Federal law mandates that any bank seeking to repossess the vehicle of an active duty service member must first get a court order. Wells Fargo didn’t in hundreds of cases – and it’s not the first time.
Last September, CNN Money reported the banking institution would pay $24 million in order to settle allegations that it had unlawfully repossessed the vehicles of nearly 415 soldiers, absent a court order, in direct violation of federal statute. These repossessions took place between 2008 and 2015, with the initial complaint coming from an Army National Guardsman who alleged his car was repossessed as he prepared to deploy to Afghanistan. The vehicle was later auctioned and the bank attempted to collect $10,000 from the serviceman’s family.
Now, the bank is accused of illegal repossession of another 450 service members – which brings the total to more than 850 illegal vehicle repossessions – and that’s only the amount about which we know. These newly-uncovered offenses also occurred between 2008 and 2015, and the additional violations will cost the bank another $5.4 million. Further, the bank has promised to repair the credit of the military members in question, as well as pay them $10,000 each, as well as any lost equity they may have earned and any interest they might have expected to earn as well.
The move violates the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The law protects active duty military members’ finances in a number of ways, including:
- Preventing default civil judgments against them (as they are often unable to respond);
- “Staying” (putting on hold) certain legal actions at any stage before a final judgment in a civil action;
- Staying or vacating the execution of certain judgments, attachments and garnishments;
- Capping maximum rates of interests on debts incurred before military service at 6 percent;
- “Tolling” (extending) the statute of limitations for certain legal actions;
- Prevent evictions of a servicemember or servicemember dependents during a period of military service (so long as rent does not exceed $2,400 and the property is a primary residence);
- Places restrictions on foreclosures involving active duty servicemembers, including extending prohibition of action within nine months of the servicemember’s return home;
- Prevents termination of auto loan leases or repossessions while the servicemember is in active duty (doing so is a first-degree misdemeanor).
There are numerous other protections military members are afforded, and it’s important for financially struggling active duty military members to consult with an experienced debt defense attorney in Miami to ascertain what their legal options might be.
As to the latest debacle, the nation’s third-largest bank released a statement indicating it is committed to making sure active duty military members are able to receive the protections promised them under law, it was a fact the bank clearly overlooked in hundreds of instances – and these are only that we have so far discovered.
Several service members spoke out, relaying they understood their rights at the time, but they were powerless to stop the bank from taking the illegal action. Perhaps it’s little surprise, then, that Wells Fargo Auto Loans have a 1-star overall satisfaction rating from Consumer Affairs.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
Wells Fargo repays $5.4 million for repossessing service members’ cars, Nov. 14, 2017, By Jonathan Stempel, Rueters
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Wells Fargo Finds 1.4 Million More Potentially Fake Customer Accounts, Sept. 8, 2017, Miami Debt Defense Lawyer Blog