At a public hearing in February, widowed homeowners and surviving heirs were afforded the opportunity to speak about their experiences with Financial Freedom, a reverse mortgage servicer owned by OneWest Bank. The focus of the hearing was the proposed merger of OneWest Bank with CIT Group. If you’d like more information about this merger, visit CRC’s Merger Resource Page. And, if you are a Financial Freedom customer, or you are a family member whose dealing with Financial Freedom, you may want to share your experiences with the Federal Reserve and OCC (they are making the decision about this merger), and you may also want to file a CFPB complaint. Please note: Any submission about the merger will become part of the public record and others will be able to see your submission.
1. Michael Allen’s story: “OneWest Bank (OWB) did not provide a Single Point of Contact nor provide any guidance or instruction to help me satisfy the loan. I initiated all calls to OWB and spoke to a different person with a different story and different reason to deny my requests.”
2. Elizabeth Lavullo’s story: “OneWest Bank refused to honor my letter of intent to repay the loan and refused to grant me the HUD authorized time to obtain a new loan.”
3. Julie Cheney’s story: “I was a Successor Trustee of my parents Trust when they were sold a Financial Freedom reverse mortgage they didn’t need, while my dad was in the last month of his life, with terminal cancer, on narcotic pain medication, and my mother had Alzheimer’s disease and could not complete a sentence.”
4. Noreen O’More’s story: “We called, emailed and faxed every week or two for status. OWB kept delaying with one excuse after another for more than 18 months.”
5. Lisa Renard’s story: “Because of OWB’s refusal to refund any of the fraudulent funds, Mrs. Rinard was forced to live the last years of her life on Medi-Cal in a nursing home funded by taxpayer dollars.”
6. Karen Hunziker’s story: Additionally OWB has failed to provide a Single Point of Contact. This creates a communication maze impossible to navigate for the consumer to get customer support or guidance.
One day, I called 5 times to verify I received the 90 day extension OWB promised in writing. I spoke to 5 different people all with a different story. In part, I was told:
• OWB didn’t receive the documents faxed multiple times,
• The documents needed to be reviewed by their legal department,
• I had to call back in 5 days
• I used up all my extensions.
• I didn’t get the documents in on time,
• The last person told me my property was scheduled for auction in 30 days.
At all times OWB refused to put any phone conversation in writing.
7. Sandy Jolley’s testimony: “No couple thinks on their own ‘let’s get a reverse mortgage and take one of us off title so when the other dies the survivor can be evicted.'”
8. Jose Graulau’s story: “On 12/31 (New Year’s Eve) AlState Process Servers claimed they were hired by OWB to investigate my family and wanted documentation of all known and unknown relatives, either alive or deceased, and those born in or out of wedlock.”
9. Rachel Mehlsak’s (attorney at Bet Tzedek) testimony:”Another client I worked with had lived in her home for over 40 years. She is elderly, disabled, and supports her daughter and four minor grandchildren on just her monthly Social Security income. After her husband died, she had trouble maintaining her property tax payments, and OneWest, the parent company of her reverse mortgage lender, Financial Freedom, threatened to foreclose.
Eventually, OneWest initiated foreclosure against the client’s home one month sooner than HUD guidelines required. OneWest did so even though HUD had just announced a 60-day extension of its foreclosure timeframes for surviving spouses like my client and even though I had asked Financial Freedom multiple times to postpone the foreclosure proceedings. I was able to help the client obtain a one-month extension of the foreclosure – an outcome she wouldn’t have received without representation – but ultimately OneWest went through with the foreclosure sale. Three generations of my client’s family were kicked out of their home for less than $1300 owed to Financial Freedom.”