Many Joplin Tornado victims are still being mishandled by Bank of America and OTHER financial institutions that were to big to fail! Below is the main front page news from yesterday’s Joplin Globe–6 weeks after the worst tornado in a century hit the city.–KAS in Joplin, Missouri
By Laura Kelly email@example.com The Joplin Globe Sat Jul 09, 2011, 06:24 PM CDT
JOPLIN, Mo. — When Cindy and Curtis Atteberry were rescued from their basement May 22 and saw that their home and everything in it was gone, they felt lucky. They were alive. They were insured.
Seven weeks later, Cindy Atteberry is frustrated. Angry. Outraged. And she has plenty of company.
At least 40 Joplin property owners have filed complaints with the Missouri attorney general’s office — most about mortgage companies holding on to large insurance checks.
“And we assume there are others who have not contacted this office,” said Nancy Gonder, spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster.
State Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, said his office had also received complaints, “especially about Bank of America.”
Cindy Atteberry, who knows something about finances — she’s president and CEO of Joplin Metro Credit Union — says she’s not just fighting for herself but for others in her community who won’t or don’t know what they should do.
“They are holding my money, using my money,” she said. “That’s my money. Why are they doing this to us? Don’t they know this is a national disaster?”
When the weather looked threatening that Sunday afternoon in May, Curtis and Cindy Atteberry went down to the basement of their tri-level home with their two little dogs “just in case.”
When they saw the patio furniture flying by the window, they ran for a closet. Curtis Atteberry fought unsuccessfully with the wind to close the door, and “we felt things just swell up,” said Cindy Atteberry, “like it was going to pull us out of there.”
When it was all over, the stairwell was full of who-knows-what. One of the dogs was missing. People above helped free the couple from the rubble.
“One of my first thoughts was: ‘I hope to God I’m well insured,’” she said.
She was. And the company came through, she said, even driving the $232,397.55 check up from Texas to make sure it found the Atteberrys at their temporary home outside Joplin.
Cindy Atteberry, 57, was eager to pay off what she owed on the property that was once her home and figure out what she and Curtis, 63, would do next. The quicker she could get that check processed, the better. That’s when the headaches really started, she said.
She was told the check couldn’t be handled at the local Joplin Bank of America branch; it had to be sent to Simi Valley, Calif. In the case of the Atteberrys’ check, records and statements show that Bank of America moved at its own pace — and often in 14-day windows.
“We consider five to seven days to be reasonable processing,” said Gonder in the attorney general’s office. “If it goes past that, we encourage residents to call, and we will intervene.”
After sending the check to California, Cindy Atteberry was notified by Bank of America that she had to declare in writing what she intended to do with the money that wasn’t going toward paying off her mortgage.
“That’s ridiculous,” Cindy Atteberry said. “It’s none of their business. And I told them that. They told me it would take 14 days to process my check. That’s ridiculous, too.”
But without a letter, the processing would be completely stalled.
Postal records provided by the Atteberrys to the Globe show that the envelope containing the letter of intent was signed for at Bank of America in Simi Valley on Wednesday, June 22; a worker at Bank of America later told Cindy Atteberry it wasn’t received until nearly a week later — Tuesday, June 28.
On Tuesday, July 5, Cindy Atteberry was notified by phone that her loan would be paid off by that afternoon — some 14 days after she says the letter of intent arrived at Bank of America’s Simi Valley office — and that the balance of the money would be mailed to her July 19 — another 14 days later.
It was then that Cindy Atteberry decided she needed help. She contacted the attorney general’s office and Richard, chairman of the Senate Interim Committee on Natural Disaster Recovery. Both looked into her situation.
On Thursday, July 7, the mortgage payoff had still not been made.
Cindy Atteberry was angrier than ever after opening a manila envelope with a July 1 California postmark.
It contained a smaller, self-addressed return envelope that she’d sent along with the insurance check, so Bank of America could mail a new check to her. The envelope was empty.
There was no letter of explanation.
“Someone went to all the trouble to get a manila envelope?” Cindy Atteberry said. “To mail an empty envelope? Are you kidding me?”
Her voice rose as she displayed the empty envelope.
A SUDDEN CHANGE
But she also got a message that day, July 7, from a woman in property claims at Bank of America, asking for a call back.
The automated phone system doesn’t make it easy to return a phone call from an employee in Bank of America’s property claims office, but Cindy Atteberry eventually connected with the woman who wanted to talk with her.
“She apologized for the way I had been treated,” Cindy Atteberry said. “She said that’s not how they want to do business.”
Cindy Atteberry said the caller also told her that the money still owed to the couple after the mortgage payout — about $178,000 — would be expedited and sent by overnight delivery.
Contacted by the Globe by phone on Friday, the woman in Bank of America’s property claims office said she couldn’t talk and referred questions to the media relations office. A Bank of America spokeswoman said out-of-state “researchers” would have to look into the case before any response could be made. She had no comment about Bank of America’s general business practices, or the attorney general’s five– to seven-day time frame for “reasonable” turnaround on checks.
Cindy Atteberry checked her voice mail and email Friday for the tracking number she said the woman on the phone told her she’d receive after the check was shipped. She didn’t hear from Bank of America.
The following statement was sent from Bank of America to a Joplin Globe reporter in response to questions about the Atteberrys’ experience, check processing times, and comments contained in this story from the Missouri attorney general’s office and Richard, the state senator:
“We understand that a natural disaster such as this can be difficult for everyone who is impacted by it, as the Atteberrys were. Generally, it takes approximately 14 days from the date we receive the letter of intent from the homeowner to process the check request. In this case, we received the Atteberrys’ letter on June 28, and completed the check request on July 7. The actual check should be sent as early as Monday.”
The statement did not address the bank-signed June 22 date of delivery or the comments from the state officials.
The Missouri Senate Interim Committee on Natural Disaster Recovery chaired by Richard comprises three subcommittees, including insurance response. Preliminary reports are due to him by Sept. 14.
In the meantime, Richard said he and his staff are working to stay on top of things as they develop, especially complaints like Cindy Atteberry’s. “Most of those have been resolved with a phone call” from his office or the state attorney general’s office, he said.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that some companies have been slow in their handling of paperwork and funds, Richard said.
The May 22 tornado directly affected more than 30 percent of Joplin, causing estimated damage of as much as $3 billion.
“There is no textbook for a disaster like this,” Richard said. “Still, that is no excuse.”
To file a complaint with the Missouri attorney general’s office: http://ago.mo.gov/consumercomplaint.htm
All I can say is ‘too big to fail.’
July 11, 2011, 11:33 AM
Financial Institutions have credit reporting agencies in which their credit score is based. I have had to use this agency when Bank of America owed us a large sum of money. It is amazing how fast we got the money when they discovered I was going to file a complaint with Dunn and Bradstreet, (their credit reporting agency). We had the funds with in 48 hours.
July 10, 2011, 6:49 PM
Christy D. wrote:
We are having similar issues with Bank of America. Our house was damaged. We receive an insurance check, only partial cause the insurance kept some for depreciation till we get some of the work done. Because it was over $10,000, we had to mail it to Simi Valley also. When we called them and asked about what to do, they told us to sign the check & mail it to them and they would send us $10,000 of the $19,000. They said that they would send us the rest barring an inspector coming to our house & checking the work. This is my money. I’ve paid my insurance for 15 years on time, I’ve paid my mortgage for 15 years on time every month. This can’t be legal. I am so angry that it makes me sick. The contractors are telling me also that the insurance isn’t going to cover the amount of work and we have to have the adjuster come out again. How does someone handle this after being thru an F5? The mental and emotional trauma is unbearable. And now these people that we are suppose to trust to take care of us in a time of need are pretty much telling us to go fly a kite and stealing our money. What do we do?
July 10, 2011, 1:03 PM
familiar story wrote:
we experienced the same problem with bank of america after a total loss from a house fire. they are impossible to work with. i would NEVER choose to do business with them again. we received our check from the insurance company quickly, however, it was almost 3 months before we received the funds ‘back’ from bank of america.
July 10, 2011, 11:56 AM
Nobody has been able to convince me that ‘owning’ a home is anything more than a huge hassle. Even if you’ve got cash and don’t have to deal with a mortgage, you never really own it as long as the government could take it for failure to pay property taxes. I rent a very nice place, and a renters policy with $38k total coverage runs me $176 a year. If I had been in the tornado zone, I would be down the road with a check for about $60k, counting both cars.
For a long time, people were under the impression that a house was a liquid asset. It isn’t. People tell me I’m throwing money away by renting. I say I’m paying for the freedom and flexibility to go wherever I please when the lease is up.
Lastly, nothing I’ve ever read has convinced me that Bank of America is anything but completely evil. This is the same bank that actively sought out illegal aliens for credit cards. Most of the other megabanks are almost as bad. Bank local folks, and credit unions are the bomb.
July 10, 2011, 11:09 AM
We have four mortgages with Bank of America, our home and three little rentals. When we lived out of the area the bank we got our loan with there was eventually bought out by Bank of America so we have just stayed with them. However, the more I read about the less-than-admirable way BoA does things, the more I am inclined to take them ALL to a local bank. (Plus the fact that I drive by probably 25 banks on my way to the ONE BoA in all of Joplin.) I can’t imagine how stressful and frustrating this must be to people who are already dealing with so much.
July 10, 2011, 8:47 AM
I was in the insurance business for almost 30 years and frequently saw this kind of delay from mortgage companies. With a single home loss due to a fire, the mortgage companies would delay cutting a check for the balance owed to their client. This kind of thing can be so over whelming to folks already in distress; it certainly needs looked into by the Attorney General’s office.
July 10, 2011, 7:48 AM
this is another way they can get more money for interest and leave the insured with less the federal goverment should be looking into this cause the state is doing nothing about it and yes i am talking about bank of america the ones that got the bail out i think this is a scam on the ones that lost everything and they are trying to rebuild their lives
July 10, 2011, 7:39 AM
Avid Reader wrote:
I would love to be waiting on my mortgage company to return the money to me. I am STILL waiting on Barton County Mutual to mail me my check. They claim that they mailed it on June 27th. I would have been happy to walk to Liberal MO to pick up the check in person…..would have been much faster. Thankfully my mortgage company seems to be ok with waiting. I will be very happy to part company with Barton County Mutual. My mother lost her home and her insurance adjuster met with me one hour after my adjusters appointment. Her check was in hand within a week. I guess it is true….Nationwide is on your side.
July 10, 2011, 1:24 AM
My daughters’ house was a complete loss and she had Suntrust Mortgage company. She had the balance of her insurance check back in under 2 weeks! It was a load off of her mind for sure!
July 9, 2011, 11:01 PM
Add wells fargo to that list, they have had over 3 weeks to get my check back and keep coming up with more letters or forms. They are holding millions of dollars to make a little profit, they are not fools, they know what they are doing.
July 9, 2011, 9:37 PM
dead duck wrote:
….the check is in the mail and the goverNment is sleep walking….amen?
July 9, 2011, 8:07 PM