Martin Andelman, ML-Implode

“JPMorgan CHASE is in the foreclosure business, not the modification business’.”  That, according to Jerad Bausch, who until quite recently was an employee of CHASE’s mortgage servicing division working in the foreclosure department in Rancho Bernardo, California.

I was recently introduced to Jerad and he agreed to an interview.  (Christmas came early this year.)  His answers to my questions provided me with a window into how servicers think and operate.  And some of the things he said confirmed my fears about mortgage servicers… their interests and ours are anything but aligned.

Today, Jerad Bausch is 25 years old, but with a wife and two young children, he communicates like someone ten years older.  He had been selling cars for about three and a half years and was just 22 years old when he applied for a job at JPMorgan CHASE.  He ended up working in the mega-bank’s mortgage servicing area… the foreclosure department, to be precise.  He had absolutely no prior experience with mortgages or in real estate, but then… why would that be important?

“The car business is great in terms of bring home a good size paycheck, but to make the money you have to work all the time, 60-70 hours a week.  When our second child arrived, that schedule just wasn’t going to work.  I thought CHASE would be kind of a cushy office job that would offer some stability,” Jerad explained.

That didn’t exactly turn out to be the case.  Eighteen months after CHASE hired Jared, with numerous investors having filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of the housing meltdown, he was laid off.  The “investors” in this case are the entities that own the loans that Chase services.  When an investor files bankruptcy the loan files go to CHASE’S bankruptcy department, presumably to be liquidated by the trustee in order to satisfy the claims of creditors.

The interview process included a “panel” of CHASE executives asking Jared a variety of questions primarily in two areas.  They asked if he was the type of person that could handle working with people that were emotional and in foreclosure, and if his computer skills were up to snuff.  They asked him nothing about real estate or mortgages, or car sales for that matter.

The training program at CHASE turned out to be almost exclusively about the critical importance of documenting the files that he would be pushing through the foreclosure process and ultimately to the REO department, where they would be put back on the market and hopefully sold.  Documenting the files with everything that transpired was the single most important aspect of Jared’s job at CHASE, in fact, it was what his bonus was based on, along with the pace at which the foreclosures he processed were completed.

“A perfect foreclosure was supposed to take 120 days,” Jared explains, “and the closer you came to that benchmark, the better your numbers looked and higher your bonus would be.”

CHASE started Jared at an annual salary of $30,000, but he very quickly became a “Tier One” employee, so he earned a monthly bonus of $1,000 because he documented everything accurately and because he always processed foreclosures at as close to a “perfect” pace as possible.

“Bonuses were based on accurate and complete documentation, and on how quickly you were able to foreclosure on someone,” Jerad says.  “They rate you as Tier One, Two or Three… and if you’re Tier One, which is the top tier, then you’d get a thousand dollars a month bonus.  So, from $30,000 you went to $42,000.  Of course, if your documentation was off, or you took too long to foreclose, you wouldn’t get the bonus.”

Day-to-day, Jerad’s job was primarily to contact paralegals at the law firms used by CHASE to file foreclosures, publish sale dates, and myriad other tasks required to effectuate a foreclosure in a given state.

“It was our responsibility to stay on top of and when necessary push the lawyers to make sure things done in a timely fashion, so that foreclosures would move along in compliance with Fannie’s guidelines,” Jerad explained.  “And we documented what went on with each file so that if the investor came in to audit the files, everything would be accurate in terms of what had transpired and in what time frame.  It was all about being able to show that foreclosures were being processed as efficiently as possible.”

When a homeowner applies for a loan modification, Jerad would receive an email from the modification team telling him to put a file on hold awaiting decision on modification.  This wouldn’t count against his bonus, because Fannie Mae guidelines allow for modifications to be considered, but investors would see what was done as related to the modification, so everything had to be thoroughly documented.

“Seemed like more than 95% of the time, the instruction came back ‘proceed with foreclosure,’ according to Jerad.  “Files would be on hold pending modification, but still accruing fees and interest.  Any time a servicer does anything to a file, they’re charging people for it,” Jerad says.

Read more here: http://mandelman.ml-implode.com/2010/09/inside-chase-and-the-perfect-foreclosure/

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