Laura Coleman Biggs and her experience with Bank of America is absolutely criminal.
"Too big" to give a rat's ass
When her husband George Mitchell passed away, 12 years ago this month, Ms. Biggs continued paying off her mortgage.
George “Kenny” Mitchell had taken out a special lender-pushed insurance policy to pay off most of his loan if he died.
But when he passed away on April 26, 2003, the subsidiary of Charlotte-based Bank of America did not arrange a payoff of the $100,000 policy and continued to charge his widow an insurance premium every month along with her mortgage payment.
Pretty bad. But the story is even worse than you already know it is. See, the only reason Ms. Biggs even found out that BOA had royally screwed her was a mixture of desperation, luck and a pro bono lawyer.
Biggs was the subject of a story by McClatchy in December 2013 that documented how she was about to lose her home days before Christmas. Bank of America’s bill collector was telling her the home was not her husband’s primary residence. It couldn’t be: He was dead. Mitchell did reside on the premises – in an urn.
Trigger warning ahead (blind rage):
The McClatchy report helped stall the foreclosure. In the months that followed, Bank of America’s subsidiary offered Biggs a mortgage modification that added more than $30,000 in miscellaneous fees and legal fees and charges to the loan. That would have sucked out the equity she’d built up in the home. Her pro bono lawyer demanded a list of specifics on the fees.
One stood out to George Bosch, a legal administrator who worked on her case for the Los Angeles law firm of Edward Lopez. It was passed off as a fee but didn’t seem normal. Was it an insurance premium, he asked?
“Silence on the other end of the phone. They didn’t want to answer the question,” said Bosch.
A few days later, the answer came. Yes, it was an insurance premium, for a policy underwritten by Miami-based American Bankers Life Assurance Co. of Florida.
Well done, Bank of America. Your history of being unjustifiably heinous
. Well, Ms. Biggs has lawyers now and things are going to get even more awkward for the "too big to fail" company:
In their Feb. 12 filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, attorneys for Biggs seek an unspecified amount of damages, alleging that Bank of America, its mortgage servicer and the insurer acted together and maliciously to ignore the insurance policy designed to keep her in the home. The lawyers don’t think her case is isolated.
In Bank of America trademarked fashion, a spokesman had this to say:
“This is an extremely unusual case that has been confounded by multiple situations, among them Ms. Biggs’ name not being on the loan; assertion of aliases used by Ms. Biggs’ deceased husband, George Mitchell, also known as Kenneth Walter Biggs; and by Ms. Biggs’ own lack of knowledge of an insurance policy associated with the mortgage,” the bank said in a statement, adding that “Bank of America did not service this loan for most of the time period pertinent to the allegations in the complaint.”
That isn't entirely true, as you might guess, since the majority of what escapes the lips of Bank of America these days can be defined as sort of truth-like.
Actually, she was sent a check for $24,512.65 last May 6 – far from the full amount owed – and another for $2,707.49, a 1 percent rate of interest on the amount. After protests from Bosch, the insurer sent another check on May 20, for the remaining $75,487.35, plus one for $8,360.92 in interest.
This story is not over, however. Laura Biggs is in a very tough place now. A couple of years ago, when Biggs was fighting to keep her home, her lawyer advised that she file for bankruptcy in order to halt the foreclosure proceedings—something that she started but ended up not having to do. Unfortunately, all of her credit cards were immediately cut off—first one to go? You know it! Bank of America credit card. This means Biggs, a 67-year-old retired nurse, has zero cash.
Something did go wrong shortly after the foreclosure threat lifted. Her roof was damaged and the homeowner’s insurance policy acquired through Select Portfolio Servicing covered $19,000 of a repair claim. The money was sent to Select Portfolio Servicing in January 2014, Bosch and Biggs said, but it wasn’t until that April 3, after prodding from Bosch, that Biggs got the money.
“Everything we came up with they turned away. The only thing they wanted was to take the house. I had a lot of equity in it,” said Biggs, who lives on a fixed income.
Bank of America can plead ignorance, or bureaucratic snafuary
, but they know. We know they know by the deals they cut.