Belial Bank’s Conference Call Re: New Year’s Resolutions

As we approach 2012, our friends in the banking, servicing, and title industries are on their last conference call of the year; this time discussing how to put a better face on the banking industry.  Belial Bank’s President and CEO, B.L. Zebub, moderates. He has convened his trusted cronies to consider various schemes to cast the Big Banks in a better light for 2012.  In attendance are B.L., his honest but naïve legal intern, Les Guile; title industry hand-wringer Liz Pendens; and her nemesis, Dee “Take No Prisoners” Faulting, of the default servicing industry; Damian Faust, Belial’s lead counsel and hatchet man is present, as is the Bank’s chief schemer and PR man, Kenneth Y. Slick III (aka “KY”).  B.L.’s loyal secretary, Lucy Furr, has dutifully transcribed this conversation. As in the past, I am legally prohibited from revealing the source of this purloined post. – PCQ

B.L. Zebub: “OK, do we have everyone on the line?”

Lucy Furr: “B.L., I think everyone is on the line.” B.L. Zebub: “Good.  Well everyone, we’re rounding the corner into a new year, so I thought it appropriate to have an open discussion on what goals we ought to set for 2012.  I have some thoughts of my own, but would like to hear from the rest of you first.” K.Y. Slick: “Well, I for one think we need to improve our public relations.  We should start focusing on customer retention.  First there was the bailout which the public viewed as a gift; then there was the robo-signing scandal; then there was the foreclosure mess, where we couldn’t seem to do anything right; then there was the $5.00 debit card fiasco, which we were fortunate enough to back away from, just leaving B of A to twist in the wind; and this coming year we’re going to be publically fighting with the regulators on Dodd Frank’s crazy “skin in the game” rules, and capital requirements under the Basel rules.”

B.L. Zebub: “Just how do you propose to that?  The last time I checked, we’re running neck and neck with Charles Manson on the likability scale – and I hear the smart money is on Manson.”

K.Y. Slick: “Here’s my thought, B.L.: I think what’s lacking is that warm fuzzy feeling that people no longer get when they come into our bank. We need to change that.  We need to get closer to the little people.  Make ‘em believe we’re one of them.  Accordingly, I suggest that we have every main and branch office offer free Dum-Dum Pops at the tellers’ windows. They come in a variety of flavors – enough for every palate.  They’re sure to be a big hit.  With a little sugar high and people will forget all that nastiness we perpetrated over the last several years.”

Les Guile: “Pardon me, sir. Do I understand you right?  After being bailed out to the tune of 200 billion dollars, and then using that money to give multi-million dollar bonuses to the executives that drove this country into a ditch, you think that a little candy is going to turn the American public into amnesiacs?  Do you really think they are that gullible?”

K.Y. Slick: “Guile, I don’t believe I like the tone of your voice.  You should have more respect for your elders.  And no, the candy giveaway is only a part of my plan.  I have other great ideas.  I suggest that we give all of our tellers a list of friendly questions they can ask customers as they’re standing at the window. That way we’ll seem more approachable.  It’s disarming to be treated nicely at a bank.  I had this epiphany as I waited in my car for coffee at the Starbuck’s drive-up window.  While one barista brewed my coffee, a perky 16-year old began asking me questions from the window, like:

‘So how’s yer day goin’?’ ‘Got any like, big plans for the weekend?’ ‘I sooo like yer car!

I bet it was like, expensive!’ ‘My boyfriend and I are going to see Girl With the Dragon Tattoo like, this Saturday.

I really love tattoos, don’t you? Betcha can’t guess, like…where one of my tattoos is!’”

Liz Pendens: “K.Y. what have you been smoking?  Are you crazy?! First, I don’t agree that asking perfect strangers personal questions about their weekend plans is appropriate. Nor do I see how it’s going to make up for the reputational damage your industry has inflicted on itself for the past several years.”

B.L. Zebub: “K.Y. this is one time I have to agree with Liz, handwringer that she is.  She’s right.  We have to think big!  Now, does anyone have any ‘Big Resolutions’ we can make for 2012 to deal with the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into over the last several years?”

Dee Faulting: “B.L. I think I do.  It’s gonna cost some money, but what the heck – the worst that can happen is the taxpayers bail us out again!  I say forget the little Moms and Pops patiently waiting to deposit their social security checks at our bank.  Thanks to Survivor and American Idol, they’re clueless.  I say we try to build up our stock value by generating buzz.  So here’s my idea:  Bank of America’s stock price just dropped below $5.00 a share.  In some states, B of A’s stock is cheaper than a pack of cigarettes – and they’re both going up in smoke! Ha!  In 2011, B of A was grabbing all the wrong headlines. They’ve lost a lot of institutional investors because of their share price.  I say we go after these investors. We start running big splashy ads, trashing B of A and driving investors over to our shop.”

Damien Faust: “Dee, this is why you’re a lowly servicer rep with no key to the executive restroom.  You may not know the difference between gossip and libel, but I do.  If we’re going to be sued, I want to have the truth on my side, since it is a complete defense.  So what’s the latest muck you’ve dug up on B of A that you believe is true?”

Dee Faulting: “Damien, I’m going to ignore your misogynistic remark, for the moment.  So, here’s the scoop: Everyone knows B of A has been selling off several business, including servicing rights for nonperforming loans.  One of the companies that bought a bundle of these is Greentree.  Anyone know anything about them? (Silence)  Well, I’ll tell you.  They are the nation’s largest lender and servicer of mobile home loans.  They are now a private company.  They are now also servicing residential loans.  They have a very poor reputation if you talk to anyone who’s ever owed them money.   Now that they have taken over servicing many of B of A’s nonperforming loans, we’re hearing more and more about them.  If someone is behind on their home loan, Greentree can become very nasty.  For example, they reportedly sued 32 mobile home owners who fell behind on their mortgage payments because of Hurricane Katrina.  In Darwinian terms, their collection agents are at the very bottom of the food chain.  One of their collection guys supposedly left a message on a borrower’s phone who had been recently airlifted to the hospital for a heart attack.  According to one report, the collection guy supposedly said: ‘Stanley McLeod, you need to call Greentree and get your act together and make your payments on your mortgage and quit playing these games.  Why don’t you have that helicopter pick you up and bring that payment to the office?’ So I say we link Greentree’s heavy handed collection practices back to B of A who made the loans in the first place.  Just a good ol’ fashioned smear campaign!”

Les Guile: “B.L., I know I’m just a neophyte when it comes to your industry.  So please excuse my naïveté, but I think I have a novel idea. Why don’t all you Big Banks issue a joint public apology for the damage you’ve wrought over the past several years?  You could start by saying that you’re sorry about killing the housing market by practically giving away mortgage money causing a run on housing and artificially spiking prices.  And right when people started to realize they couldn’t afford the no-doc loans you suckered them into with teaser rates, your securitization profligacy spooked investors and caused the credit markets to seize up so borrowers couldn’t refinance into more sensible amortizing loans. And you might consider asking forgiveness from your borrowers for pretending to modify their loans, when in fact, your goal was to prolong their misery by keeping them in a loan they couldn’t afford, just so you could generate more penalties and higher default servicing fees.  You knew they couldn’t pay them, but you knew that once they fell into the foreclosure abyss, you’d get paid before the investors who actually held the loans.  And in those cases in which investors had purchased Fannie and Freddie loans, you knew it was going to be the American people who bore the brunt of those excessive losses, since they were implicitly guaranteed by our government.  In fact, you were so sure they would fail that you bet against them using credit default swaps.  So you made money for making the loans, you made money from the servicing, you made money when you securitized them, you made money betting against the very products you touted as investment grade, and you made money when the American people bailed you out when your house of cards collapsed.  Not a bad gig – as long as it lasted.  So maybe an apology is finally in order.  What do you think?”

B.L. Zebub: “I’m sorry Guile, you must have accidentally pressed the “Mute” button. I couldn’t hear a word you said.”