"Please remember when you come across a situation where we have a lost contract, deed, any type of document, really, but especially when It relates to securing a property, we are not to share that with the customer"
~ Regards, Wells Fargo, Your Friendly Neighborhood Banker
UNSEALED: Tran vs Wells Fargo Qui Tam - DOJ Declines to Intervene, Banks Continue to Foreclose with Impunity
First, last month, from The
A Damascus man claims he was terminated by Wells Fargo & Co. in 2014 after he discovered the bank was repeatedly collecting on mortgage loans for which it did not have the proper documentation. When Duke Tran, 54, complained about the practice, he claims he was told to lie to customers. When he resisted, the bank fired him in November 2014, Tran said. In a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed a week ago, Tran claims Wells also defrauded the U.S. government. He argues the bank illegally collected hundreds of millions of dollars in federal foreclosure-prevention funding for loans the bank knew lacked proper documentation.
And of course, Wells Fargo denies any wrongdoing...
Tran's wrenching transition from happy 10-year veteran at Wells Fargo to self-proclaimed whistleblower began in December 2013 when he fielded a call from a couple terrified they were going to get foreclosed out of their home. They were overdue on their second mortgage and Wells Fargo was demanding a balloon payment. Tran, who worked at the bank's Beaverton call center, checked and checked again. He claims he could find no trace of the couple's loan in the bank's computer system and he told the couple so.
So what happened when he alerted his superiors?
Tran says his bosses were not happy. Three months later, on April 21, 2014, Tran and the rest of his team received an email from a supervisor telling them that full disclosure was a bad idea. "Please remember when you come across a situation where we have a lost contract, deed, any type of document, really, but especially when It relates to securing a property, we are not to share that with the customer," reads the email, which Tran submitted into the court file.
Tran was troubled. The first-generation Vietnamese-American and volunteer in the US Army Reserve considered it illegal and unethical for the bank to threaten foreclosure when it didn't have the mortgage contract in question. "The company told me to lie about that," he said in an interview. "I don't think that's right, for the customers, for the company or the entire country."
Now, let's take a look at the unsealed complaint for more details ... SUMMARY OF CASE
Duke Tran was a humble, hardworking family man, who had overcome many obstacles to establish himself in the banking industry. Tran was honest and forthright. He had worked at Wells Fargo for over 10 years as a model employee in its home equity department.
In 2014, Tran began to ask questions after stumbling upon a secret Wells Fargo policy that he felt compromised his personal ethics and violated the laws governing mortgage servicing.
Wells Fargo's internal policy required its employees to unfairly deceive its customers, and the United States, as to the quality of Wells Fargo's loan documents, in violation of American common law, the Dodd-Frank Act, and Oregon's Unfair Trade Practices Act.
When Tran continued to express concerns about its secret policy, Wells Fargo began a campaign designed to discredit Tran and ultimately force him out of the company. Wells Fargo illegally retaliated against Tran throughout 2014 and wrongfully terminated his employment on November 12, 2014.
Now, having no other choice to make things right, Tran files this complaint to recover fair compensation for Wells Fargo's retaliation and wrongful termination. Tran also seeks to take back over $1.4 billion on behalf of the American taxpayers; paid by the United States on account of Wells Fargo's unfair deceptive mortgages practices.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS: Wrongful Termination
On or around March 10, 2013, Tran transferred to the position of Home Equity Customer Service Specialist 4 in the home equity department.
Most calls that Tran received involved customers who had received letters from Wells Fargo indicating their mortgage balloon payments were due within 90 days, and that if they did not pay, their accounts would be referred to collections for foreclosure. When Wells Fargo received calls from customers with balloon payments due, its policy was to offer its customers financial products to avoid foreclosure, including HAMP loan modifications.
In or around December of 2013, Tran received the first of what would be many similar phone calls. A husband and wife with an alleged balloon mortgage payment due called Wells Fargo and spoke with Tran. When Tran looked in the Clipper system for their loan contract he realized it was missing or nonexistent, and reported this to them.
Tran promptly reported the issue with the customers to his supervisor and others within Wells Fargo. The next day, Tran received multiple emails from Wells Fargo headquarters that the loan documents were missing and that the company did not have the customers' contract. Despite this, Wells Fargo directed Tran to deceive the customers and treat the loan like a balloon payment was due.
The next day, LeDonne met with Tran and berated Tran for telling the customers the truth about their loan documents. LeDonne told Tran that Tran's job was in jeopardy and that Tran had placed Wells Fargo at risk by providing this information to the customers. LeDonne went on to say that Janice Norris ("Norris") and Vice President Lending Manager, Debbie Clausen ("Clausen") had directed that Tran have no more contact with these customers.
From then on, Tran received many more calls from customers whose loan documents were missing or nonexistent. Tran began to notice many of the loans with missing documents had been acquired by Wells Fargo from First Union or Sun Trust Bank. As he was directed, whenever customers called in and Wells Fargo's loan documents were missing, Tran sent the matter to a supervisor.
On or around March 4, 2014, Tran received a call from a co-worker from Iowa. The coworker asked Tran about the customers Tran told that Wells Fargo had no loan documents for their loan. The customers had called for an update on their loan. Tran reported that he had referred the customers to his supervisors. Tran then asked his team lead, Heather Stone ("Stone"), about the issue. Stone told Tran that she planned to follow-up with the customers but it appeared they had hired an attorney.
Later that same day, Tran was called in to meet with his supervisor, LeDonne. When Iran walked into his office, LeDonne immediately blew up at him. LeDonne told Iran, "See, I told you before that we'll get sued and now they've hired an attorney!" LeDonne threatened Iran that he would be fired if he ever told another customer the truth about missing or nonexistent loan documents.
On or around April 21, 2014, Tran received an email about a Wells Fargo internal policy stating that when Wells Fargo has lost loan documents, especially those securing a home, employees are to not share this information with customers under any circumstance.
"Please remember when you come across a situation where we have a lost contract, deed, any type of document, really, but especially when It relates to securing a property, we are not to share that with the customer."
Tran was immediately uncomfortable with this secret internal policy and went to LeDonne to discuss it. Tran stressed that it was not right or legal to lie to customers. LeDonne cut Iran off and told him that the policy directive came from his boss, Kimberly Thrush ("Thrush"), and senior management.
A lot more goes on from here, see complaint for much more detail, before Mr Tran is fired for failing to say "hello."
On or around November 12, 2014, Tran had a second interview with another unit within Wells Fargo. The interview was for the same day and LeDonne again refused Tran's request for time off for the interview. Before Tran was able to resolve the issue again LeDonne called Tran in to discuss a customer call. LeDonne told Tran he was being investigated for "misbehavior" in that he did not say "hello" to a customer at the onset of the call. Tran asked to hear the phone call but LeDonne refused. LeDonne told Tran they would meet with the rest of the management team at the end of the day.
Later that day, Tran was called into a meeting with LeDonne, Thrush, and Norris. LeDonne told Tran that based on the misbehavior they discussed earlier, Wells Fargo was terminating his employment. LeDonne then stood up and told Tran he needed to escort him out of the building.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS: Defrauding the Government
Wells Fargo's policy of unfair deception negatively affected not only its employees and customers but also the American taxpayers. From 2009 until March 31, 2015, the United States paid out over $1.4 billion in HAMP incentives based on Wells Fargo loan modification applications. As of the date of this complaint, Wells Fargo has completed more than a million mortgage modifications through HAMP. Of the $1.4 billion paid based on Wells Fargo applications, only a relatively small fraction ($246,871,173.00) went to Wells Fargo's customers. The largest portions went directly to corporate investors ($825,776,921.00) and Wells Fargo ($359,151,497.00).
Many of Wells Fargo's HAMP modifications, including some of the loans Tran was involved with, were based on materially false representations made by Wells Fargo about the quality of its mortgage loan documents.
Wells Fargo fraudulently used the HAMP modification process to turn incomplete loan files into enforceable mortgages. Wells Fargo intentionally misled its customers and the United States by failing to disclose known material defects in its loan documents. Specifically, Wells Fargo's secret internal policy involved deceiving customers and the United States when Wells Fargo knew or suspected its loan files were missing documents.
Just another day in the Good Ol' USA. Full complaint and the DOJ's order declining to intervene below...