EDMOND — Dear Wells Fargo: Thanks for nothing.
My attempt to refinance the house online and by phone was a bust.
No hard feelings, Geoff M. in San Francisco.
Nothing personal, I know, John C. in Des Moines, Iowa.
Y'all are probably good guys, decent people — just tangled up, like so many of us are, in the dark principalities and powers of our time.
I knew that trying to refi was a roll of the dice. But Wells Fargo, your marketing people made it sound so easy to refi, and so likely that I'd qualify.
Month after month, for more than a year, I dutifully called in to make my house payment, and a nice-sounding person on a recording would say something like: “Hey, friend! Our records show that you might be a candidate to refinance!”
So, I took the plunge — almost by accident, you made it so easy. Before long, y'all had my credit score, which was within two points of what Geoff told me was the no-way cut-off point. But the score was on the doable side of the line.
And y'all decided you'd rather not do.
Your Notice of Action Taken and Statement of Reasons said: “We have carefully considered your credit application and sincerely regret that we are unable to approve your application at this time for the reason(s) listed below.”
OK. And the box next to this was checked (by hand, in blue ink, a nice touch): “Excessive obligations in relation to income.”
Oh, do tell! My less-than-stellar credit score might have suggested that. On the other hand, it also suggests that I'm making it all work, despite some financial setbacks that put my credit score so close to the no-way cut-off point in the first place.
If you did the math, you saw that making the loan would enable me to pay off the second mortgage, as I'd planned, eliminating a big chunk of monthly debt. And you saw that refinancing from a mortgage at 6.5 percent to a new one at 3.5 percent — the one you teased me with — would reduce my monthly obligations even more.
In other words: My situation, while not ideal, was not that bad, considering; and refinancing would have improved my situation as a borrower, therefore improving your situation as a lender.
But you decided: Naaah.
Back in 2000, when Wells Fargo acquired Norwest Mortgage (which granted the original loan in 1999), I wrote:
“See, I feel like I know Wells Fargo. I don't, of course. The conglomerate barely resembles the company Henry Wells and William Fargo founded in 1852 in San Francisco. Their aim was to provide banking and express service to Western pioneers. ‘Wells Fargo' — the name sings: grit, determination, integrity.”
Well, two out of three ain't bad. Grit and determination have left y'all smelling sweeter than lots of others in the wake of the global financial crisis. But not that sweet, because of forces that appear dark or light to us depending on where we are in the lending lowerarchy.
Wells Fargo, you just agreed to pay $766 million and set aside $1.2 billion to actually finally help struggling homeowners, to settle charges of wrongly foreclosing on people. And you just reported record earnings for the fourth quarter of last year.
Now, I know you didn't get where you are by being overly concerned about individual borrowers, your marketing people's sweet wooing notwithstanding — otherwise, you wouldn't have been foreclosing on people who didn't warrant it. And you wouldn't now be forced to do the right thing and help borrowers who are in trouble.
Everybody knows it's all about numbers. My mortgage is not in trouble, and while it would have been good and right, you weren't forced to work with me. So you didn't. I'm just one of the numbers.
Nothing personal, I know. It's business. Not personal. Business. Not personal.
Principalities and powers of credit and underwriting on your end. All flesh and blood on mine.