Wells Fargo mistakenly forecloses on the wrong house, destroys elderly couple's entire lifetime's worth of possessions

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288 Responses to “Wells Fargo mistakenly forecloses on the wrong house, destroys elderly couple's entire lifetime's worth of possessions”

  1. Taniwha says:

    so a bunch of people broke into their house and stole all their things – here we call that “robbery” and call the police – it’s not an “unfortunate mistake”

    • Grahamers2002 says:

      One of the elements of larceny (aka robbery) is that the person accused must have an intent to steal.  A person who takes property of another under the mistaken belief that the property belongs to him does not have the requisite intent to steal.
      And if you think about it, you wouldn’t want it any other way, unless you want to be convicted of a felony when you mistakenly pick up the wrong laptop/iPhone when leaving the coffee shop.  

      So stop with the histrionics and call it what it is:  A horrible mistake by a careless bank who will now owe the couple a large sum of money in damages for the tort they committed: negligence.

      • Mordicai says:

        What if I have a pattern of going into coffee shops & taking laptops without checking to see if it is mine?  & when I get home I reformat it, just in case?  & I do that over & over again.

      • Jim Saul says:

        The mens rea demonstrated by the pattern of conduct at issue is not mere negligence, but rather reckless indifference to potential harm, which is enough  for criminal culpability, not just a tort liability.

      • JWitt says:

        Umm….I disagree on a few levels.  First, with  all the regulations and red tape it takes to foreclose on a home now a days,  Wells Fargo obviously did NOT go through the proper channels and made a grave mistake, not bothering to double check, especially on a home that had NO mortgage to begin with.  This is unlawful emminent domain from a large financial entity that may have had their own agenda for getting the property….have you heard of the Illuminati??
        Second, when a home is to be PROPERLY foreclosed on,  adequate notice is given to either vacate the premises or the option to pay rent until move out.  Letters are sent from an ATTORNEY via certified mail representing the bank at least 6 months in advance are sent repeatedly to the homeowner and residence on the intent to foreclose and a sale date, if a date is assigned at that time.  ( I have unfortunately experienced a foreclosure.) Third, NO AMOUNT OF MONEY will replace their heirlooms and precious memories and to merely dismiss this families tragedy with such nonchalance tells me a lot about one’s character.  Good luck to you.

        • B E Pratt says:

           Your argument would have been far better off without the mentions of the ‘Illuminati’. Now you just sound like a kook.

          • Elladrion says:

             No no no, he’s on to something. This was clearly the intended plot of the High Grand-Mason. This elderly couple must have had some hard evidence that we didn’t actually land on the moon and with the death of Niel Armstrong, this was the only way to recover the evidence and make sure it stayed silent. So naturally they sent a team of highly trained Illuminati agents to clear out the proprty, under the pretense of a Wells Fargo “foreclosure” and had their highly placed members of the bank knowingly take the fall for the “mistake”

            It’s the only logical answer.

          • JWitt says:

            Good luck to you both. 

      • jeligula says:

        But  a felony was committed here.  I was in court one time when a guy was sentenced by the judge for destroying his girlfriend’s belongings.  He got three years for destruction of property.  The judge said that it is illegal to go around (sic) destroying private property. That is what happened here.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        One of the elements of larceny (aka robbery) is that the person accused must have an intent to steal.

        Sorry, but at some point (and we reached that point long ago), failure to exercise due diligence and depraved indifference override any considerations of intent.

        So stop with the histrionics

        I don’t take advice from people who are incapable of empathy.

        • dp says:

          “Sorry, but at some point (and we reached that point long ago), failure to exercise due diligence and depraved indifference override any considerations of intent.”
          Great, let’s throw out the rule of law because it seems to inconvenient to you.Let’s hope you never need those pesky civil liberties someday when the 5-0 comes a’knocking.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Let me put this in a way that you might be able to comprehend. If patients keep dying in a hospital because the hospital has failed to exercise appropriate standards of care and due diligence and has demonstrated indifference to the fate of their patients, you don’t have to prove that they intended to kill them in order to make a criminal prosecution.

          • wysinwyg says:

             *Whooooooosh*

  2. softyelectric says:

    If any individual had done this, they’d be in jail. Who from Wells Fargo is going to be charged? I won’t hold my breath. 

    • Boundegar says:

      The whole point of a corporation is this: you can sue the corporation, but not the employees.  Dodd-Frank put a tiny little crack in that wall, but it only applies to corporations that defraud investors.

      There is a solution, and it’s one Republicans have been trying for decades to eliminate: punitive damages.

      • MythicalMe says:

         One of the very reason why corporations shouldn’t be considered persons. You can throw a flesh and blood person in jail for crimes, but corporations can only be financially liable for criminal acts and there is no guarantee that the offense won’t be committed again.

        Many times corporations break an environmental law, pay a fine and consider it a cost of doing business. Wash, rinse, repeat. The people making the decisions to commit the crimes are never held responsible.

        • JG says:

           Perhaps the solution would be to increase the range of punishments a corporation can receive.

          How about the corporate equivalent of jail?  Freeze their assets for a given length of time, preventing them from “going to work” and “making a living.”

          • Hollow says:

             The constitution put something in there for that, it’s called Taking a Corporation’s Charter and denying them the ability to create a business!!  That would be their equivalent of Jail time right there. They can’t fulfill their charter to the best of their ability they need to be told no more charter!

          • Eric Rucker says:

            Flip it around.

            Jail all shareholders. Sentence the company to prison, then look at each shareholder’s percentage of shares held at the time of the crime, and give that percentage of the sentence in prison.

          • Maybe press the companies resources into public service for some time. A drug company would have to provide drugs at cost for a year, or a construction company would have to fix bridges for a year. And a license plate factory would have to…

          • doggo says:

            You’re onto something there, Hollow. Suspension of corporate charter for a period of time commensurate with the seriousness of the crime.

            We could use the equivalent to jail time for regular citizens, since corporations are considered “people”.

            Of course, unless you name the humans behind the charter, effectively prosecuting them, there’s nothing to stop them from chartering another corporation.

            Then again, maybe if the assets of the convicted charter are not allowed to be transferred, etc. IANAL.

      • Oli Warner says:

        What on earth are you talking about? Of course you can sue the individuals. But you have to prove it was their actions that contributed to the crime.

        Consider it akin to convicting a soldier of war crimes. You need to overcome the “I was just following orders” defense. As long as you can prove they went out of their way to commit a crime (like them picking the wrong house) you can press charges against them and then civilly sue them and then sue the company.

        But yeah, whatever happens these people are probably going to get at least ten times the face value of all their property in settlement with Wells Fargo. They’re going to get quite rich from this.

        • wrybread says:

          Out of curiosity, can you find some examples of individuals working for large corporations who have been personally sued (and lost) for the actions of their company?

          • MarkVent says:

            Some people are confusing criminal liability and civil liability in this thread. People can be and have been held responsible for actions committed for their company, e.g. Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff. Incorporation does not shield you from criminal charges.

          • wrybread says:

            MarkVent:Good point, but you have to admit its not exactly common. If this case somehow gets elevated to the level of shitstorm, then yeah maybe there will be some level of token prosecution, whether civil or criminal or both. But I think we both know that’s not very likely?

        • B E Pratt says:

           Boy howdy! You just won the “Naivety/Fool Of The Year’ award. Go and spend your two cents wisely.

          • JWitt says:

            Wow….let’s see…when someone posts something that doesn’t agree with your view and you publicly bash them, does it make you feel better?  I hope not….

        • chgoliz says:

          Seemed like they had a rich life indeed, until Wells Fargo took it all away.

        • wysinwyg says:

          Wells Fargo laundered money for Los Zetas.  As far as I can tell, no one was charged with criminal wrongdoing.

          But yeah, whatever happens these people are probably going to get at least ten times the face value of all their property in settlement with Wells Fargo. They’re going to get quite rich from this.

          I seriously, seriously, seriously doubt it.

      • MarkVent says:

        You’re confusing criminal liability with civil liability. You can’t sue someone into jail.

        • Boundegar says:

          I guess I just ignored the criminal side, because really, nobody will EVER face charges over something like this.  Civil suit is the only way people like this get justice.

          And when you think about it, “tort reform” sounds really good if you’re a bad actor, doesn’t it?

          • Michael D says:

            I think, if you want to hurt the corporation financially, a Civil suit would suffice.  The evidence of intent and malfeasance will not have to be as great.   With the current attitude that people have towards the mortgage and banking industry; I know that the bank would settle, and settle well, before they would ever want to go to a jury trial.  This won’t replace their memories and possessions, but it might teach the bank about due-diligence. 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I think, if you want to hurt the corporation financially, a Civil suit would suffice…I know that the bank would settle, and settle well, before they would ever want to go to a jury trial.

            The settlement will come out of increased customer fees, while the people responsible will continue to rake in multimillion dollar bonuses. When you sue a corporation, your settlement comes out of your own pocket and the pockets of people like you. That’s why we need criminal prosecution, so that those responsible for creating this situation go to prison.

            The applicable laws were written and paid for by the ultra-rich who run the industries so that they never face any financial or legal consequences.

        • Ean Moody says:

          No, but you can charge them with breaking and entering, and demand a criminal trial.

          You don’t get any money in a case like that, but the guilty party should be subject to the relevant laws regardless of who or what they are.

          • MarkVent says:

            You can demand a criminal trial all you want, but it’s at the DA’s discretion to prosecute.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            You can demand a criminal trial all you want, but it’s at the DA’s discretion to prosecute.

            And it’s at the voters’ discretion whether or not the DA is reelected.

    • chgoliz says:

      Corporations are people when it comes to rights, but not when it comes to responsibilities.

    • a corporation is an individual with more rights than you.

  3. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I’d say a hundred million dollar award and jail sentences for everyone involved, from the directors of Wells Fargo down to everyone involved in the robbery, would be a good start.

    • Lexicat says:

       And don’t forget seizing their assets and making their children wards of the state.

      I don’t know. . . what kind of social change would wide-spread killing of bankers have?

      • EH says:

        the kind of social change would be, “people have gone crazy.” that’s what suggesting people to be killed always means.

        • Lexicat says:

          That is an excellent point to a rhetorical question, which was appealing to our more base emotions. But since you bring up the craziness of suggesting people being killed, let’s consider this:

          How many people had premature strokes or heart attacks in the past 4 years because of semi-, quasi- and plainly not legal bank foreclosures?

          How many people driven into financial ruin by the robbers in charge of the financial system have not been able to afford needed health care, and suffered a foreshortening of their lives as a consequence?

          How many who have been children in recent years who have had their needs cut by predatory banks and financiers will carry across their lifetimes the impressions of childhood poor nutrition, unstable rearing, and inadequate health care as a consequence?

          Is it distasteful to suggest grabbing the torches and pitchforks and hunting bankers? Yeah, distasteful in a gratifying sort of way. But who says there are not real casualties in the class conflict?

          Non-rhetorical question: Is there a way to even that score without resorting to “people gone crazy” solutions?

          EDIT FOR CLARITY: In my mind “even that score” would ideally be through eliminating the harms attending our current political-economic system, rather than going on a vengeance spree. I wasn’t aiming at ‘an eye for an eye’ there.

          • Ian Wood says:

            Give up the Bronze Age mentality of reciprocal vengeance and utilize reason, to begin with.

          • wrybread says:

            @ Ian: other than vengeance, what would your “reason” guide you towards? Rehabilitation?

          • In the civilised world we tend to focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. ‘An eye for an eye’ is a little old-hat.

          • Gilbert Wham says:

             Yeah. Hunting down bankers.

          • ProfOfflogic says:

            How about an educational reality show? For a first offence, Banksters have all their assets seized and get sentenced to poverty-level incomes at minimum wage jobs for a minimum of two years. Edited down and interspersed with “Schoolhouse Rock” civics lessons. 

          • wygit says:

             @Ian: Could we get just a LITTLE more specific, please? Aside from knocking vengeance (which is best served cold), what would you suggest?

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            @twitter-16176027:disqus ,
            Thing is, it’s also been a “strategy” for just as long. The notion being that if the worst elites are allowed to escape serious punishment, that they’ll just continue to undermine or dial back any advancements, and reinstall themselves.  Like a bad virus….

            “You come at the king, you best not miss”

          • wrybread says:

            @  Nathan:

            Well if they’d wanted the comforts of the civilized world, they should have committed their crimes in Norway.

            In the meantime, string em up!

            And while we’re waiting, I await your explanation of how suing someone constitutes rehabilitation and not retribution…

          • doggo says:

            @NathanHornby:disqus Yeah… that whole rehabilitation thing… Not very effective. Seriously.

            On the other hand, we don’t want crime, vengeance, reprisal, reprisal, reprisal, ala Hatfields & McCoys or Sunni/Shia either.

        • LogrusZed says:

           meh, I’m crazy.

        • wysinwyg says:

          In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

          Source
          I’m with the eskimos.  Sometimes you just have to push someone off the ice.

      • Mike says:

         The kind we need.

      • HahTse says:

         Why hasn’t that happend already?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for peace and civilisation, but…in a country with a high prevalence of nutjobs (no offense), a high prevalence of military grade weapons & the training to use them and a high prevalence of people with nothing to loose…why hasn’t anybody started killing bankers yet?

    • dawdler says:

      it is really an interesting question.  it should be breaking and entering, destruction of property, etc., shouldn’t it?  is there a lawyer here who can shed some light on the legalities here?

      of course, what will happen is WFB will pay out a bunch of money (not nearly $100M I’m sure) and I’m sure no criminal charges will be filed.

      • Grahamers2002 says:

        Lawyer, here.  Basically, there is no criminal intent here so it is not a crime.  (See my response to 1st comment.)  Off the top of my head, and depending on the details, we appear to have the torts of negligence, trespass (to land and chattels), and conversion.  Also, depending on the jurisdiction, you may have statutory claims you can file.  Punitive damages may be available depending on the circumstances.  In the end, they will not get their memorabilia back, but they will get a metric-assload of cash to make their remaining days very comfortable.

        • dawdler says:

          thanks!

        • McMe says:

          As to not getting their memorabilia back, was it incinerated? If not is there a paper trail as to where their belongings ended up as “trash”. Have the perps do a supervised dig under the watchful eye of the  Tjosaas’s and let them decide what is truly trash now. Just a shame that there are no laws in your country, state etc that make the warehousing of personal belongings  in cases involving seizure of personal property. Or is there? 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            It goes to the dump. The truck pulls up onto a huge mountain of sand and garbage covered with bulldozers. They pull all the stuff out of the truck. Within a few minutes, a bulldozer plows it under. The truck pays a dump fee based on the weight difference between entering and leaving.

          • Ean Moody says:

            The laws are: You’re not supposed to take property that doesn’t belong to you. If the company had done due diligence in their foreclosure practices, they would have realized they didn’t own the house, and the issue would have been moot.

            If the person legitimately is in default on a mortgage, you’re entitled to reclaim the house at the minimal cost to yourself and charge the owner for the costs involved, but by law you must keep them to a reasonable minimum. (Otherwise the bank could hire their friends at $200/hour to empty out houses, and add it to the homeowners’ debt).  

            Likely they were also out of contact, since it looks like this is a home they inherited and use as a family getaway location, and they only found out about the foreclosure the next time they visited. I’d guess they mailed foreclosure notices to the empty house while the primary residents were at their normal home.

        • Sanjaya Kumar says:

          Suppose the homeowner happens to be at home and comes downstairs to see this guy trashing his house and so he shoots him. Then it turns out the guy who was shot did not have criminal intent. What happens next?

          • Daniel says:

            it depends on the particular us state this happens in. afaik, in some states that would be “okay” (legally). as grahamers said, it still is trespassing, even without criminal intent.

        • Chris Taran says:

          It sounds like it would be incredibly easy to get off theft charges if it’s a simple matter of intent.

          • Entrope says:

            How do you figure?  Unless the crew that broke into this couple’s house had constructive knowledge that it was the wrong house, they would have been acting on good faith that they were authorized to break into the house and secure it.  In most cases of theft, there is no plausible claim of good faith.

        • Daniel says:

          “metric-assload of cash” :-)  is that a legal term, mr lawyer?

        • donovan acree says:

          A quick google search is all you need to establish a pattern of misconduct here. This is far from the first home Wells has illegally seized. Past incidents include falsified affidavits. The court has warned Wells Fargo on more than one occasion that their activity is illegal.
          Considering the history here, establishing criminal intent shouldn’t be that difficult. After all, what else would you call it when you have been repeatedly warned about your business practices and As Judge Elizabeth Magner stated “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.”

    • As a small business owner the prospect of having personal legal liability for the actions of my employees would be enough to not bother running my own company. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run the kind of business where they’d have much opportunity to break the law, but if they did its their fault, and at a push the companies fault. I’m not sure why I should have to pay for their mistake unless I was in someway involved.

      The liability that’s passed onto my company is primarily financial anyway, but I do agree that where a crime is committed that would ordinarily involve prison time then individuals need t be held accountable. I’m no more a fan of the injustice involved in crimes committed by corporations than anyone else.

      • Lexicat says:

         While wishing you all manner of success in your business, I need to ask: perhaps you (and any other business person) shouldn’t be in business if you aren’t willing to be liable for the harms that may result from it?

        Put another way, perhaps the whole institution of corporate limited liability is a mechanic for socializing risk and harm while privatizing profit? Is limited liability worth (to society) the social harm which results from it?

        • I suppose my point was that no one would want to own a business if that were the case. Id just go work for someone else (assuming there were someone willing to risk their home, all finances and possessions to employ me in the first place).

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I suppose my point was that no one would want to own a business if that were the case.

            Then be a wage slave like everyone else, but don’t bellyache about how you deserve financial protection at other peoples’ expense.

          • Cleverly cherry picked quote there.

            Not everyone that owns a business is a bad guy you know – myself included. No need to be an asshole about it. Do you suffer because my company would take a financial hit instead of me losing my home? Given that the kind of work i do means that the biggest opportunity for financial loss is clients not paying their bills I’d love to hear why you think my liability is an issue.

            Get some perspective, not everyone is a banker – and you probably wouldn’t have an employer if their personal risk wasn’t mitigated to a reasonable extent.

            I’m not arguing for Wells Fargo here, I’m just saying that calling for a CEOs head because of what is likely a clerical mistake made by an employee is not only over the top, it’s fucking insane.

            When it’s an institutional problem, like with the financial collapse and the banks involved, then sure, but that’s an entirely different situation.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            It’s like copyright. It’s gone from a way to encourage innovation and new business for a way for the ultra-rich to avoid any responsibility for strip-mining the universe. It needs to be dramatically reined in.

          • Lexicat says:

             You suppose no one would want to own a business if they couldn’t socialize the risks while privatizing the harms? Bullshit. Businesses existed in many forms prior to the institutionalization of limited liability.

          • In a completely different world that was on a completely different scale, sure.

            We also used to shit in a hole in the ground. And people were castrated for being gay, what’s your point?

          • onepieceman says:

            This argument is just batshit crazy. If I employ 50 people (is that a bad thing?), then not only do I have a chance of making a personal mistake, but I have 50 other people who might make mistakes as well. If I employ 100 people (is that worse?), then presumably the chances of someone somewhere making a mistake double.
            If I’m going to be personally held to account for the mistakes of others, then all I am is a scapegoat.
            That’s not to say I don’t have a responsibility to put appropriate processes in place to avoid mistakes of a systemic nature, and clearly if I had ordered illegal activity, then fair enough, prosecute me. But is anyone seriously suggesting that Well Fargo deliberately sought to destroy the possessions of entirely innocent parties just so that they could land themselves with a huge civil liability?
            This type of argument is just so embarrassing that it completely undermines the legitimate complaints against bankers and serves to let them off the hook.

          • I’m not sure who you’re arguing with because I agree with everything you just said – was it intended for me? Was I countering that argument?

          • onepieceman says:

            I was trying to agree with you! Comment system got in the way.

          • Sorry – I often follow things I’ve replied to by email, so sometimes some context is missing anyway!

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            That’s not to say I don’t have a responsibility to put appropriate processes in place to avoid mistakes of a systemic nature, and clearly if I had ordered illegal activity, then fair enough, prosecute me.

            And that is exactly what’s happened. Could you please stop defending the bankers long enough to educate yourself about the history of systematic failure in the mortgage industry?

          • onepieceman says:

            If I was working as a PR consultant for the banking industry (which I’m not), one technique I would use would be to get the opposing side to make as many ridiculous arguments as possible, since then the proverbial man on the street would dismiss them as a bunch of cranks.
            By choosing to latch onto an obvious screw up as evidence of evil intent in the banking industry, you are doing the bankers a great favour. This doesn’t of course mean that there is no such evil intent, but it does mean you’re unlikely to be taken seriously even when you do find it. Adding poor arguments to good ones is not a good strategy.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            By choosing to latch onto an obvious screw up as evidence of evil intent in the banking industry, you are doing the bankers a great favour.

            By arguing that nobody should talk about what’s really going on here, you’re acting as an (unpaid) apologist.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @onepieceman:disqus 

            If I was working as a PR consultant for the banking industry (which I’m not), one technique I would use would be to get the opposing side to make as many ridiculous arguments as possible, since then the proverbial man on the street would dismiss them as a bunch of cranks.

            This type of argument is just so embarrassing that it completely undermines the legitimate interests and legal privileges of business owners.

            Edit: On employing 100 vs. employing 50…yes, just speaking empirically bigger businesses seem to engage in more unethical actions. So everything else being equal maybe employing 100 people at one company is worse than employing 50 people at one company. It would be funny if you pretended not to know what plausible deniability is.

        • SumAnon says:

          While I want to punish Wells Fargo,Nathan Hornby  is absolutely right – the owner cannot be responsible for everything their employees do. No one wouldwant to take the risk of hiring.

          Think of it this way; you own a coffee shop. You hire someone to be a barista (and let’s assume you’re paying them well, with benefits). Said barista has a nervous breakdown and puts poison in the coffee, which kills a customer. Are you now a murderer?

          Or something less extreme; it comes to light that your barista was editing your Point of Sales programs to steal from customers using credit cards. Are you now guilty of larceny?

      • Xof says:

        As a small business owner the prospect of having personal legal liability for the actions of my employees would be enough to not bother running my own company.

        Then I would encourage you to immediately exit business, because there are many situations in which you have precisely that.

        • Well of course there’s some liability involved, it’s not completely risk free.

          • Xof says:

            If your business is breaking into people’s houses and taking all their possessions because another company told you to, then, yes, you’d best price your services to account for a rather huge personal risk.

            In any event, I as a business owner am already personally liable for the actions of my employees in a whole raft of situations. If you think you are immune in your business, you are in for a very rude surprise.

          • I think we’re crossing wires here and I made it clear that I appreciate there’s risk. I’m no buffoon but equally some liability is removed from business owners, and without such removal of liability the cost of these services that you speak of would be unaffordable if they ended to account for a single point of personal liability. This isnt complex stuff.

            If you think you’re personally liable for all o your businesses decisions then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

          • Xof says:

            I would expect that if the owners and employees of a home-repossession service were held personally liable for their actions, they would take significant pains to confirm that their clients are giving them correct information and that the legal right to repossession exists.

            This strikes me as a significant improvement over the current situation.

          • Oh certainly. I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t be responsible for their own actions. I’m jut saying that people shouldn’t (on the most part) be liable for other peoples actions.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            If you run the company and you set the policies, they’re not other people’s actions. They’re your actions.

          • What?

            So if I have a policy that states that people in my office must recycle, but instead one of my employees murders someone, I should be accountable because I set policy and run the company?

            If I tell them to do the bad thing they did, then sure, but then they’re my actions as well as theirs. That’s kind of a given.

            Nuremberg, and all that.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Are you being deliberately obtuse?

            - There is widespread use of untrained personnel by banks to process foreclosures.
            - The untrained personnel are given such heavy workloads that they literally cannot do anything more than stamp the papers without reviewing them.
            - Challenges are systematically denied without review.
            - There have been multiple incidents of wrongful foreclosure.

            Who is at fault here? The untrained personnel who are told to make more bricks with less straw? Or the higher ups who have set up the system which is guaranteed to fail?

            Maybe you should stop identifying yourself with the CEO of Wells Fargo, because you seem awfully defensive about your brother fatcats, and frankly, they wouldn’t piss on your head if your hair were on fire.

          • I’m not defending anyone. All I stated was that blaming a CEO for the actions of their employees is a step too far. Unless of course their actions are a direct result of that CEOs decisions or actions – but then that’s nothing to do with being a CEO, that’s simply being a part of the problem. Hierarchy and titles are nothing to do with it. If the CEO of Wells Fargo is responsible for this situation then im all for calling him out, but to be honest I’d be surprised if they had any real impact on the actions of an employee that far removed. There are probably 10 managers between them making decisions all of their own.

            I don’t identify with Wells Fargo in the slightest, I’m pretty sure I’ve stated something to that effect already.

          • Lexicat says:

             “If you think you’re personally liable for all o your businesses decisions then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.”

            That depends if you are the one upstream or downstream from the factory’s hexavalent chromium-laden effluent, now doesn’t it?

        • Ean Moody says:

          I think what he’s getting at here is this: I own a restaurant. If one of my waiters decides to poison the soup without my knowledge or consent, why should the entire restaurant suffer? If on the other hand I told the chef to use this unlabeled shaker, and that it was salt, even though it was filled with rat poison? I’m at fault, and should be arrested. 

          The laws should involve determining who actually set the illegal policy or gave the illegal order, and punish that person for their actions.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        As a small business owner the prospect of having personal legal liability for the actions of my employees would be enough to not bother running my own company.

        Well, of course you would say that. It absolves you of financial responsibility. It’s probably in society’s interest to foster the growth of small businesses in that way. It is most definitely not in society’s interest to allow the ultra-rich to protect tens or hundreds of millions of dollars by absolving them of all responsibility. There should be a cap, and it should not be very high.

        • Would you take a CEO job if it meant you going to prison if an employee 10 steps down the ladder messed up?

          Would anyone?

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            If a CEO is running a company where employees ten steps down the ladder are systematically fucking up people’s lives because the company is hiring untrained workers to rubber stamp foreclosure documents without even looking at them, then that CEO needs to lose all his or her assets and do some hard time for running an illegal racket.

          • Well obviously. Do you think I’m against that principle? Is my point really that hard to grasp?

          • Lexicat says:

             Yes, anyone would. The current political economic order has not existed from time immemorial and in all places. Not only is another world possible, it’s has already happened, and is currently happening elsewhere.

          • Wreckrob8 says:

            Get a shorter ladder!

          • Heh – my ladder is pretty short, if someone burps in my company I know about it!

          • wysinwyg says:

            Would you take a CEO job if it meant you going to prison if an employee 10 steps down the ladder messed up?

            Would anyone?

            Why would this necessarily be a bad thing?

            Edit: Nathan, you were asking specifically if anyone would take a CEO job. Presumably you don’t think they would. I asked “is that necessarily a bad thing?” The “scapegoat” nonsense is all your own trip.

            The more important point you’re ignoring is that in a corporation the people at the top have a lot of leverage over the people at the bottom. People at the top have the following abilities:
            a) preventing people towards the bottom from seeing the consequences of actions undertaken on behalf of the company
            b) heavily incentivizing people towards the bottom to take actions even if they don’t necessarily agree with the morals of the people in question
            c) plausibly deny any knowledge of orders given to lower-level employees to take illegal actions even if those orders were actually made.

            I can accept that someone in your position is making a good-faith use of the limited liability provisions to protect yourself from wrongdoing on the part of your employees. But in large corporations, executives are in a position of being able to use that same protection to get lower-level employees to do illegal stuff without any real risk of legal culpability on their own part. Wells Fargo laundered money for Los Zetas; do you think there was actually an open policy inside the company of doing so? You think there are company emails from the CEO about the drug money initiative everyone’s working so hard on? Of course not.

          • People not being responsible for their own actions and instead following orders blindly from Mr Scapegoat?

            I’m no economist, but I see a few obvious flaws.

          • Incidentally I’m no conservative and there’s a lot I don’t like about this cold, shiny modern world we’re living in. But for better or worse certain processes and laws need to be in place to allows our greasy wheels to turn. For better or worse. I see limited liability as one of these things (as I’ve said, primarily from a financial, not legal perspective).

            Incidentally I still think that far too often companies are afforded more rights than they deserve, and in cases were crimes are committed businesses far too often get off lightly. I want it to be clear that this is something I agree with, I’m no corporate shill. I just think that people should be liable for their own actions – unless their actions are provoked by someone else, in which case both those people should be liable. To me that just makes sense – and I think responsibility for ones own actions is an understood concept around here, but whenever bankers are mentioned people start foaming at the mouth and shooting wildly – as if everyone that owns a company and relies on these protections is some evil millionaire fatcat spitting on homeless people.

      • wysinwyg says:

        We’re talking about business owners being held legally liable for:
        1) Illegal actions that subordinates were ordered to carry out (like when Wells Fargo laundered money for Los Zetas) or
        2)  Where negligence on the part of the business owner leads to employees engaging in what would be, in the absence of good faith, illegal actions (as in the current situation).
        What the hell are you talking about?

        • Are we? IMO there’s not much of a discussion to be had in that case, as I agree. But that’s not the discussion I thought we were having.

          Antinous’ comment was calling for the head of the CEO, but I didn’t see any information that led me to believe that this horrible situation was caused by a CEO. Am I missing something? Was there a problem with the process or was this just a fuckup? I just find it kind of hard to beleive that unless this company is run by some nasty busybodies (perfectly possible) then they’d probably be just as surprised by the foreclosure of a home that wasn’t owned by them as anyone else. Is the suggestion that this is an intentional business practice, instigated by the owner of the business? Pulling the strings of document signers who have their own managers, who have their own managers who have their own managers? If the CEO is responsible for someone signing off a foreclosure on the wrong home then that CEO needs to start delegating more. The only scenario I can imagine whereby the CEO is PERSONALLY (professionally is a different thing entirely) responsible for this situation is if he designed and instigated a process that allowed it to happen. But given the size of the company and my knowledge of the role of a business owner/leader he’d of had absolutely nothing to do with it – at best he’d of hired the guy/gal that did it.

          If I’m missing some info that everyone else is privy to then I apologise – is there a secret alternative to the story referenced in this article that pinpoints the cause of this situation, or is their prior knowledge I don’t know about? tl;dr: what the hell are YOU talking about? :)

          • wysinwyg says:

            See the edit to my comment above.  Maybe this one is a fuckup, but if you don’t think corporate executives use the legal privileges of incorporation to shield themselves from criminal liability then you are living in fucking Candy Land.

          • I’m sure they do, regularly, but lets not forget Hanlon’s razor. I WISH I lived in Fucking Candy Land. It sounds sticky, but nice.

            I’ll check out the edit when I can interact with BB some way other than by email :)

          • wysinwyg says:

             Well, pretty much all your comments are at the max, so you’re not seeing my responses to lots of stuff. 

            “I’m sure they do, regularly, but lets not forget Hanlon’s razor.”  Yes, they are counting on you not to forget Hanlon’s razor.  That’s the only way they’re able to get away with what they do.  You can keep on enabling them if you like, but if you keep getting cheated and keep assuming fair play I’m pretty sure that just makes you a sucker.

          • SumAnon says:

            People on Teh Interwebs can be pretty quick to put their own expected words into someone ease’s mouth. Typing vs face-to-face conversations and all. Mistakes/misunderstandings are bound to happen. Unfortunately, sometimes when you don’t actually conform to those expectations, people just ignore what you say and write what they hear in their head.

            I think your mistake started when you admitted to the shameful fact of being a business owner. When you said “I’m a small business owner,” they heard “I’m a Republican banker CEO who has taken all your money, treats my employees like crap, and wont be accountable for anything I do, muahahahahaha!”

            For what it’s worth, I understood what you were saying.

          • Thanks :) I’d be the complete opposite of that description, you’ll be glad to hear.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I didn’t see any information that led me to believe that this horrible situation was caused by a CEO…

            Then read the thread. I’ve explained it several times.

      • doggo says:

        As a small business owner you must be aware of various means to protect yourself from such outcomes. Number one being a good lawyer, number two, insurance, and things like surety bonds.

    • Peter Lawn says:

      Obviously not a robbery 
      You cannot steel recklessly 

      If you stupidly take something that you wrongly think you have the right to take you have not committed theft.

      For theft or robbery the prosecution must prove that you knew you didn’t have the right to take the thing. 

      Apologies if i have misunderstood and you knew this and were  employing hyperbole or making a joke.

  4. solstone says:

    The penalty for actions like this should be forfeiture of all the bank’s assets to the affected party to dispose of as they will. Then things like this would never happen.

    Edit: Or what Antinous said. That works for me too.

    • invictus says:

      So, do they still have banks out there in cuckooland?

      • wysinwyg says:

        Mutually assured destruction was considered not only sane but the only sane foreign policy for about four decades, right?  This is the same principle applied to law.  The idea isn’t to destroy banks any more than MAD was intended to destroy America.  It protects the banks by giving them plenty of incentive not to do anything terrible.

  5. Thing is, if they HAD been legitimately foreclosed, trashing their entire life would have been deemed perfectly acceptable. 

    Something sick and wrong with the mortgage system.

    • Kimmo says:

      Why isn’t housing viewed as a human right?

      Because if you have to ‘earn’ a roof over your head, paying a ridiculously inflated price with money created at a keystroke, then your balls are conveniently located in a vise, and then we have a zillion ways to ensure you’re no trouble.

    • Martijn says:

      Absolutely. Taking stuff to sell it in order to regain your losses would make sense. Simply destroying stuff for no reason should be prosecuted as a crime. If it has no value to you, let them keep it. Nothing should ever be destroyed as the result of a foreclosure.

  6. ComradeQuestions says:

    I wouldn’t terribly mind being accidentally foreclosed on.  I don’t have too many possessions to lose, and at the very least, you’re gonna own your house at the end of it all, right?

    • Bob Brinkman says:

       Of course, they already OWNED their home to begin with…

    • CH says:

      So… that old couple was just a bunch of whiners? They have their home still, right? Just with less stuff in it. Oh, and good thing that they could prove that it indeed was their house and didn’t have a mortage. But yeah, what a bunch of whiners.

      • ComradeQuestions says:

        Wow, did I at any point imply anything about them?  I was just joking about how it would actually be pretty okay for someone in my position.  Sheesh, lighten up, people.

        • CH says:

          Well… ok…

          Just give a heads up when they accidentally foreclose on you, and we can come check if it was as funny as you thought it would be.

    • adamrice says:

      No. They were emptying the house out preparatory to seizing it for auction, presumably. You don’t get to keep your house after it’s been “foreclosed.” You lose it.

  7. sam1148 says:

    If corporations are “People” then they should have to be subject to the same laws as ‘people’. 

  8. toadboy says:

    Surely someone at Wells signed documents putting all this into motion. That person probably feels that they can hide behind monolithic soviet-style bureaucracy at Wells. My solution would be to find out who signed the documents, made the poor decisions and caused all the hardship.  These people have great power to destroy our lives, but they are not horned boogeymen. They are people who have mailboxes and front doors, their children attend local schools. They can be found, and dealt with as individuals. But something needs to change. If the corporate drones begin to feel that they will be held responsible for their actions, perhaps they will take their jobs more seriously. We can always hope.

  9. kmoser says:

    This is like a real-life version of a fraudulent DMCA takedown notice. I wonder what would happen if the homeowners were to “mistakenly” file such a counter-claim on their local Wells Fargo branch. Would they get free reign to trash the place and take whatever is in the vault?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        I ♥ enforcement orders.

        My friend’s brother-in-law installed a pool in a woman’s home and she tried to stiff him for the cost, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. He sued and won and she wouldn’t pay up. So he got an enforcement order, went with the deputies to her house and told them that the only thing that he wanted was her dog. She paid up right then and there.

        • benenglish says:

          My sister asked for and got a provision in her divorce settlement that any property concealed from the court (not listed in the various inventories) by either of the two parties was automatically awarded to the non-possessing party.  This worked well for her; she had been honest in her filings with the court.  It didn’t go so well for her soon-to-be-ex who was so transparently trying to game the system that the judge actually greeted him one morning (the damn hearings took more than a week) with “Hello, Mr. I-Can’t-Remember-My-Own-Name.”

          As soon as the divorce was final and all the paperwork was filed, she took copies of everything to the sheriff of the county where he was living with his other wife (Did I mention he *really* was a scumbag?) and put together a little parade of deputies, her, mom, and some tow trucks.  They drove to the house, hooked up and hauled away 4 vehicles he had conveniently failed to mention to the court, and away they went.  That was the first time I’d seen her smile in months.

          Yeah, I like enforcement orders, too, when the poor peon at the bottom of the legal food chain is actually motivated enough to make it through the blizzard of paperwork required to actually take possession of property.  Unfortunately, just the long, tedious process is enough to make many people give up before they should.  I sure wish the process could be streamlined a bit for the little guys.

          • Cefeida says:

            The process and the costs. Companies have funds set aside for emergencies like that, they can afford to draw out the procedure, but regular people can’t. Especially since the ‘mistakes’ often put them in financial distress, and you can’t just put life on hold for whatever amount of time it takes to get the process finished…

        • Lemoutan says:

          You just told me how to get a whole swimming pool for the price of a dog.

  10. Ender Wiggin says:

    i hope they get millions in damages, but i have no doubt the person or people responsible will escape any personal liability civil or criminal.

  11. Mantissa128 says:

    Now we see the violence inherent in the system.

    I wish that were more funny.

  12. Kommkast says:

    Heh.. I hate to be that guy.. but we’ve kinda happen too, we tried to move and sell our house and the bank refused to let us sell it for any amount. So about a year and a half later we had to declare bankruptcy and just foreclose everything. I know it seems bad.. but this crap happens all the time in the US financial system. ..I forgot but I actually did lose some valuables in our own situation, they trashed the stuff we had left in our new house while we were in the middle of moving.

    • Kommkast says:

      Oh, one other thing, the last time I dealt with Wells Fargo, I had to get a lawyer involved to close my student loan when I dropped out and tried to pay it back. 

  13. Eark_the_Bunny says:

    THIS WAS NO BOATING, er HOUSING ACCIDENT!  This was sheer negligence committed by those sharks who called themselves bankers.  This happens time and time again.  We need some harsh penalties for such carelessness.

  14. IanM_66 says:

    Now that it’s clear the bank had no rights to the property, shouldn’t there be criminal charges for the damage done? If I went to someone else’s house, nailed boards to their windows and stole their property, I would go to jail. Shouldn’t arrests be made here?

    • dawdler says:

      i’m really interested in this question.  can a lawyer get on this thread and comment.  this should be breaking and entering, destruction of property, etc, right?  shouldn’t the DA be pressing criminal charges?

  15. ponzicar says:

    So they just trash everything? There’s no temporary storage, they don’t even try to sell off their belongings? Or do the people who do the foreclosures take the valuables for themselves?

    • wygit says:

      I was wondering that myself… Is it normal in a foreclosure to just take everything and immediately, what… burn it? Have a big “F*** You” bonfire?
      Where did the 3 generations of possessions actually go?

    • Leaping Lemur says:

       This is my question. I haven’t had much experience with foreclosure, except I bought my condo in a fire sale– the previous owners were pretty nice and the bank did not take their stuff. I’ve seen other units where the previous owners trashed EVERYTHING (carpets torn up, appliances gone, toilets smashed) so clearly they have some control over the things inside.

      The only legal thing I can think of is claiming tangible property to pay down the mortgage if it’s in the mortgage, or removing it from the property because the previous owners failed to clear out and you need to sell the property. Of course, I am not a property lawyer, so I dunno.

      But posts like this add another fear as a property owner. That some bank is gonna come in and destroy my stuff because they’re nimrods. D:

    • Xof says:

      In theory, they are supposed to neatly pack everything up, catalog it, and put it in storage for proper disposal as determined by the court.

      In real life, this means trashing it.

      • Wreckrob8 says:

        This is what I don’t understand.
        Is there no clear procedure for the costs of removal, cataloguing and storage to be retrieved?

  16. jim weed says:

    this happened because of obama.

  17. skyhawk1 says:

    Yet another reason for regulations. Split the commercial and investment banks up.

    • But don’t banks make all their money through investment?

      Serious question by the way.

    • Entrope says:

      Exactly how would that prevent this kind of thing from happening?  We have not heard Wells Fargo’s side of the story; whatever it is, it probably won’t save them from a boatload of (duly earned) liability, but it probably involves a wrong address being associated a legitimate foreclosure.  There are some common-sense ways to reduce that risk, but splitting commercial banking from investment banking does not seem like one of them.

  18. Flashman says:

    This is bad and all, but it seems to me that this was more like a cottage (holiday house) than a primary home.

    • Just_Ok says:

      “Alvin Tjosaas helped his father build the family home in Twentynine Palms, CA when he was a teenager, and the couple raised their own children there.”

    • Ipo says:

       Why did you make up a different story in your head? 

    • Cefeida says:

      And this makes a difference how?

      •  Further reading suggests that this was an unoccupied vacation home. So events would have turned out differently if the subcontractors had gone to the house and spoken with the owners and cleared up the mistake.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      My parents built our summer home themselves.  In fact, my mother’s water broke when she was putting the roof on.  The first one burned down after it was hit by lightning, so they rebuilt.  After they were divorced, my father eventually made it his primary home.

      I’m sorry, what were you saying?

    • Gilbert Wham says:

       Even if that were true (which it isn’t), why should anyone give a fuck? It was theirs, and it was destroyed by the bank’s agents on a false premise.

  19. ericmonse says:

    I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about following up and eradicating any error. If you have any complaints which you’d like to make, I’d be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms.

  20. Green Ghost says:

    Its so much easier to destroy the possessions. And it sends a message. Don’t mess with Wells Fargo. And especially don’t live next door to someone who messes with Wells Fargo!  I say these folks get to move into the Wells Fargo CEO’s house!

    • kjh says:

      So only banks can own stuff?  How would destroying someone’s stuff be legal in any sane legal system?  Even if they were late on their mortgage?

      • SedanChair says:

        Are we talking about our legal system or the banks’ legal system? 

        Because ours is pretty strict. Theirs is just an envelope with a rubber band and a Post-It that says “put this around your wrist and snap it once for every million lives you destroy. Or don’t snap it. You know what, never mind, don’t snap it, just don’t get mad and destroy the economy, please don’t.

  21. Wreckrob8 says:

    Are there no authorities with legal jurisdiction who are required to carry out evictions and repossessions according to prescribed regulations or do the banks just get a couple of dodgy mates from their local (pub) to do the job?

    In the UK bailiffs are responsible for evictions and are strictly regulated. They get paid by results so they will try to disregard the law at times (especially in gaining entry to a property). I have never heard of them destroying property. Personal possessions would need to be seized and sold at auction. Receipts would need to be issued, I believe.

    There would be an initial visit to assess the amount and value of the possessions and a second properly equipped visit to remove property for sale. The owner has time to contest the action. However, if the bank or building society (or landlord) is acting in error the eviction notice which needs to be served and which has to have a precise form to be enforceable should give the owner/(tenant) time to act before bailiffs are instructed to act.

    • Dave Lloyd says:

      Agreed. Our bailiffs are evil bastards to a man but there is at least some pretence at law. I’m finding it hard to believe that such a thing could happen in a civilised society at all let alone that those responsible will walk away with little more than a “sorrreee”.

      • Wreckrob8 says:

        Yeah, there seems to be no direct comparison between the process of foreclosure in the US and repossession in the UK. I cannot imagine a similar situation here. Bailiffs recover their fees from the debtor and through the sale of seized goods which acts as some restraint in their behaviour.
        A similar situation might arise here where they are acting on behalf of the state against travelling communities in cases of trespass or squatting. But until squatting was criminalised last week even squatters had more protection here.

      • jimkirk says:

        “Civilised” being the key word, here…

    • mcheshire says:

      This is the part of the story I find the most shocking. How can they swoop in,seemingly on a whim, and empty a house of all contents without so much as a letter of eviction? That’s fucking crazy. Maybe I’m missing something here. My mind is blown.

  22. stephenl123 says:

    It doesn’t seem to me that is legal to rob a house just because your boss told you to.  There are mitigating circumstances.  But they did rob the house.  And the guy who told them to and his boss could be charge under RICO

      • ProfOfflogic says:

        Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization laws. Designed to take out mob influence organizations. Allows triple damages. It’s a big stick.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        What’s Google?

          • wysinwyg says:

            Considering your record on easily googled questions I think Antinous’ question was fair.

            Edit: No, I’m just generally reading the comments. If you feel I’m being antagonistic towards you maybe reflect on whether that says something about your comments.

            I got your joke. It wasn’t funny. Apparently you didn’t get mine.

          • Are you just flying down this thread looking for things I’ve written? That’s kind of creepy – but feel free to click on my avatar and go through my other 1979 comments; I’ll try and get back to all of your concerns.

            The above was a stab at humour. RICO, you may have noticed, is very similar to the name, Rico. Therefore when the suggestion was made that someone be ‘charged under RiCO’, as an international reader I played the fool and asked, quizzically, ‘Who’s Rico?’. Of course I could have googled such a question, but I fear that it would have missed the point.

    • Boundegar says:

      Nope.  There’s no criminal intent.

  23. I was once questioned for jury duty on a similar case. The belongings are all destroyed because the movers are given all of an hour or two to move an entire household without any preparation or packing.

    Because the police or marshalls are acting in the course of their duty, they themselves can’t be sued or found at fault. Of course the bank, the movers, their insurance companies etc. will all try to blame each other–especially trying to pass the buck on to the police and/or marshalls’ dispatchers, and say they’re at fault.

  24. hw2084 says:

    Not that it makes it better for these folks, but this doesnt sound like a case of robosigning a foreclosure. When you foreclose and evict the residents, they should get a lot of notice over several weeks – a notice of default, notice of sale of the property, notice to quit, and then if the occupants have not left, the bank gets the sheriff to remove them from the property.

    In this case, it sounds like the owners never received notice that someone was coming to evict them and it seems like the sheriff didnt know beforehand about it either. Could be a clerical error on either the bank or movers part where they just wrote down the wrong address to move out. Probably would be smarter if the movers verified address with sheriff’s office.

  25. Bob Churchill says:

    When we say they “lost” their stuff, what actually happens to it? Did Wells Fargo just immediately burn it all? Is there some massive car boot sale? Maybe one thing to learn (as well as to check your paperwork a bit more carefully) would be not to commit to an irremediable solution; i.e. not to dispose of the property by whatever means until you’re pretty sure you haven’t burgled a random couple.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Most likely tossed into a truck and hauled to the dump.

    •  Seems that the subcontractors used by the bank are pretty unprofessional, they’ve basically wrecked the home .

      I’m curious about some things though: can they enter the home without consent – I’m assuming the homeowners were not at home at the time. Also, was there any prior warning given to the couple which might have clued them into the clerical error that lead to this cock-up?

  26. Just_Ok says:

    People, please!!! We MUST give Wells Fargo a break. All their righteous efforts were spent after going after that guy over a fake dime.

  27. Richard says:

    Hopefully in time more details about this story will come out. The property owners must have had a deed to the house and land but maybe they couldn’t come up with it. Many people (me included at times) are overwhelmed with paperwork and can’t sort out the important stuff from the fluff. The deed to a house is like a car title, it’s important and needs to be kept in a safe place, a copy of it kept around the house as well.

    We own our house, paid our mortgage off a while back. The deed to our house is in our bank safe deposit box. I have a copy here in the house. I assume that if a bank holding a mortgage on a nearby house thought our house was in default (made a mistake on the address) I’d have some time to present my deed before the house and it’s content were seized.

    If these homeowners couldn’t come up with the deed it would seem to me that they’d be able to go to the land office of their city/town and the town clerk would have the record of ownership of the land and house. Unless of course those records were wrong as well (possible in some towns).

    When we finished paying off our mortgage and our (local, small) bank that was holding it gave me the deed, I waited a month for the paperwork to flow and then went down to our town’s business office to see how our house was listed on their records. Their records showed that I had the deed and the bank had been paid off. So, if a mistake was made it wouldn’t just be my word against Wells Fargo or some other mortgage holder, I’d have my town to back me up, which they would. Unless of course, they didn’t have a record of who owned my house.

    There’s no excuse for this mistake on Wells Faro’s part and for their “collection agency” who, in the end will probably get the blame for this, but until the details of the story come out, we don’t know how the owner attempted to prove ownership and while that doesn’t take Wells Faro off the hook, it should be a wakeup call to anyone who owns a house.

    We need to take some personal responsibility of understanding what we’re signing and keeping track of the paperwork. If you own your house, find the deed, go to your town or city’s business office and make sure they have on record that you’re the rightful owner of your house and there is no outstanding mortgage or home equity loan on the books.

    If a collection agency mistakenly came to my house I’d immediately call 911 and show the police my copy of the deed and give them the name and phone number of our town clerk. My guess is that would be the end of it.

    • Bashtarle says:

      Not sure 911 would do much good, If the collection agents have a piece of paper from the bank that says they own the property at X address and have legal authorization to reclaim it. Unless by some miracle you had some decent officers show up on the scene they would have probably rubber stamped the repossession paperwork and told the rightful home owner to GTFO.

      Not sure if you have ever dealt with reposessors but they have a rather single tracked mind. To an extent you can’t blame them because they have probably heard every excuse in the book every time they go to repossess anything. What it boils down to is they have a piece of paper that tells them to take something you have and they’ll be damned if nearly anything the owner has to say will stop them, working largely under the assumption that anything the owner says is a lie or stall tactic. Even if they were presented with proof of outright ownership they would still probably have removed the couple by force and continued on with what they were sent there to do.

      Of course being able to get their proof of ownership in order assumes two things. That they had any prior knowledge of this and that they were home at the time it took place. When this is probably going to end up being some late game transcription error. EG all the mail that said “We are foreclosing on you on (insert date)” probably went to the correct address. Where as the actual agents sent by the bank did not.

      Bottom line is this is both an unfortunate and disgusting event that is far more common occurrence than one might think. Both the bank and the company who they probably subcontracted to to do the repossession should be held accountable. However I am doubtful anything save years of pass the buck legal shenanigans will come from that.

      • Gilbert Wham says:

         The solution is, sadly, ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’.

      • Richard says:

        In my case, your first statement is not quite correct: I have the only piece of paper that shows ownership of a house; the deed. The collection agents would need to show that I still carried a mortgage and was delinquent on it but then, if they had such a paper I couldn’t have the deed, the bank holding the mortgage would.

        Again, if one owns one’s house it’s useful to keep the paperwork around that can prove it, and, to know the folks in the town or city hall who can help prove it.

        But, you’re right, that won’t stop a mistake from happening if I’m not home, or if I’ve lost my deed and the town/city has disorganized records (many do).

        My point, which seems to be rubbing people the wrong way, is to take as much control as you can by having a copy of the deed in the house and talking with the town/city hall to make sure the records are right. That might not prevent them from seizing the house by mistake when you’re not home but at least you’ve done everything you can shy of pulling out guns to prevent the mistake from happening in the first place.

        • marilove says:

          Your comments are utterly irrelevant to this conversation.  “Paperwork” is not magic and you have not at all proven that these people having “paperwork” would have made anything better, let alone stopped the prepossessing from choosing the wrong damn house to destroy.

    • marilove says:

      It shouldn’t be up to the fucking home owners to prove that THEIR HOUSE THEY PAID FOR IS THEIRS.  Wells Fargo shouldn’t have been there at all.  Wells Fargo fucked up.

      If a collection agency mistakenly came to my house I’d immediately call 911 and show the police my copy of the deed and give them the name and phone number of our town clerk. My guess is that would be the end of it.

      And what if they weren’t home?  What if they aren’t as young and spry as you?  What if they were just confused?  Reposessors are INTIMIDATING and generally come with force.

      How did you come to the conclusion that the home owners were made aware that their home was going to be ramshackled? Why do you assume it wasn’t a surprise to them after the fact? I am not seeing how you came to this conclusion. Please point out exactly why you are making these stupid assumptions! Thanks!

      Think of this realistically, dude, and stop being so self-involved.

      I can’t believe you’re trying to find an angle to blame the victims here. There’s always at least one of you…

      • Richard says:

        I don’t think you read my comment and why do  you think my assumptions are stupid? I’m not blaming the victims, I hold Wells Fargo responsible but it’s also a homeowner’s responsibility to know who owns their home. Many people lose track of said paperwork and because of this are more easily pushed around. In my case I’ve made an attempt to keep track of both the paperwork and the process. Not everyone does this and while it’s not our responsibility to protect ourselves from any mistake Wells Fargo might make, it’s useful to know where the deed to one’s house is.

        At the very least, the City of Palm Desert or whatever the governing body is could have come to their defense.But, we (you and I) don’t know the circumstances. They might have been served notice earlier and mistook it for junk mail. They might have lost track of the deed to their house. This doesn’t excuse Wells Fargo but it does shed light on the fact that we as homeowners need to keep track of this stuff.

        Why you think I’m trying to blame the victims is beyond me. I’m trying to warn people who own homes to keep track of their paperwork.

        • marilove says:

          You keep talking about paperwork and deeds as if you KNOW this couple knew that their house was going to be mistakenly foreclosed on.

          They might have been served notice earlier and mistook it for junk mail. They might have lost track of the deed to their house. This doesn’t excuse Wells Fargo but it does shed light on the fact that we as homeowners need to keep track of this stuff.

          There you are, blaming the victim. Seriously? Again, please answer the question you evaded: How do you know they were given any kind of notice? Please point out to me how you came to this assumption. If you do not have evidence to support this claim, then it is an assumption. You know what assumptions make you, right?

          Why you think I’m trying to blame the victims is beyond me. I’m trying to warn people who own homes to keep track of their paperwork.

          WHAT paperwork?! How do you know keep track of their “paperwork” would have saved their house from being mistakenly foreclosed on? Again, how do you know they were even aware of the fact that Wells Fargo was going to choose the wrong house to destroy?

          You’re acting like “paperwork” has some sort of magic powers. Do you think if you repeat the word “paperwork” enough, you’ll suddenly have evidence to support your baseless claims or something?

          • Richard says:

            Take it easy, I don’t know any more than you about this case and I’m making a general comment about banks, mortgages, and the resulting flow of paperwork involved in having a mortgage and paying it off and getting the deed.

            Obviously this case was not about this stuff and as we’ve learned more we know what I’ve said would not have made a difference here. When I wrote my initial comment there was much less information on this posted and my incorrect assumption was that they were served while at home.

            I agree with you, Wells Fargo and the collection agency are at fault completely and having a deed would do no good in this case (as we now know). But, having a deed and proof of ownership might at least hold them off if the owner is home when they mistakenly come.

            I don’t know where you come off saying I’m making baseless claims, take it easy. I’m not attacking you, the homeowners, or anyone, just making a simple point that seems to have gotten under your skin. Peace.

          • SamSam says:

            Richard:

            I don’t know where you come off saying I’m making baseless claims, take it easy. I’m not attacking you, the homeowners, or anyone, just making a simple point that seems to have gotten under your skin.

            The problem is that you may not realize it, but you are using every argument that every victim blamer uses.

            “How do we know, the guy might have said something rude, or maybe he was on drugs, so maybe that’s why he got killed while buying skittles. What, I didn’t say he was, just maybe.”

            “We don’t know the extenuating circumstances. Maybe before the kid went into a diabetic shock, he had insulted the cop’s mother. I don’t think we should just assume this cop tasered a diabetic unconscious kid for no reason. No, I didn’t hear he insulted his mother, but he could have.”

            etc. etc.

            You listed a whole bunch of made-up extenuating circumstances (e.g. serving up notice that the couple mistook for junk mail) that had absolutely no basis in any evidence at all. Why do it? Why when people make up possibilities does it never go the other way? E.g. maybe there was a secret memo from Wells Fargo to all their employees to deliberately foreclose this couple’s house, with the hopes of getting a few extra thousand dollars?

        • Gilbert Wham says:

           Surely, the clue’s in the name. ‘Homeowner’, lessee, what could that concatenation of two words possibly stand for…

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          it’s also a homeowner’s responsibility to know who owns their home.

          Setting aside the absurdity of requiring homeowners to have the deed at hand, they weren’t at the home when this happened, so WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT.

          At the very least, the City of Palm Desert or whatever the governing body is could have come to their defense.

          Not even in the same county, and where did you get the idea that a municipality would have any responsibility for legally defending homeowners from banks?

          Why you think I’m trying to blame the victims is beyond me.

          Possibly because nothing that you’ve said has had any relevance to this case.

  28. Dave Lloyd says:

    This is really another of those “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to law enforcement. It seems the standard tactic (and hence fully approved of in law) is non-reversible: once foreclosed, the property cannot be un-foreclosed and chattels returned undamaged. Yet this is a civil matter which can proceed at a safe and leisurely pace: there is no life and death on the line so the kind of arguments used to defend cops killing suspects don’t figure here.

    I’m really finding it hard to comprehend that a civilised legal system allows this.

  29. Kaden Harris says:

    “In the civilised world we tend to focus on rehabilitation and not punishment.” 

    I do not think this ‘civilised world’ you speak of has received the memo you are quoting.

  30. Hanglyman says:

    If I were them, the only way I’d be satisfied is if new bank regulations and hard, effective laws were put in place to guarantee that I was the very last person this would mistakenly happen to, ever. At this point I think that’s even less likely to happen than the “kill the bankers” idea further up the thread.

  31. bobcorrigan says:

    It may not be enlightened, but a little lex talionis might be appropriate here.  Perhaps every time this happens, a bank executive’s home is “accidentally” foreclosed upon to similar effect.  Very sad, very regrettable.

  32. Brainspore says:

    That’s such a double standard. One time I accidentally withdrew thousands of dollars from a bank where I didn’t actually have an account and the judge wouldn’t even hear me out.

  33. SexBobOmb says:

    According to the link below, the story seems even worse.  Wells Fargo gave the wrong address twice.  After the first crew started clearing out the house, they realized their mistake and sent a second crew to the same address to make the same mistake again.  Apparently they wouldn’t even return calls until the media was reporting on it.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wells-fargo-mistakes-home-neighboring-foreclosed-home/story?id=17185239

    • Richard says:

      This makes me want to throw up. My entire defense against this (my comment above) would have done nothing here. That a clerical error can result in this kind of mistake is incredible.

  34. eldueno says:

    What ever compensation by Wells Fargo to this victimized couple should include a personal visit by Wells Fargo CEO  John Stumpt to apologize and explain what Wells Fargo has done to prevent this kind of  arrogant, fascist-like corporate behavior.

  35. A.G. says:

    What a surprise, it was the evil, greedy wells fargo, and their arrogant a-holes.
    I have had personal dealings outside of their banking business and have found them to be the biggest group of mindless, self indulgent, know-it-all morons, with big heads, mouths and attitude, swimming in their self importance.
    As for the foreclosure business….I am sure the same attitude prevails here as well.
    Just think, what it’s going to be like when wells fargo, b of a and chase are the only banks left…where is the government intervention to keep them from controlling banking…they already are a problem

  36. gellfex says:

    Half the commentators seem to miss the fact that there was no repossession process here on THAT house, it was a criminally sloppy address error, similar to cops busting down the door at the wrong house and shooting the innocent owner dead.   I’m in the “charge them all with burglary & theft” camp. There needs to be more caution in the system, going to jail if you F up would do that. But then, we’ve made clear to the banks in recent years that they’re totally above the law.

  37. Tribune says:

    I think the civil judgment should include a doubling every time Wells Fargo does it again to someone else. Say it is a 1 million dollar judgement. Next time a case like this comes up the people in this story get an extra million dollars, then 2,then 4 etc.

  38. Matthew says:

    If corporations are people, how do you fit them into jails for crimes?  How about whenever a “corporation” commits a crime, the CEO stands trial and can go to jail?  I bet they’d care a lot more about stuff like this.  I remember a recent “Tom the Dancing Bug” cartoon where a guy committed a crime, and then made himself a corporation to avoid jail.  It hits really close to home when compared to this story.

  39. Hollow says:

    Not just once but TWICE they were wrongly cleared out. What is wrong with these banks? Also their lawyer couldn’t get Wells Fargo to answer their calls, so the Owner called his brother who was Head of the Fire Department and he called in the Media.. THEN Wells Fargo decided we should send someone out to apologize.  As IF an apology can replace what this couple lost. I am now getting a copy of our Deed. /nod I don’t want this to happen to us.

  40. Reg Robson says:

    This is terrible, but at least they owned up to it and apologized. I seem to remember similar cases where banks needed to be bought to court before they recognized any wrong doing.

  41. Xof says:

    So, you are saying that there are some large men with a moving truck pounding down the door of an elderly couple’s house, and the solution for the problem is for them to immediately produce the deed to the house (which most people *do not have in their possession*) and present it to them?

    Really?

    • Geoduck says:

       Just to nitpick, they weren’t at the house when all this happened, and only learned about it because a neighbor called them.

  42. Xof says:

    So, I have a question about this.

    Suppose one find’s oneself in this situation: You’re at home, minding your own business, and the repo men with the truck are pounding down the door. You are 100% in the right here, and have received no notice whatsoever. They claim they are from your bank to repossess the house, but there is no mortgage on your property.

    Without indulging Road Warrior fantasies, what legal steps can I do to prevent them from coming in, evicting me, and trashing the house *at that moment*?

  43. Urbane_Gorilla says:

    This loss is what is known as “Conversion” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_%28law%29 ) which is a Civil Tort. Further, because Wells Fargo and the associated services they used were “extremely negligent” in their actions, that is to say, they all failed the test of commonly accepted professionalism, they will suffer serious penalties. I would pay good money to sit on this jury and watch them squirm. Wells Fargo and our Banksters have run roughshod over people’s rights. This loss is unforgivable. If WF is willing to fire an employee who at age 19 used a cardboard coin at a laundromat 30+ years ago, the responsible parties and their management should be standing in an unemployment line for criminal negligence.

  44. Diane Muir says:

    A Wells Fargo ad just popped up on my Kindle Touch … about the importance of conversations.  A beautifully written, impassioned piece of prose encouraging people to trust Wells Fargo, because

    “We ask questions. We listen to your answers. We help you take the right steps to move ahead with confidence. So when the conversation turns to your financial goals, turn to us.”

    It seems this is a horrendous piece of irony today.

  45. I’ve  never had a problem with wells fargo. But this is a pretty good reason for me to switch to a new bank. Banks are built on trust, and here’s the abject lack of trust… rolling down the street.

  46. This article brought to you via Reddit! Damn, I appreciate both Boing Boing and Reddit (More so Boing Boing) but its a shame when anything is brought to us via Reddit. I like my news stories from more straight forward sources. Taking something from Reddit is like playing the telephone game.

    • SamSam says:

      But… the original article is still linked… And presumably Cory read the article before posting the blurb…

      I don’t see any problem with a blogger admitting that they discovered a story only because another blog/whatever wrote about it first. To do otherwise is dishonest. Sure, all the big guys pretend otherwise — NYT writes an article, it appears on the web, and CNN has it on the web 30 minutes later with no mention that they saw it on NYT — but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

  47. petr says:

    I think there are cases where members of the board of directors have been jailed for pollution. Certainly there are cases where board members can be personally sued for liability. I know of printing industry board that had a meeting at some golf club where alcohol was served someone got in a nasty accident on the way home. The group didn’t have event insurance and ultimately all the members of the board were sued and had to pay something like $30m each.

  48. realityhater says:

    “Mistakenly Secured ” is that what happened , as if the home was not secure until Wells Fargo got there and robbed them. 
     - Really Wells Fargo ?  

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