive, you ask, as payment for having our home and peace of mind stolen from us? This.
$500. Not even enough to cover the retainer for an attorney. Not nearly enough to pay for our move just two blocks down the street. Hardly even a drop in the bucket of the time Tim spent fighting this action in court, or the hours of work he lost.
And we’ve heard from other recipients that these checks are bouncing.
And tell me again exactly what’s happened to the bankers who perpetrated this fraud? To the people who were found guilty by the government of “deficient mortgage servicing”? What, exactly, has happened to them?
Yesterday, I saw the news that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, having reviewed a huge number of questionable foreclosures, has found that 4 million people were wrongfully foreclosed upon.
Here’s a link with more detail, not all of it encouraging, about the findings.
I knew about this story about a week ago, when we received the notice about the findings and our expected “refund”. My husband and I were among those 4 million.
In the year since we lost our house, I haven’t thought much about it. I’ve pushed all thoughts of it out of my head. March and April of last year were devastating, a chaos of anger and embarrassment and desperation. The day our horrifyingly stressful move was complete, I returned to the job I’d had for the past 18 months. My supervisor (who had been fully informed of my upheaval) decided to “move me off the account” I was working on. In temp-speak, that’s pretty close to a firing. They didn’t want to lose me as an asset, of course, so they begged me to continue to be available for their use. My final answer was an unequivocal “screw you.” (Clearly, I have some unresolved bitterness at this ill treatment.) Within one month, I’d lost my house and my job.
Six weeks later, my husband lost his job.
I became despondent.
On the heels of that ugliness, my daughter sustained a debilitating fracture, graduated from high school and made the transition into college. Then we made the decision for my husband to take the job in Portland, leading us into the biggest change of our lives. Forced into activity, I slowly left my depression behind, and haven’t looked back–until now, with the news of the finding.
And now, having moved out of depression into a form of equilibrium, I find my overriding feeling is anger. Not just at the bank, who blatantly lied in court (we have the documents to prove it), or the judge who saw their lie and still found in their favor, but at the systemic indifference, and yes, the personal indifference we felt. “Gee, I’m sorry that’s happening to you.” “Wow, that sucks.”
But mostly, it was as if we had contracted some terribly contagious disease, that we had done something awful to deserve being foreclosed upon. I suppose my husband’s unexpected 6-month long unemployment two years prior that set us behind on payments is to blame, but we did everything–and more–that we were supposed to do. Everything.
But no one wants to hear that. No one hears anything beyond “Tim was unemployed”, because that is all anybody ever needs to explain the predicament. Never mind that we contacted the bank immediately, but the bank and their representatives claimed a total of seven times that they never received our paperwork, despite our receipts to the contrary. Never mind that they prolonged the process by asking for “time” to “find” the documents they claimed they had that proved we never sent the paperwork. Never mind that every time they prolonged the process, we got farther and farther in debt to them, which the court eventually counted against us. Never mind that the bank would not accept partial payment, that they required *everything* we owed in one lump sum, and even though we now had plenty of money coming in, we were not allowed to pay.
Not. Allowed. Think about that for a minute.
This bank lied. Their lawyers stood up in court and told a bald-faced lie to the judge. And the judge–out of exhaustion or malice or callousness or something–let them get away with it.
I do not want to hear the fatuous, puerile arguments that “everything works out in the end” and “it was all for the best.” Not right now. I want to be heard; the powers that be LIED about my husband and got away with it. In court.
As a result of those lies, my husband–who had been appearing pro se, because we couldn’t afford an attorney on top of the debts we were amassing with the bank–lost all the time he spent appearing in court, only to be put off month after month, all the work he missed going to court, all the work he put in getting documentation together, researching and filling out the bank’s paperwork, being lied to by the bank on the phone, “if you just fill this out and send it in, we’ll take care of you.” He worked his ass off to provide for us, to give us this home, and he worked doubly hard to keep that home, and because some mortgage-giant lackey tells a lie, he loses everything.
I lost all peace of mind, any expectation of maintaining a home in this town, and all trust that if you do the right thing, if you follow the rules that you’ve been given, if you work hard and are devoted to your family, that the system will work in your favor. This system is wholly and completely corrupt, fixed to benefit the strong and inflict injury on the weak. I have no faith in banks or finance, the precarious exchange of fees for services forever tainted by the proximity of greed and malevolence.
Now, at the news we may be receiving some amount of a settlement, everything from last April comes roiling to the surface. The long evenings packing up the minivan to take another load to the storage locker, or our rental house. The hasty decisions about what items we needed to keep, and what we could toss. The moment I realized, standing in the cedar closet, that I had just thrown away an entire box of my children’s school pictures, and whatever thread was holding me together snapped; I fell into a wash of tears and screaming, clawing at the bottom of the garbage bag holding my babies’ images, knowing, in that moment, that I had failed to protect them from the agony of the world. Powerless against the tidal wave of greed and deceit. I couldn’t hold it at bay, I couldn’t keep it from touching them.
The effects of this foreclosure haunt me today. Always skittish about community and belonging, I feel even less like putting down roots. I’ve withdrawn even more from family and friends, closing the circle of people with whom I share any information. My husband is my closest friend, my only confidante, and my sole source of support. And I’ve become a much more strident advocate of people in difficult situations, because I know how very easy it is to become lost in the terrifying sea of indifference.
The banks have agreed to pay a sum to each of the 4 million people they deceived. I am certain it will be a paltry sum. Right now, some money to help us pay for our move would be nice.
But knowing that somewhere out there, someone in charge recognizes that we were wronged, that the bank really DID do something really, really wrong–well, that helps a little bit.