Who says that just because you’re dead you can’t keep on working? In what is certainly the most blatant case of robo-signing I’ve seen to date, one company had a woman signing hundreds of documents- for thirteen years after her death. [Hat tip Freedoms Phoenix.]
How, may you ask, can a woman who has been dead since 1995 sign documents more than a decade later? Normally, one would hazard to guess that stamps with her signature on them were still in use (this is more common than you would think in foreclosure land). That would be plenty troubling.
But this little account comes from the debt collection realm, a cesspool of bad practices. Here, the credit card company Providian (acquired by WaMu in 2005) had employees signing affidavits in the name of Martha Kunkle for over a decade. Debt collection agencies continued to use these bogus affidavits.
According to the Wall St. Journal:
Questions about Martha Kunkle first popped up in 2008 after her name appeared in thousands of affidavits generated by a unit of Providian National Corp. The credit-card issuer sold an undisclosed number of delinquent account balances to Portfolio Recovery Associates and other debt collectors, which then sued the borrowers to collect the debt…..
Concerns about Ms. Kunkle’s affidavits were raised in 2008 by lawyers for Jeanie Cole, one of thousands of Montana residents sued by Portfolio Recovery Associates to collect debts. After failing to locate Ms. Kunkle, lawyers for Ms. Cole interviewed her daughter, who worked at Providian in a document-processing division.
The daughter testified in a deposition that other Providian employees used the name Martha Kunkle when signing affidavits. Along with other employees, the daughter was responsible for signing affidavits. After countersuing Portfolio Recovery Associates for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Ms. Cole was the lead plaintiff in a 2008 federal-court suit in Montana alleging the company targeted 16,000 borrowers using “false and misleading” affidavits.
These dodgy documents were for debt collections, not foreclosures. However, this does show how sloppy and overly automated the lending industry has become.
Some judges say robo-signing, in which affidavits are signed without fully reviewing underlying documentation, is more common in debt-collection cases than foreclosures. In July, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that state regulators require the disclosure of “more information” by debt collectors and buyers, concluding that they might be relying on erroneous or incomplete paperwork when suing to recover money.
“I’ve watched and wanted to tell defendants in these suits to demand proof of the underlying debt because that proof is so often flimsy,” said Jeffrey Lipman, a magistrate judge in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines, the state’s capital. Court rules give him little leeway to instruct borrowers in court.
- A Dead Woman’s Name Was Robo-Signed On Thousands Of Debt-Collection Documents (JPM) (businessinsider.com)
- Dead Woman Signed Debt Collection Affidavits (newser.com)
- Well Imagine That – Debt Collectors Robo-Signing Affidavits (smarterotti.com)
- Robo-Signing at Companies That Buy Consumer Debts (nytimes.com)
- Feds propose new rules on debt collection from the deceased (walletpop.com)