Federal Judge William Young in Massachusetts is making an unusual request of Wells Fargo in a Sept. 17 ruling in which he's requiring the bank's president and a majority of its board to approve a corporate resolution stating they stand behind their lawyers' legal tactics in the case.
The ruling underscores the huge disconnect between the bank's public comments about its efforts to keep more Americans in their homes and what troubled borrowers say is happening to them. The judge's comments were directed to Wells, but the perceived disconnect is an industry wide issue.
... It is appropriate to point out that, were Henning to prove his case on the merits, the conduct of Wells Fargo would be shown to be nothing short of outrageous. On the other hand, perhaps if Wells Fargo addressed the merits, its conduct would be vindicated by fair-minded American jurors. A quick visit to Wells Fargo’s website confirms that it vigorously promotes itself as consumer friendly, Loans and Programs, page within Home Lending, wellsfargo.com, https://www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/loanprograms/ (last visited September 17, 2013); a far cry from the hard nosed win-at-any-cost stance it has adopted here.
The technical (and now obsolete) preemption defense upon which Wells Fargo relies is an affirmative defense which can be waived. See, e.g., Tompkins v. United Healthcare of New England, 203 F.3d 90, 97 (1st Cir. 2000). The disconnect between Wells Fargo’s publicly advertised face and its actual litigation conduct here could not be more extreme. These facts lead this Court to inquire whether Wells Fargo wishes to address Henning’s claims on the merits. After all, it may be that Wells Fargo has done nothing wrong.
ACCORDINGLY, it is ORDERED that Wells Fargo, within 30 days of the date of this order, shall submit a corporate resolution bearing the signature of its president and a majority of its board of directors that it stands behind the conduct of its skilled attorneys and wishes to avail itself of the technical preemption defense to defeat Henning’s claim.
Should it do so, judgment will enter for Wells Fargo. If no such resolution is filed, the Court will deem the preemption defense waived and both Wells Fargo and Henning will have the opportunity to address the merits (i.e., what really happened) at a trial before an American jury. “