I like to think that about the time Sue Bunnell, Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel for Contracts and Technology at Wells Fargo in San Francisco got my email, a cold chill went down her spine. By the time she had called me the morning fog had broken and the sun was already approaching its zenith for the day. The email Bunnell received had been sent to a generic email address entitled email@example.com which is the email address for the Wells Fargo Third Party Risk Management mailbox. In less than 12 hours on that fateful Friday afternoon, that email had been kicked all the way up from the generic mailbox to the Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel for Contracts and Technology of Wells Fargo. That email triggered a shot heard around the world and damage control was in full swing by mid Friday afternoon, Pacific Standard Time.
Perhaps fresh on Counselor Bunnell’s mind as she dialed my number was the fact that the San Francisco Ethics Commission had just reinstated the $191,000 worth of fines against Supervisor Mark Farrell for violating campaign contribution laws specific to the Political Reform Act in five instances. Or perhaps Counselor Bunnell had nothing better to do that day, I really don’t know.
Bunnell is no wet behind the ears, Freshman Lawyers Guild, Counsel. Receiving a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law in 1994, Counselor Bunnell has been drafting writs for almost a quarter of a century. Climbing up through the trenches at Neff & Associates to AltaVista, Bunnell finally landed at Wells Fargo in January, 2001. Bunnell specializes in Business and Intellectual Property Law.
Bunnell is most suited to discuss matters pertaining to Wells Fargo’s adoption of Aspen Grove Solutions’ Mortgage Field Services Industry Background Check monopolization and Sherman Act violations. Bunnell recently spoke at the THIRD PARTY RELATIONSHIPS ROUNDTABLE: Best Practices for Sourcing, Contracting, Maintenance and Enforcement held at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel in New York City.
Fridays are generally not good days for me. Many people are eager for them, but I; however, am not. Friday means that I have 48 hours to kill before I am able to make official inquiries upon the plethora of investigations I have ongoing. When Bunnell called me it began as most lawyer calls do: Bunnell felt she had the high ground and was going to prosecute that to the fullest. It was probably the worst tactic to take as those of you whom have listened to my calls understand quite well. First, you never ask a question publicly unless you know the answer. Second, ensure you know your product and if you do not, prepare to fall upon your own sword.
This is the email which created the shot heard around the world and forced the Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel for Contracts and Technology of Wells Fargo to pick up the phone and call Foreclosurepedia on a Friday afternoon,
I work in the Mortgage Field Services Industry. That means I am a subcontractor whom cuts grass and removes debris from your foreclosed properties. I am told I need to obtain a Background Check and it MAY ONLY be obtained from Aspen Grove Solutions. This background check is well over $100 and I have to pay this every year. It appears that Aspen Grove Solutions uses First Advantage and they, in fact, are pending multiple Class Action suits for botching Background Checks.TLO, whom charges roughly one dollar including the NY State issues and comprehensive sex offender registry searches additionally owns one of several databases used and is in addition now owned by TransUnion. Obviously, First Advantage is third string pawning a marginal product at a highly elevated price.I went to your website to verify this and could not. I went to:
I was then informed, when I read Press Releases from Aspen Grove Solutions and Pruvan, that this requirement is because of mandated, “Compliance with these new background check regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)… [.]” Additionally, Aspen Grove Solutions names the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) as demanding Background Checks, “As a result, industry professionals coordinated their efforts and have developed a solution that will prove valuable to all stakeholders while supporting compliance with the various regulatory guidelines, including those established by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).”
Being a military veteran from the intelligence community, I know my way around the Beltway, so I called CFPB to inquire as to the legitimacy. CFPB claims there “…are no known regulatory requirements which CFPB issued mandating Mortgage Field Services Industry Background Checks.”
In fact, I read all 2319 pages of Dodd Frank over the past weekend as I was down with the flu.
In pertinent part, 12 CFR Part 1026 (Regulation Z) Subpart E §1026.36(f) et seq. but @ §1026.36(f)(3)(i)(A) and perhaps §1026.36(f)(3)(i)(B) through §1026.36(f)(3)(ii)(B) are the only areas wherein Background Checks (and Credit Checks which another of your subcontractors demanded and then submitted to Equifax listed as an Employee) are even discussed.In pertinent part, 12 CFR Part 1026 (Regulation Z) Subpart E §1026.36(f) et seq. but @ §1026.36(f)(3)(i)(A) and perhaps §1026.36(f)(3)(i)(B) through §1026.36(f)(3)(ii)(B) are the only areas wherein Background Checks (and Credit Checks which another of your subcontractors demanded and then submitted to Equifax listed as an Employee) are even discussed.
I respect your right to background check EEOC provisions aside. What I am uncomfortable with is that Wells Fargo is allowing ONLY ONE CHOICE of Background Check provider. Further, that Wells Fargo Prime Vendors; Third Party Service Providers (TPSP) including its only allowable Background Check provider Aspen Grove Solutions; and the National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) are fraudulently representing a legal requirement and mandate issued by both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
So, for the purposes of clarification, will you please tell me if the Background Check requirements Wells Fargo requires for those in the Mortgage Field Services Industry — those of us whom cut grass, change locks and remove debris — are mandated by both the CFPB and OCC?In closing, I believe that when you reflect upon the language of this letter you will realize I am not someone to give up easily. CFPB already advised on how to file the Complaint. Sterling Backcheck guestimates the Industry to have just north of 100,000 Contractors. That is a lot of paper pushing in an Election Cycle. If Wells Fargo states that this is their requirement, fine. What I am not going to do, though, is allow Wells Fargo TPSPs threaten and intimidate me and illegally invoke the US Government as the causation.Thank you.
Earlier in the week, Foreclosurepedia had the opportunity to speak with a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) operator whom, after placing me on hold three separate times, had come to the conclusion that there was no law, rule or regulation which CFPB had enacted ordaining that those within the Mortgage Field Services Industry were required to submit to a background check. We both concurred that firms in the Industry were welcome to require them; however, CFPB had nothing on the books requiring such.
The National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) knew this. The NAMFS Membership Committee knew this. Aspen Grove Solutions (AGS) knew this and Jim Taylor, the Wells Fargo pitch man, knew this. More on point, though, the original NAMFS Background Check Committee knew this and its Chairman has even stated that,
This was a rubber stamping of Wells Fargo’s Aspen Grove program. I really don’t even know why we met to begin with.
Bunnell’s voice was measured and calm when she launched her first salvo after clarifying whom she was and whom she represented in response to my question. Most people forget to ask what are seemingly trivial questions like that. Fact of the matter was that the years spent honing that calmness in a male orientated, corporate setting was about to come crashing down around her feet. Time and again, Bunnell continued to attempt to steer the conversation back to the fact that Wells Fargo had the right to conduct background checks. I continued to state I did not disagree; however, to only allow Aspen Grove Solutions to perform them and to additionally allow public statements to be emanating that CFPB and OCC demanded them within the Mortgage Field Services Industry both violated the Sherman Act and a half dozen federal laws pertaining to collecting monies in the name of a federal agency. The recordings will reflect this which I am sure Wells Fargo has been reviewing for days now.
When Bunnell realized that living in a county with only one stop light did not guarantee that I was either illiterate and/or ignorant, her confident and tough façade began to crumble. Specifically, at about the 20 minute point, Bunnell’s voice lost its original confidence and when addressing the salient and material facts, Counselor Bunnell began to both backtrack and be at a loss of words.
In fairness to Counselor Bunnell, she was a decent human being. Her tone of voice; the tone of voice is generally how I develop my psychological profile at a distance, was one which conveyed a sense of honest concern.
Bunnell and I discussed the merits of Aspen Grove Solutions and I walked her through the litany of problems with respect to the monopolization of background checks priced up to FIFTY TIMES the current market rate when compared to TLO. Counselor Bunnell reiterated, time and again, that Wells Fargo does not require Aspen Grove Solutions to be the only background check provider. And it was on this point that Bunnell made a historic statement wherein the term extortion was used in the context of Aspen Grove Solutions monopolization of the market.
Counselor Bunnell made other statements which Eric Miller and his Band of Merry Fraudsters ought to take notice of. Bunnell stated that Wells Fargo requires NO BACKGROUND CHECK unless a Contractor is entering the foreclosed property. Bunnell stated that the requirements delineated upon the Wells Fargo’s External Background Checks For Third Party Service Providers (TPSP) website area DO NOT APPLY TO THOSE IN THE MORTGAGE FIELD SERVICES INDUSTRY. Counselor Bunnell went even further in her discussion to state that Contractors in the field are not TPSPs to Wells Fargo. My interpretation of this rationale is that it would create a Doctrine of Privity between Wells Fargo and Contractors themselves and thus remove the shield of liability.
Bunnell stated that Wells Fargo would commission a Team — of lawyers I presume — to examine whether or not Wells Fargo’s Prime Vendors are demanding the sole use of Aspen Grove Solutions as the only background check provider. Bunnell further stated that the Team would be tasked to examine the Press Releases from the National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS), Aspen Grove Solutions, Pruvan, Mortgage Contracting Services (MCS), ServiceLink (formerly Lender Processing Services (LPS)) and other Wells Fargo Prime Vendors which state that CFPB and OCC have enacted laws, rules and/or regulations requiring background checks in the Mortgage Field Services Industry and that ONLY ASPEN GROVE SOLUTIONS be allowed to perform them with respect to those performing field services upon Wells Fargo’s foreclosed assets.
Counselor Bunnell appeared not to want the call to end. What I mean is that towards the one hour mark, I made several closing overtures which were not capitalized upon. Counselor Bunnell continued to reinforce the fact that the Team would potentially reach out to me; that there would be conference calls with both myself and Aspen Grove Solutions. Bunnell stated that this would be conducted by lawyers above her as she was not specifically familiar with the facts of the case and honestly seemed lost when I began to cite specific provisions of Dodd – Frank. This is not surprising as I actually consult to NAMFS Members pertaining to my interpretation of the two thousand plus page tome.
Had this been the end of the story, it would simply be the Smoking Gun upon which would buttress Foreclosurepedia’s original claims two years ago. Bunnell had stated that she would reply that afternoon to verify receipt of the originating email communications. That did not happen. In fact, Foreclosurepedia had to wait nearly a week before yet another group of Wells Fargo personnel entered the fray.
Tom Goyda, Vice President of Consumer Lending Communications for Wells Fargo appointed James E Hines, Wells Fargo’s Assistant Vice President of Consumer Lending Communications to handle Foreclosurepedia’s inquiries. Hines was quoted as saying the following pertaining to the firing of Wells Fargo personnel for dishonesty and financial crimes even if they were pled down or dismissed,
As an insured depository institution, Wells Fargo is bound by Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act that prohibits us from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust – regardless of when the incidents occurred. This includes convictions as well as situations where the person has agreed to enter into a pretrial diversion or similar program in connection with a prosecution for such an offense, even if the charges ultimately are dismissed. Wells Fargo has been performing thorough background checks on all its team members – regardless of when they were hired – which includes a fingerprint check with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As Foreclosurepedia discussed with both Goyda, Hines and Bunnell whom is the Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel for Contracts and Technology for Wells Fargo, Eric Miller’s continued refusal and the NAMFS Membership Committee’s ratification of allowing Joe Hummel, convicted of financial crimes, to remain on the NAMFS Membership and Finance Committees is a slap in the face to regulators at the CFPB and potentially yet another reason for the US Government to begin digging even deeper than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now upon NAMFS.
Even LinkedIn has articles dedicated to the Hummel – Integrated Solutions relationship questioning both the legitimacy and credibility of both parties.
Wells Fargo’s Tom Goyda, Vice President of Consumer Lending Communications, emailed Foreclosurepedia on 10 June 2015 and included the following highlighted by Wells Fargo,
Dear Mr. Williams:
The communication serves to acknowledge Wells Fargo has received your email dated June 4, 2015, a copy of which is included below. Wells Fargo is reviewing the information you presented.
Please direct all future communications to Jim Hines at [redacted].
Vice President, Consumer Lending Communications
Foreclosurepedia responded, in part, to Goyda and Hines by stating,
Thank you. Unless Counselor Bunnell was incorrect in her statements to me, I suppose all that remains is the waiting of several weeks to both be contacted by additional Wells Fargo Parties and I presume the ratification in written form that Counselor Bunnell was correct in her statements. I would have no reason to believe, though, that the Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel for Contracts and Technology would be. There was a very specific word used when referencing Aspen Grove Solutions which was “extortion.” This, amongst others, will be obvious when you play back the recordings. I am sure that as I believe the best defense is a good offense, so to Wells Fargo records its calls for training purposes. I do the same as it is prudent unless circumstances preclude such as potentially is the case as we go forward.
Tomorrow, Foreclosurepedia continues to drill down in its Wells Fargo and the Sherman Act Series by walking the American Public through the countless Internal Memos issued by MCS, ServiceLink (LPS) and other NAMFS Offender Members which used fear mongering techniques to create a monopolized setting ripe for Aspen Grove Solutions.