As Robert Borosage wrote, “Too Big Too Fail” has become “Too Big To Jail.” According to attorney general, our big banks have gotten so big that bringing criminal charges against them for blatantly criminal acts “will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” (Click here to tell Attorney General Eric Holder that no bank should be “Too Big To Jail,” and no bank should be above the law.) is ”Too Big To Jail” a license to kill? Does that mean big banks can get away with murder — or at least negligent homicide?
It sounds like Wells Fargo may have gotten away with murder or some lesser charge in the case of Larry Delassus, innocent victim of “death by typo” c/o Wells Fargo. [Via Digby.]
His death came more than two years after Wells Fargo mistakenly mixed up his Hermosa Beach address with that of a neighbor in the same condo complex. The bank’s typo led Wells Fargo to demand that Delassus pay $13,361.90 — two years of late property taxes the bank said it had paid on his behalf in order to keep his Wells Fargo mortgage afloat.
But Delassus, a quiet man who suffered from the rare blood-clot disorder Budd-Chiari syndrome and was often hospitalized, didn’t owe a penny in taxes.
One of his neighbors, whose condo “parcel number” was two digits different from Delassus’, owed the back taxes.
In a series of painfully tragic events, Wells Fargo relied on its typographical error to double Delassus’ mortgage — from $1,237.69 to $2,429.13 — as its way of recouping the $13,361.90 in taxes Delassus didn’t owe. Delassus, a retiree living on a $1,655 check, couldn’t meet the mysteriously increased mortgage. He stopped paying, and soon was far behind on his mortgage.
Delassus and his attorney did not discover until May 2010 that a mis-entered number had dragged Delassus into this spiral. As court documents obtained by L.A. Weeklyshow, after admitting its error, Wells Fargo foreclosed on Delassus anyway and sold his condo.
Delassus had to move to a tiny apartment in an assisted-living home in Carson.
Friends say he didn’t die of heart disease that day in court, as the coroner found. He was, they believe, killed by a system so inhumane that it could not undo a devastating piece of red tape the system itself created.
According to the LA Weekly piece, Wells Fargo later acknowledged its error, but by then Delassus — a disabled veteran who suffered from Budd-Chiari syndrome —had stopped paying his mortgage after Wells Fargo doubled his payments, leading the bank to foreclose. (Strangely, there was an unexplained $2,861 discrepancy between the $13,361 Wells Fargo said it paid in property taxes on Delassus’ behalf, and the $10,500 the bank admitted in court documents was mistakenly charged to Delassus.) Not only that, but the bank refused to let Delassus resume his regular mortgage payments in the $1,237 installments he paid before the bank mistakenly jacked-up his payments.
Instead the bank demanded that he pay a sizable “reinstatement cost,” which is usually the past due amount plus fees. The bank never told Delassus how much his reinstatement cost would be. Instead, Wells Fargo demanded full payment on the condo, payment due within 24 hours. Delassus sued Wells Fargo for negligence and discrimination against a disabled person. To add insult to injury, in May 2011 the bank sold Delassus’ condo one day after he’d been released from the hospital after a bout of illness.
According to friends, Delassus still had enough faith in our system of justice to honestly believe that he would return to his home of 16 years. He was in court, listening to his attorney argue his case when he slumped over and died.
Here was a guy who received a notice out of nowhere from Wells Fargo, demanding that he repay the bank for property taxes he didn’t even owe. The bank then proceeded to double his mortgage payments even as Delassus was probably still trying to figure out what the hell happened. (more…)