Wells Fargo Retaliates Against ML-Implode By Illegally Freezing Bank Account
Wells Fargo has been getting hammered lately on the blogosphere and in the international media over the past month because of the death of Norman Rousseau, the husband and father they drove to suicide with their foreclosure tactics that would give even Franz Kafka night terrors. The bank has also been accused of refusing to modify loans, shamelessly screwing over African-American and Latino homeowners by giving them “Ghetto Loans”.
Instead of addressing these claims and then dealing with it in a humane way to make sure it doesn’t happen again, the bank decides to attack their critics by closing accounts of any of their critics who have accounts with Wells Fargo and in one case even stole money from the account.
Yesterday in the course of normal banking activity, my friend Aaron Krowne who operates the website, ML-Implode discovered Wells Fargo had frozen the business account for ML-Implode with no warning. After going through the Kafkaesque bureaucracy that is Wells Fargo, Aaron discovered the account had been flagged a “credit risk” and slated for immediate closure.
Aaron claims these actions are more than slightly unusual because ML-Implode’s account was a plain checking account and was not an underwritten account. In fact, ML-Implode paid a monthly fee for the account, so Wells Fargo was certainly doing it no favors.
Aaron also said, “In fact, as part of the freeze, Wells Fargo made a $3500 deposit from ML-Implode’s merchant account processor “disappear”, leaving a short-term advance of $1500 from an affiliate un-covered, and a similar $1500 obligation to another affiliate unpaid. The whereabouts of the monies are unknown,”
It appears that the bank did this in retaliation for a recent series of articles by ML-Implode blogger Martin Andelman which Aaron Krowne describes as, “…pulled no punches in criticizing Wells Fargo over its foreclosure practices — in particular the tragic and horrific case of Norm Rousseau who was driven to suicide after Wells Fargo lost a mortgage payment and mistakenly foreclosed on the family’s home, despite a lengthy back-and-forth process which gave the bank ample opportunity to correct the mistake.”
Andelman and other contributors to the site like me are not paid by ML-Implode and we are allowed to blog wholly independently from ML-Implode. As the operator of the site, Aaron Krowne does not dictate or control what we write.
If the bank’s actions are truly in retaliation for the articles, they are apparently violating federal law: USC 47 USC § 230 forbids holding an internet “common carrier” (such as an ISP, forum, or any sort of hosting outfit) liable for the content users independently post or transmit.
It appears Wells Fargo is so pissed off at Martin Andelman that they are trying to silence him by scaring anyone they believe he has a business interest with.
Several weeks ago, REST Report Matters (http://www.restreportmatters.com/), promoted by Andelman to give homeowners at risk of foreclosure access to the same loan analysis tools the banks have, also had its account shuttered by Wells Fargo. Apparently, Wells Fargo followed Andelman’s references to REST Report Matters and then targeted them. Wells Fargo then connected them to ML-Impolde’s business account via affiliate transactions because REST Report Matters advertises on ML-Implode
Martin Andelman says, “This whole thing is just ridiculous. I have no ongoing financial relationship with REST Report Matters.”
Naturally, since REST Report Matters is a business who’s sole purpose is giving homeowners the tools to force Wells Fargo and other banks to modify loans when compelled to do so by the HAMP and other programs you can understand their motivation.
Aaron Krowne claims, “That our sources inside the bank tell us the critical blog posts were the motivating factor.”
After reading Aaron’s Press release, I contacted my sources at the bank who told me the same thing this morning. I believe the only reason they have not tried this with MFI-Miami is because I don’t have any bank accounts with Wells Fargo in MFI-Miami’s name.
If Wells Fargo got this riled up over the REST Report, criticism of how they handled the foreclosure and unnecessary death of Norman Rousseau and the testimony of Beth Jacobson about Wells Fargo’s “Ghetto Loans” initiatives that was profiled in yesterday’s Washington Post, I can only imagine what will happen next week when I post about the “special perks” we received in wholesale lending during the boom from Wells Fargo and other lenders.