By Stephen A. Brunette*
Wells Fargo was recently sanctioned by a Bankruptcy Court with a punitive damage award in the amount of $3.17 million dollars, for egregious conduct in failing to comply with court orders to correct admitted accounting errors, and excessive litigation and appeals with a single homeowner. See In Re Jones, 2012 WL 1155715 (E.D. La. Bkrpt. 2012). Rather than summarize the opinion, the following excerpts speak for themselves.
Wells Fargo has taken the position that every debtor in the district should be made to challenge, by separate suit, the proofs of claim or motions for relief from the automatic stay it files. It has steadfastly refused to audit its pleadings or proofs of claim for errors and has refused to voluntarily correct any errors that come to light except through threat of litigation. Although its own representatives have admitted that it routinely misapplied payments on loans and improperly charged fees, they have refused to correct past errors. They stubbornly insist on limiting any change in their conduct prospectively, even as they seek to collect on loans in other cases for amounts owed in error.
. . .
Wells Fargo has taken advantage of borrowers who rely on it to accurately apply payments and calculate the amounts owed. But perhaps more disturbing is Wells Fargo’s refusal to voluntarily correct its errors. It prefers to rely on the ignorance of borrowers or their inability to fund a challenge to its demands, rather than voluntarily relinquish gains obtained through improper accounting methods. Wells Fargo’s conduct was a breach of its contractual obligations to its borrowers. More importantly, when exposed, it revealed its true corporate character by denying any obligation to correct its past transgressions and mounting a legal assault ensure it never had to. Society requires that those in business conduct themselves with honestly and fair dealing. Thus, there is a strong societal interest in deterring such future conduct through the imposition of punitive relief.
. . .
Wells Fargo’s actions were not only highly reprehensible, but its subsequent reaction on their exposure has been less than satisfactory. There is a strong societal interest in preventing such future conduct through a punitive award. . . . [T]he Court finds that a punitive damage award of $3,171,154.00 is warranted to deter Wells Fargo from similar conduct in the future.
In Re Jones, supra at *8-10, passim.
The Gasper Law Group may be able to assist you in determining, first, whether your mortgage company, lender or loan servicer has acted in a negligent, reprehensible or an egregious manner and, second, whether you have a viable lawsuit or legal claim. Bear in mind that pursuing litigation against large, multi-national financial institutions is not for the faint of heart. We often receive calls from folks who report that their bank or loan servicer misapplied a payment, initiated foreclosure proceedings or even winterized their home while on vacation despite having a consistent payment history. If an attorney tells you that they can “get you a free house” or claims that your case is a “slam dunk,” run! Our experience in pursuing claims on behalf of homeowners spans well before it was popular.
Countless hours, months and years of research have culminated into an experience and expertise few law firms or attorneys will ever be able to provide. While we are indeed sympathetic to those who are suffering as a result of egregious banking practices, we pride ourselves on providing candid, straightforward legal advice to allow you, the client, to make important decisions on how to proceed. The reality is that not all banks are bad; in fact, banks provide a valuable resource and are in business to make money, as are most businesses. However, The Gasper Law Group remains poised and ready to pursue litigation against those financial institutions whose egregious business activities have taken priority over reasonable business practices.
Don’t call us if you think you are entitled to a new house or are entitled to free use and possession of a home you are not making payment on. Do call us if you have been seriously and adversely affected by egregious banking practices and if you want an experienced team of litigators to pursue your rights and claims.
* Stephen A. Brunette is an attorney in the Civil Division of THE GASPER LAW GROUP, PLLC located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Contact him at (719) 227-7779 or a www.gasperlaw.com.