Video: Vera Johnson awaits answer after Bank of America meeting

August 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news, White Center | 47 Comments

Village Green Perennial Nursery owner Vera Johnson is now awaiting her official answer from Bank of America, regarding a “loan modification” to prevent foreclosure, after a face-to-face meeting downtown today that she says took some twists and turns. Besides insisting on being told to her face where her case stands – after months of the runaround, as chronicled in our original story last month – she brought along more than 10,000 online petition signatures gathered through Change.org (now up past 11,000). And, a plant, as she explains in our video:

Inside the bank – where media wasn’t allowed into her meeting – Vera tells us tonight that first, she discovered the bank manager she met with last week, Michael Kuehner, suddenly doesn’t work for B of A any more, “no explanation, gone.” Instead, she found vice president/regional manager Dennis Day. “They reacted quite quickly to the camera that Joe from Change.org had with him, visibly annoyed, I gave Dennis the signatures, he barely looked at them, completely devoid from emotion, then telling me I cannot record the meeting, as it is against policy.” As for her case: “They expect to have an answer next week, and it’s entirely up to the servicer of the loan-FannieMae. No promises. They could not give me a date, they said the foreclosure is stopped as of now, and in the event that I get turned down, apparently there are other possible outcomes, and we will pursue them then…” And once the meeting was over, she says, “The security guards removed us from the building, then off the plaza, and to the sidewalk.” They even trailed her and a friend – also going through a similar process – to the restrooms, she says, “waiting outside and asking if we needed help finding something. We apparently were a threat, because they were all on high alert, it was creepy.” Also there downtown when Vera talked to the media before going in: KING 5 – their story’s here.

47 Comments

  1. Good for you Vera! This whole loan/mortgage system is so screwed up! We’re couldn’t get anyone to talk to us let alone refinance a property for us and now we have to short sale to get out. I hope stories like yours will help to build a new system. Hats off to you!

    Comment by ~S — 10:09 pm August 9, 2011 #

  2. I really love this story. It shows what can happen when people rally together and PAY ATTENTION. Don’t stop, Vera! Good job!!!

    Comment by ellenater — 10:26 pm August 9, 2011 #

  3. Why anyone would use Bank of America is beyond me. They are the mortal enemy of citizens across this Nation. Good luck!

    Comment by DTK — 11:09 pm August 9, 2011 #

  4. Not that it’s directly related, but it is somewhat. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/northwestvoices/2015860645_bankofamericasuedbyaigovermortgages.html
    .
    Get ‘em Vera! Pin these shady people to the wall and don’t back down. I actually think you could step it up a bit and bring in major media sources like NBC, CBS and ABC news, not just local news, the ones in New York. The more publicity this gets and word gets out to every customer of BoA, the more likely they’ll start to react and try to ‘correct’ what has been done.

    Comment by Mike — 11:30 pm August 9, 2011 #

  5. @Mike – excellent idea, go national! This isn’t just a local issue. Good luck Vera. We’re pulling for ya!

    Comment by enviromaven — 12:09 am August 10, 2011 #

  6. Boycott the BOA constrictor. What a bunch of sleazebags. I agree, go national – it’s a compelling story.

    Comment by Sonoma — 3:21 am August 10, 2011 #

  7. So glad I am not a BOA customer. Have been moving toward doing as much business with local and smaller (rather than WeAreReallyBig) banks and other businesses. Wishing you success, Vera.

    Comment by WSneighb — 5:22 am August 10, 2011 #

  8. There is no corporate leadership in this country anymore. Just frightened little clowns like that schmuck at B of A. Afraid to be seen on camera, because people might realize what a fink he is, and what his corporate overlords might think.

    Keep up the good work, Vera!

    Comment by Retired SeaFirster — 7:13 am August 10, 2011 #

  9. BofA, I got out of that bank two and half years ago..Country Wide tore them up..

    Comment by Jiggers — 8:31 am August 10, 2011 #

  10. Our tax dollars bailed them out and this is how they repay us.
    Good job Vera!

    Comment by J — 8:51 am August 10, 2011 #

  11. There is a reason that BOA’s stock plummeted yesterday. I would love to get my last loan paid off. My mortgage is paid off and I’ve dropped my AS credit card which was with them. HATE talking to their customer service in Asia. Will never again use them. Good luck to you Vera….don’t give up!

    Comment by bj — 9:39 am August 10, 2011 #

  12. BofA unfortunately has most of the mortgages though. We were with Countrywide and BofA ate them. I have heard HORROR stories about BofA. I had a friend in Atlanta (BofA headquarters) and they swallowed her loan company up and accused her of not paying her mortgage when she did. She produced all her payments and it wasn’t enough. They started foreclosure proceedings on her home. She had to hire an attorney to fight them. It was a full time job of hers for a while and cost thousands of dollars. She eventually found a contact at HUD and he made some calls and got them to stop the proceedings. They still have their house but unfortunately under BofA. There are thousands of stories like this. They are the anti-christ and should be stopped. I would contact HUD and also the Attorney General. Money talks in this country – they have waaay too much power and know they don’t have to answer to anyone. And this is a bank that was bailed out by the federal reserve to the tune of $97 billion dollars.

    Comment by bofaistheworst — 9:57 am August 10, 2011 #

  13. Very excited to be following this story. I’d love to see this on “Good Morning America” instead of the drama of the Dow. This is really how we should really be measuring recovery.

    Comment by Kelly — 10:20 am August 10, 2011 #

  14. Umm, yeah, because that local bank WAMU was such a charming option. Sleezebags are not just national big houses, they can be local too.

    Comment by george — 10:24 am August 10, 2011 #

  15. Really makes you wonder what they are afraid of if they have security follow you to the bathroom!! Isn’t it our money that allows them to operate??? These banks are WAY to big for their own good….sad and greedy at the same time.

    Comment by RJB — 10:32 am August 10, 2011 #

  16. Too Big to Function

    Comment by J — 10:48 am August 10, 2011 #

  17. Good luck with BOA. I think the part that gets me is the inconsistencies. If they can help, fine then do it. If not, then say so. On the face of it, being behind approx 15k on the Mortgage and then having your Spousal Support reduced or eliminated would make me think the Bank wouldn’t want to do it. The fact that the asset has likely reduced in value may be playing a part too. How much of a modification is she asking for? I know from a family member who dealt with another large national firm that they did not agree to a modification until approx 30 days before they were going to be evicted. My guess based on that history is that no modification is likely.

    Comment by Dale — 10:55 am August 10, 2011 #

  18. Don’t know if anyone saw this story: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/bank-america-florida-foreclosed-angry-homeowner-bofa/story?id=13775638

    Jon Stewart did a bit about it on his show last night.

    As for me… credit unions. As long as they stay local that’s where my money will go.

    Comment by Lola — 10:57 am August 10, 2011 #

  19. Way to go Vera. Keep the heat on.

    Comment by funkie — 11:00 am August 10, 2011 #

  20. You go vera we are all behind you no one should have to pay thier bills. We should all just cry poor me and expect our debt to go away or someone else should have to modify a contract that was agreed to by both parties. I think all posting here would be upset if someone went back on a contract siged with them but as long as its a bank they should just give in to individuals that signed a contract and then did not pay. Vera is not hero, just another person not paying her bills and crying about it.

    Comment by doug — 11:02 am August 10, 2011 #

  21. I guess the thing that strikes me is that after all this, BofA is claiming that it’s out of their hands and up to FannieMae to make a decision? Does Vera now need to try to get a face-to-face with someone at FannieMae?

    I can’t imagine the frustration you must be feeling Vera, your continued strength and fight is incredibly inspiring.

    Comment by The Velvet Bulldog — 11:47 am August 10, 2011 #

  22. The comments on the KING5 story are sooo much more different than they are over here! Honestly, I don’t think KING5 did as good of a job reporting this as the WSB did. I’ve posted a link over there, because I think people are jumping to conclusions without having her whole story, and it’s a story that should be heard. I know it’s being felt all over the place – I have a friend in the same situation with BoA, and he’s just given up. Nobody should be disregarded like Vera is – people are people, not numbers!

    Comment by Ash — 11:55 am August 10, 2011 #

  23. These banks are like automotons dropping bombs indiscriminately into communities without regard to the “collateral damage” they inflict. I have long thought that class action litigation, of some sort, should be initiated against the banks responsible for the terrible injuries inflicted by these greedy bastards.

    Comment by Ricardo Guarnero — 12:22 pm August 10, 2011 #

  24. Thanks, Ash. In their defense – since I worked in TV (though not at KING) news for more than 20 years – reporters have to parachute in and out of stories, tell them in a minute and a half, skim the surface of what’s happening, and then they’re assigned to move on to something else. I was the first reporter to write about Vera’s situation (after seeing her Facebook posts about the Change.org petition), almost a month ago, and this is our fourth or fifth story since then, so we – and WSB readers – have some background, unlike the readers on a regional news site, who also have no idea how much she has contributed to the community (we detailed some of it in our first story a month ago), besides “just” being a business owner. I should also mention, because I forgot to tag this story with a reminder about it, a benefit organized for her is still coming up on August 30th – 5-9 pm at Big Al Brewing in White Center. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:34 pm August 10, 2011 #

  25. Agree with Doug on this one. Why does everyone think Vera is a hero? I’m upside down on my house but working my butt off to keep paying the mortgage. Owning a home (and business) is like playing Vegas these days. Why should the bank feel obligated to re-do her mortgage? I do have a heart and hope she can keep her home and business, but it’s not the banks responsible to modify a loan that she agreed to. All these people who signed her petition should give her $5 and she can get caught up on payments.

    Comment by Alki Girl — 12:35 pm August 10, 2011 #

  26. I don’t know that the bank is obligated to re-do the mortgage, Alki Girl, but at the very least making her file the same paperwork multiple times and not having records of their contacts makes it seem like they have no idea what they’re doing.

    Comment by datamuse — 1:49 pm August 10, 2011 #

  27. So just to be clear… when a person wants a loan from BoA then they are happy to be a BoA customer. If BoA then enforces the terms and conditions of the loan the customer agreed to, then BoA is the bad guy?

    Comment by stockholder — 1:56 pm August 10, 2011 #

  28. The problem with loan modifications is this. If it becomes even remotely possible that banks will have to write off portions of their assets (loans) if market conditions become less favorable, then banks will have to charge a larger risk premium on ALL loans they write. That will cost everyone who borrows a lot more money. Which would you rather have, option A or B? Option A – if you have trouble making loan payments and or the underlying asset (house, land, etc) goes down in value, the bank will forgive a portion of your loan. Everyone’s interest rate increases by 8% so that those customers who do make their full payments as agreed cover the losses incurred on those who do not or cannot make their payments as agreed. Option B – if you have trouble making loan payments and or the underlying asset (house, land, etc) goes down in value and you stop making payments, the bank will foreclose on the property and take any other legal action to minimize the bank’s loss. Interest rates can remain at low levels for all borrowers. Which option do you prefer?

    Comment by stockholder — 2:09 pm August 10, 2011 #

  29. At first blush, I can understand why Doug and Alki Girl would have the feelings that they do, but for me, the main point of all of this, Vera’s story included, is the complete and utter lack of communication and federal program accountability at the banks. Our tax dollars were spent on programs like Help for Homeowners that were put in place as a condition of the bank bail outs to specifically help owners with loan modifications. However, Google this program and you will see a long list of news stories about how this program, as administered by the banks, never actually did anything for anyone. Individuals who tried to apply, no grantee of admittance, just trying to get the ball rolling, would spend up to 15 months with no progress, only constant excuses and repeated request for information and applications that had already been sent on multiple occasions. What these individuals NEVER got was a straight forward yes or no answer to their loan modification question. Life happens and it never hurts to ask for help, as this owner did almost a year and half ago. If the answer is no, then so be it and you can go on from there. No answer on the other hand is just that, an unknown, so can you really blame someone for wanting to find out what happened, were there requests stands, what they can do to help it along? From what I have read (correct me if I am wrong), this is the fight that Vera is having; to quite simply get an answer and not a run around.

    Comment by Thistle — 2:11 pm August 10, 2011 #

  30. The Countrywide purchase, along with the Merrill Lynch acquisition, has destroyed Bank of America. They have become too big to fail. They have a trillion dollars in deposits. A TRILLION.

    However, if she owes the money, she owes the money. Just because you get signatures online, that means ZIP, ZILCH. Why should they look at the signatures. Does not mean a thing to them, and shouldn’t.

    The woman signed a contract, now she needs to be held accountable to that contract.

    Comment by John — 2:36 pm August 10, 2011 #

  31. Obviously I don’t know all the facts and it’s an unfortunate situation. I hope she finds the help and/or answers she needs to move on. No one deserves to be in limbo. I wasn’t being a jackwagon when I recommended for people to chip in and help her pay whatever she owes. It seems there are enough WS peeps who want to see her keep her house/business.

    Comment by Alki Girl — 3:42 pm August 10, 2011 #

  32. Washington State passed the Foreclosure Fairness Act which took effect on July 22, and requires lenders to allow delinquent borrowers 60 days to obtain mediation, and requires lenders to participate in face-to-face mediation with borrowers before they can issue a notice of default.

    Also, Recontrust, which is the subsidiary of Bank of America that handles foreclosure sales, is being sued by the Washington Attorney General : http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2011/08/09/washington-state-sues-bofa-over-foreclosures/

    Comment by hp — 3:50 pm August 10, 2011 #

  33. @stockholder: All major banks buy and sell servicing rights to mortgages, it happens all the time. Bank of America acquired the countrywide portfolio, amongst others. Borrowers aren’t given a choice about who services the loan when they’re sold, many have the misfortune of being stuck with Bank of America.

    Comment by hp — 3:54 pm August 10, 2011 #

  34. Bad customer service is a different issue than enforcing a contract.

    Comment by george — 3:59 pm August 10, 2011 #

  35. I just submitted this story to Good MOrning America via their website. Vera is amazing!!!

    Comment by Karen — 4:00 pm August 10, 2011 #

  36. Good news for those who said “go national” – Vera’s got an interview with MSNBC tomorrow morning. I’m about to write a short separate story about it. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:07 pm August 10, 2011 #

  37. HP, we were there in person for the announcement of that lawsuit, which was made right here in West Seattle (outside a ReconTrust foreclosure site) by Attorney General Rob McKenna last week:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/2011/08/foreclosure-fight-brings-state-attorney-general-to-north-delridge

    Comment by WSB — 4:08 pm August 10, 2011 #

  38. Alki Girl, if I didn’t know Vera I would likely share your sentiments. I do know her (only casually) and in my mind she’s a “hero” for reasons unrelated to her current situation. Several years ago (before 2008 when all the banking nonsense came to light) I did a little project for a local elementary school auction. Although Vera did not have children attending the school and really had no connection with the school she offered her services (for free) to create a metal frame structure for this particular project. I know it took her many hours. Thanks to her incredible talent and generosity, the two pieces she was instrumental in creating raised $4,000 for the school PTA. She didn’t have to help but she did. Apparently I wasn’t the only person that has experienced her generosity as several people have shared their support on the blog and elsewhere. I would much rather spend my energy helping a neighbor like Vera than spending time doing anything for the vandals, thieves and creeps we read about every day in the paper and on the WSB. It’s time to pay it forward to a good person that deserves our help.

    Comment by 2 Much Whine — 4:19 pm August 10, 2011 #

  39. People can refinance a mortgage if they feel they are not being serviced by their current mortgage holder. All you have to do is pay for it via points, loan app fee, etc. :(

    Comment by george — 4:21 pm August 10, 2011 #

  40. It sucks that the bank is incapable of working with everyone who needs it but it is not the responsibility of the community to hold fundraisers, support rallies, sign petitions etc. for one person who is incapable to paying a mortgage.

    If we, as a community, were to rally behind everyone that got in over their heads it would be a totally cluster. Real estate is an investment and a responsibility and if you or anyone, is incapable of paying for it, then sell. It sucks that in this case there was a divorce/loss of income but those are the breaks folks. A bank, no matter if they stink or not, is not in business to hold the hands of every.single.American who finds themselves upside down after biting off too much and taking on a “bad” loan.

    Comment by QA Hill — 4:36 pm August 10, 2011 #

  41. george..that’s another reason I ditched bof crap! I”m with a smaller bank that is doing pretty good, but the best part is I have no money, zilch, and they treat me like I am Slim the king of mehico.

    Comment by Jiggers — 5:53 pm August 10, 2011 #

  42. The reality is that the actual owners of the loan are investors. They were sold a fraudulent bill of goods by the lenders who originally made the sleazy mortgage loans during the boom years. Now they are being further defrauded by servicers like BofA who are not working diligently with borrowers to see if there is a loan modification that can be mutually beneficial. @Stockholder is somewhat correct about bad lending practices making it more expensive to borrow for all of us, but he conveniently ignores all of the fraud involved in the mortgage market in the last 10 years, which was largely perpetrated by the banks, consumer loan companies and mortgage brokers. Some homeowners did get greedy but the vast majority of Americans who got loans in the last 10 years were NOT engaged in fraud. To reach that conclusion you have to assume that millions of otherwise honest citizens decided suddenly and on their own to engage in wholesale mortgage fraud. In reality, the system was completely broken with no checks and balances and the end result is an economy that is even more broken than it already is from other governmental and market decisions. All of the empiricial evidence shows who was engaging in the massive fraud and it wasn’t Main Street. So, we have system that is broken and no one in power is willing to do anything to fix it, and instead still placates Wall Street. Homeowners and investors are bearing the financial burden and yet the propoganda machine has these two groups pointing the fingers at each other instead of the real parties responsible while people like stockholder hang onto their delusions that all of this is the fault of his neighbors. Yes, some people are going to lose their homes when they fall on hard times and cannot pay their mortgage. But when there are programs which MIGHT be able to provide relief to the homeowner AND the owner of the loan by changing the loan terms to something that is mutually beneficial, people should be properly put through consideration for those programs so that someone can determine whether there is a mutually beneficial solution for them both. And the new WA Foreclosure Mediation law, referenced in an earlier post, is a step in the right direction of trying to accomplish that sort of meaningful and productive discussion rather than the ridiculous run around that Vera has received.

    And Vera needs to get a lawyer or housing counselor to immediately refer her to the mediation program. Then BofA will be required to engage under the parameters of the program.

    Comment by MAH — 6:15 pm August 10, 2011 #

  43. No, people cannot refinance mortgages on underwater homes.

    Comment by hp — 8:21 pm August 10, 2011 #

  44. …..but it is not the responsibility of the community to hold fundraisers, support rallies, sign petitions etc. for one person who is incapable to paying a mortgage.

    .

    And who are you to suggest that the community should not support a well respected small business owner and resident that has been very involved with,and generous to, said community?

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 10:26 pm August 10, 2011 #

  45. I support Vera and what she is doing. I signed the petition, and hope other people on this site did too. Thanks for keeping us informed on this.

    Comment by June — 7:57 am August 11, 2011 #

  46. Ask the crooks at BAC about a Partial Claim, if you have not already. It tried for modification for two years. Things changed when I asked for a Partial Claim.

    Comment by Paul Lopez, Jr. — 8:42 am August 11, 2011 #

  47. I have been dealing with BofA for over two years on my home in AZ. I was surprised by how little they have to do or choose to communicate with you to auction off your property. I was told by the realtor who was informed when attempting to check on an offer that had been submitted but they had failed to respond to. It has been three months and I haven’t even received a letter to advised me. For me not there was not much choice but to just let the home go, but the level of dysfunction in the system is frightening to say the least.

    Comment by JL — 6:07 pm August 11, 2011 #

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