You read the headline correctly: A homeowner has begun foreclosure proceedings on a local Wells Fargo office in Pennsylvania.
This is how it happened. A Philadelphia homeowner named Patrick Rodgers, who mortgage banks with Wells Fargo, was told by Wells that he needed to take out a $1 million homeowner's policy on his house. Rodgers bristled at the demand: Because the market value of his house was far below a million bucks—he'd purchased it for $180,000 in 2002—and because the insurance policy cost $2,400. (Wells wanted the house insured for its replacement value—and the 100 year old Victorian would cost a fortune to recreate; hence, the difference in valuation.)
Here's where the stories gets fun, as Susanna Kim reported for ABC News.
To get some answers and to plead his case, Rodgers wrote to Well Fargo—who, it seems, ignored his letter altogether.
As it turns out, mortgage companies are required by law to respond to written requests within a certain time frame, which Wells failed to do.
So Rodgers took Wells Fargo to court: And won a judgment of $1,173.
According to the ABC News account, Wells Fargo failed to pay up.
So Rodgers placed a sheriff's levy against the one of the bank's local offices.
Despite all the attention—including coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer—Wells still didn't respond to his letter.
Eventually Wells got around to cutting Rodgers two checks to satisfy the judgment—but still didn't respond in writing, as required by law.
So Rodgers, at this point plainly annoyed, "turned to the Philadelphia sheriff's office to initiate a sale of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office in Philadelphia."
As a consequence of the action, Wells owed him another 50 dollars—for the cost of initiating the sale.
Rodger was quoted as saying:
"Why Wells Faro doesn't pay $50 is beyond me, but you never know what's going on in the mind of these big companies,"
And so—improbably enough—the foreclosure and the sheriff's sale continues.
"When I initiated the litigation I thought surely that would come to someone's attention I thought someone would say, 'Hey you don't have to litigate, you just have to talk to us.'"
"Then I had a sheriff's levy and they wouldn't respond, and then a sheriff's sale. I would love someone with some authority to give me a ring and say, 'Hey, let's sort all of this out.'"
Rodgers sounds like a pretty reasonable guy—just one who's been ticked off, after feeling like he was being pushed around by a big powerful company.
More important for Wells, Rodgers has gone on record as saying he's amenable to a solution.
If that's the case, this is an incredibly easy problem for the bank to solve.
A clever media relations person should get ten minutes of face time with the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf. And tell the guy the truth.
Which is this: Patrick Rodgers made Wells look like a bunch of bullies—and now Patrick Rodgers is making Wells look like a bunch of dopes.
Here's how Stumpf can fix the problem—and more importantly, counter the negative publicity— in fifteen minutes or less.
John Stumpf, the powerful CEO of the fourth largest bank in America, should take a few minutes out of his busy schedule—show he has a sense of humor—and call up the guy himself.
Once Stumpf gets Rodgers on the phone, they can have a laugh about how nutty bureaucracy is—and how sometimes stuff just happens when people aren't paying attention.
Stumpf should tell Rodgers he admires his cleverness. And that he's sorry for his trouble. And that he's writing him the check for fifty bucks himself.
Then, as a final grace note, Stumpf should pretend it's still 1978—and send the guy a set of steak knives, with a note thanking him for doing business with Wells Fargo.
*An earlier version of this story referred to Rodgers as Roberts.
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