Well, that’s a fairly inflammatory headline, wouldn’t you say? I certainly meant it to inflame, or perhaps even enrage… because I believe it to be the truth. So, how about we make a deal: I’ll give you the facts of the case and let you decide from there. If you agree with my assessment, then you send this article to everyone you know on the planet and let’s see if we can’t stop this horrific injustice from taking place.
Do we have a deal? I sure hope we do.
This is the story of Dina and Robert Giangregorio of Huntington Beach, California. That’s them, just above. They have three beautiful children who they’ve raised in their home for the last 17 years. Robert has “Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, one of the worst types of MS one can have. Today, only one arm works, he is in a wheelchair… has a colostomy bag.
They pay someone to come and shower him several times a week. Dina says that it wouldn’t be safe for her and the kids try to lift him, which to me is the least of all reasons to have someone come in to help him shower.
They had to have the home “handicapped,” which thank God they were finally able to do with some financial assistance from the MS Society. Last year they transformed a small bathroom into a roll-in shower, for example. It has not been an easy path they’ve been on, and there but for the grace of God go us all.
Their 17 year-old son just graduated from high school, their 15 year-old son will be a junior next year, and then there’s their 10 year-old daughter.
Last year, Robert had to have some medical procedures that didn’t go all that smoothly. He ended up having a pump inserted into his stomach… it’s about the size of a hockey puck… and it releases medicine. It was a difficult time, Dina had to provide almost full-time care for a few months there, and couldn’t get to work much; she owns her own successful photography business, by the way.
Robert was a General Manager for Clark Drugs/Savon. He had worked his way up and would have soon been some type of regional manager, had he not been afflicted with MS.
They didn’t own their home at first… they rented it for six years as they saved up a down payment, but even still, they had to use money from his 401(k) plan to get it done. They were high school sweethearts who married and wanted more than anything to own the home in which they would raise their family. Pretty responsible sorts, if you ask me.
Robert had checked the box at work for disability coverage when he went to work for his employer… and thank God once again… for that. Social Security approved him as being disabled, but it was still a big fight with Prudential to get his disability checks going. Apparently, Prudential thought Robert could keep working in his condition, I mean… why not?
They finally did approve him, of course… Dina’s back to work too, so that’s all behind them now.
Last year, with Dina providing full-time care for Robert, along with being a super-mom, they fell a couple of months behind on their mortgage payments. But, in month three… when they tried to start catching up by making a single payment, Ocwen said they had to pay all three… one payment would not be accepted.
The couple told Ocwen of their tragic situation and Ocwen told them they should apply for a loan modification… and so they did… roughly a year ago… maybe a little more than a year ago.
After applying for the Obama plan, or HAMP, they were told they did not qualify… they apparently made too much money. But, Ocwen said… no to worry… they’d try again… only to get the same result the second time. Then it was try applying for an in-house modification, which they did, only to be turned down once again… and this time because they didn’t make enough money.
And the loan modification fun was just getting started.
Ocwen was maintaining that they should not worry, as their file was always in review or underwriting… or perhaps it was in review or in underwriting. And then there were times when it was in review or in underwriting. Ocwen’s representatives continually assured them that everything looked good and that they were not going to sell their home out from under them. Relax, Ocwen essentially said… have a little false hope.
Then last January 30th the Giangregorios received a 3-page letter from Ocwen via regular mail. It said that they had been approved for a “streamlined modification,” that would have lowered their monthly payment by about $400, but tacked on a fairly large balloon payment in 17 years. Not a great thing, they thought, but it would save their home so why not?
Here’s what it said on the 3-page letter the Giangregorios received from Ocwen last January 30th:
“You have been selected to receive a special streamlined loan modification. ACT NOW! Because this I If this great offer does not meet your financial situation, call us at number, there are other options that are part of this initiative program, but the key is to ACT NOW, because all of the options are tied to this initiative program and it ends on January 31, 2011.”
The couple did have a few questions, however, and since the letter said the offer would expire THE NEXT DAY, they didn’t have much time to ask them.
They called Ocwen and the first person they spoke with had no idea what they were talking about, but that’s to be expected because that person was in India, so it’s easy to see how they might have missed it. The next person they spoke with at Ocwen did know of the offer, but couldn’t answer any questions… they were given another number to call… Ocwen’s research department, and that department did their best to answer the questions they had.
Just to make sure they weren’t about to do anything incredibly stupid, they decided to check with a local financial planner they knew, and all told, they decided to accept Ocwen’s offer. They went to get the certified funds that accepting the offer required… $2,078.66… and the next morning they called Ocwen to tell them the good news and arrange to transfer the funds.
Ocwen, however, had some less than good news for the Giangregorios… turns out, the offer had already expired. Too late… you just missed it. A few hours difference and you might have saved your home from foreclosure. Darn the luck, you missed the deadline. Too bad. That’ll teach you to have questions. You should have signed without questions… but no… now you’re nothing but an irresponsible borrower once again.
See, isn’t this getting more and more fun? I told you it would. Well, just wait… because the real fun is yet to come.
Once again, Ocwen said the couple shouldn’t worry, there was no foreclosure and no sale date scheduled, and they would be reconsidered for a modification. But soon they started receiving scarier and scarier letters now from a company by the name of Western Progressive about the threat of foreclosure and the sale of their home. Each time another letter would arrive in the mail, Dina Giangregorio would call Ocwen and each time she was told not to worry they were still under review for their modification and that the servicer would not foreclose as long as they were being considered for a loan modification… so, there was nothing to worry about. Then they’d ask her to re-send some paperwork or documentation she had already sent in multiple times.
On May 19th they received a notice from Western Progressive saying that their home would be sold on June 6, 2011. Dina called Ocwen immediately and spoke with Ocwen’s representative, Amrit Oswal. She told Amrit that she had contacted Western Progressive and they had told her that to them it appeared to be a “seamless foreclosure,” and that their home would be sold on June 6th at noon, just as the notice had shown. But Amrit told Dina that this was not the case.
According to Amrit there was NO SALE DATE scheduled, and he told Dina to have Western Progressive contact Ocwen.
She called Western Progressive to ask that they contact Amril Oswal at Ocwen, and was told that they would update Ocwen’s system. When she called Ocwen back roughly 30 minutes later, although Amrit was not available to take her call at that time, she was told that in fact there was a sale date scheduled… June 6, 2011 at noon.
Dina was now understandably upset. She had made countless calls to Ocwen throughout the past year and was repeatedly told that everything was fine and that she was under consideration for a modification. Now, all of a sudden, with absolutely no explanation, her home was to be sold at a trustee sale. Again she explained why they had fallen behind in the first place, that things had stabilized since then, that Ocwen had not allowed them to try to make up the payments they had missed, but rather had advised them to apply for a loan modification.
OCWEN made appointment with her and her husband for the coming Friday evening at 7:00 PM. It was very important, they told her, that she be available for a call at that time because an OCWEN “loan specialist” would be calling to discuss options and review their paperwork. They said it was very important that she have all of her paperwork ready for that call.
At 7:00 PM, Dina and Robert Giangregorio were sitting with their paperwork at the ready… staring at their telephone. No call ever came. At 7:30 PM Dina tried calling Ocwen… they were closed, but on a positive note, she was invited by Ocwen’s recorded voice to call back during normal business hours.
Early Saturday morning the Giangregorio’s phone rang. It was OCWEN calling to inform them that their loan was past due. The caller knew nothing of their situation. Dina thanked them for calling and hung up the phone.
She glanced down at one of the letters she had received from Ocwen over the last several months. On the letter was printed the following phrase:
Helping Homeowners is What We Do.
Ocwen Loan Servicing
Dina called me to tell me her story this past week, and I’ve done my best to re-tell it to you in detail. However, you should also know that in the interest relative brevity, I’ve left out countless phone calls and the re-submitting of documents, but rather focused only on the lowlights of the couple’s experiences dealing with Ocwen Loan Servicing.
Now, I’ve heard stories like Dina’s… oh, I don’t know anymore… maybe a few thousand times, and not just about Ocwen, but also about EVERY SINGLE OTHER MORTGAGE SERVICER IN THE COUNTRY. How often do I hear a story like Dina’s, you might wonder. Not more than EVERY SINGLE DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK AND 365 DAYS A YEAR.
There are a couple of key facts about Dina’s story that I think bear repeating for additional emphasis.
- The couple fell behind for a reason that defines the word “hardship.” Being afflicted with MS can happen to anyone of us at any time. That this family has remained together and positive about their future is a testament to their love for each other.
- They weren’t even asking for a modification, they were only trying to make up a couple of back payments when this saga began, but Ocwen wouldn’t take fewer than the three payments they owed at that time. All they needed was a second chance to get current now that their lives had stabilized, Robert’s disability income was coming in and Dina was back at her job. It was Ocwen that suggested that they apply for a loan modification.
- If Ocwen had been honest with Dina from the day they had refused her one payment and told her they would move to foreclose, then per California law, the Giangregorio’s would have had 90 days from the date they received their Notice of Default, plus a couple of weeks after that, to make up the back payments and save their home. And I’d bet money they would have done it.
- Instead Ocwen behaved just like a servicer. They deceived her into believing that they would modify her loan because of the hardship her family had endured, and then proceeded to torture her for over a year with empty promises and false hope… right up until May 19th, when they finally verified that her home was to be sold on June 6th. And even then, they told her to prepare for a phone call from one of Ocwen’s “loan specialists” that never came.
- Ocwen could have lowered the couple’s interest rate from 6% to 5%, offered them a repayment plan for the handful of back payments and everything would have been fine. At the very least, Ocwen could have offered them a simple repayment plan for the back payments… that could have worked too.
Of course, there is one more thing of which the reader should be aware: The Giangregorios have equity in home; they are not “underwater.” The amount of equity is less than $100,000… but still… there’s equity. All other factors support a loan modification or repayment plan except that one: equity.
I don’t know what to say to them now, except that I guess they should have borrowed more… then they might have saved their home? I guess I should tell them that they were too responsible to save.
I called a very experienced attorney who helps homeowners get loan modifications and that I know quite well to see if she could make a call to Ocwen and she said she would try. She also said the following:
“Well, Martin… this is awful, but it’s also no surprise, it’s nothing new. They all do this. They want to foreclose. And how is it that they all have the same dysfunctions. They always blame the borrower. It’s the same crap over and over again. I just don’t understand how they can keep getting away with it. This is awful, just awful.”
She did try but got no return calls, so keeping in mind that the Giangregorio’s home was scheduled to be sold on Monday… which is tomorrow by the way… I personally tried reaching Ocwen at every phone number and via every email address I could find on their site and elsewhere. I left voice messages with the Ocwen Ombudsman and sent the Ombudsmen emails numerous times… nothing… not a single call or email in reply. I tried the same with Ocwen’s senior management… nothing… nary a peep in response.
Had the Giangregorios won the lottery on Thursday or Friday… just days before their home was to be sold at the Trustee Sale, they couldn’t have reached Ocwen to pay off the home… and the sale would proceed. Fannie Mae would walk into the sale, sign a credit bid and their home would go into the vast inventory of homes that sit vacant for no reason on the books of the failed, corrupt mortgage behemoth, now funded by the taxpayers of this country.
All while our government says they want loans to be modified… that they want foreclosures to be prevented if possible… that they want to help the “responsible homeowners.” As long as they don’t have equity, that is. And the really good news is that Ocwen just bought up Litton Loan Servicing and Home EQ servicing, so they obviously feel they are profitable enough to expand their operations.
And that’s just what this crisis situation needs, don’t you think… more like Ocwen?
I’ve paid a few bucks in taxes in my lifetime… and I don’t want to see the Giangregorios lose their home. Does anyone anywhere? I mean, besides the severely autistic chimpanzees that are running Ocwen.
On Ocwen’s website it says that they are a founding sponsor of the NeighborWorks® America- Ad Council campaign for foreclosure prevention. What the hell does that mean?
Ocwen’s Website also has a page titled: Ocwen’s 15 Point Loan Servicing Customer Commitment Plan, where it says such things as, “We promise you our total commitment to provide the highest quality in customer service.” And point #3 of fifteen says the following:
“If your loan becomes delinquent, Ocwen will assist you in a professional and consultative manner to work out a fair and reasonable resolution, such as a repayment plan, to avoid a foreclosure.”
A Message for Ocwen’s Senior Management Team…
As my regular readers would no doubt attest, I’ve been quite restrained in my writing of this expose about Ocwen. Frankly, I have meetings in the morning, and I didn’t want to get myself any more upset than this story has already made me.
Also, call me naïve, but I have to believe that this is all some sort of gigantic oversight, and you’re going to learn of it… correct it immediately… and the Giangregorios are going to live in their home… happily ever after, as the saying goes.
And if you want to know just what I mean by that, I would only suggest that you Google me. Don’t worry, I’ll be real easy to find. In fact, I’ll come up right at the top of your Google search… just like when I write about you.
Want to send Mr. Erbey a note to share your thoughts on the Giangregorio’s situation…
Well, by all means… be my guest:
Ocwen Financial Corporation
William C. Erbey, Executive Chairman
Phone: (561) 682-8520
Email: [email protected]