It Takes Two Subpoenas And A Contempt Threat To Get A Response From WaMu

Washington Mutual will give you a copy of the check that you’ve been requesting for a year, but first you will need to subpoena them twice and attempt to have them held in contempt of court. That’s what one reader experienced when her employer, a law firm, needed a document from the megabank. As she puts it: “If a law firm with the power of a subpoena behind them can’t get WaMu to cough up a document in a timely manner without a massive amount of headache, I’d hate to see what the average consumer has to deal with.”

Our reader writes:

I work for a law firm and recently we had about a year long go around with Washington Mutual.

One of our clients needed proof of a substantial loan they had made (>$30k) via cashier’s check, but could no longer find their slip stub as the loan had been made a few years earlier. She called and wrote to WaMu requesting a copy of the cashed cashier’s check for proof that the loan had been made. They sent her a letter saying that the cashier’s check would be sent under separate cover in 15 days. A month later, no copy.

We then sent a request on our letterhead requesting a copy (with a signed permission from the client allowing us access to the document). We received a similar letter stating we would receive a copy of the document in 15 days. Again, three weeks later (to allow for possible mail time), no check was received. We sent three separate requests, all of which were responded to with the same form letter stating 15 days, but no copy of the document ever appeared.

Finally, we resorted to subpoenaing WaMu to produce the document. We went around and around with them attempting to get a copy of the document with WaMu admitting that they couldn’t find it and that all traces of the loan were gone. Later, they produced an electronic print out showing the deduction from our client’s account, but not to whom the money was paid. We needed a copy of the document that reflected who had been paid. After many, many phone calls, mostly from their subpoena intake group attempting to get out of having to send someone to personally appear in court (one of which showed up at the courthouse on a trial date WITHOUT the document) and WaMu insisting the entire time that they did not have a copy of the document, a SECOND subpoena, AND threats to hold them in contempt of court, they coughed up a copy of the document.

If a law firm with the power of a subpoena behind them can’t get WaMu to cough up a document in a timely manner without a massive amount of headache, I’d hate to see what the average consumer has to deal with. I’ll be sticking with my credit union.

The subpoena is certainly a powerful alternative to the EECB, but for those of you who don’t have easy access to an attorney, here’s some executive contact information, and here’s some more.

Comments

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  1. Pro-Pain says:

    WaMu, Fail. Best Buy of banks.

  2. Toof_75_75 says:

    Maybe the law-firm needed to utilize the EECB…I’m just saying.

  3. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Now everyone is going to subpoena documents from banks and ruin it for the rest of us.

  4. EyeHeartPie says:

    Where’s the fun in using a subpoena? I thought the whole point of using WaMu was to argue with the drones on the phone and in the banks, without any sort of solution to your problems. It’s like gambling: “Will they actually listen/care this time?”

  5. Nogard13 says:

    @Toof_75_75

    That’s exactly what I was going to say. Maybe they should call some Execs and see where that takes them.

  6. CaptRavis says:

    If it was an cashed Cashier’s Check then WAMU didn’t have it. They only sold it. It would have been paid through Wells Fargo Bank, via a third party vendor, Intergrated Payment Systems. Honestly, you must blame the customer for losing his copy in the 1st place. What is one year of document research at $25.00 per hour cost and where should WAMU send the bill,not to mention the $35.00 subpeona processing fee! Whoo-hoo, indeed.

  7. Copper says:

    @CaptRavis If it was made at WaMu they SHOULD have a copy. When I took out a cashier’s check, the teller kept a copy for the bank, I got a copy, and then there was the actual check. And yes, there’s a little blame to the actual person for losing their slip, but that’s not really the point. It’s the fact that WaMu said they’d send it a few times, but never did. Even under subpoena, it took a few times before they coughed it up. So shut up blaming the client.@CaptRavis: @CaptRavis:

  8. Landru says:

    I’ve read that some real estate foreclosures are derailed because the banks and financial firms can’t produce documents that show they own the mortgage. They simply cannot find them.

  9. CharlieInSeattle says:

    Well that is outrageous, but as a WAMU customer, I can get copies of my cashed checks online.

  10. orielbean says:

    My WAMU credit card (via Paypal credit card) give me my FICO credit score for each month. No annual fee for the card or the score, and I don’t carry a balance on it currently.

    FICO scores are a really useful tool to have for refinancing and loans, especially when you don’t need to pay for the scoring service.

  11. NoWin says:

    @CharlieInSeattle: You are correct, but it was a cashiers or Treasurers check, and are drawn not on your account, but a general ledger or corporate account at the bank funding the instrument. So Wamu is their own customer, and should have been able to produce either an imaged printout or a microfiche copy.

    CaptRavis was correct in that if the instrument was payable through a third party (i.e. wells), WaMu would not have the actual “cashed” imaged readily available, but should have been able to obtain it via their research departments direct request to Wells (this is common between banks, BUT often can be more than a few weeks if it is an old, non-imaged document.).

    WaMu keeps their copy more for due-diligence identity verification under the Patriot Act, Know your Customer regs, and a few other identity and anti-money laundering verification regulations.

    If WaMu issued the check under their own corporate treasurers check account, then they should have “ready” access to the imaged check on computer or image file after processing.

    WaMu -1

  12. CaptRavis says:

    @Copper, the customer said they wanted a copy of the cashed cashiers check, not the yellow copy that the teller keeps.
    BTW if the customer knew what day three years ago, like maybe a copy of the statment showing a 30K withdrawal, then the asst. mgr. of the WAMU (in theory, mind you) can look up an ODSxxx-BRNN report for that day. See the issuing check number for the cashier’s check in the transaction detail, then call the 1-800 IPS number located on all the cashier’s checks they issue and have a copy of the item faxed to the branch in 15 minutes, since the item was imaged when it was cashed. That is an entirely different type of request. If you want someone to dig through a warehouse full of bankers boxes looking for a little yellow piece of paper, expect some disappointments.

  13. JohnMc says:

    Wrong approach. Law firms aren’t subversive enough. If after going the subpoena route I got no action. If the loan was still active would have filed a satisfaction of lein and sent a copy to the bank. Totally bogus of course but somebody at the bank would respond. They want their money more than they want to provide service.

    The lawyer can then request due cause for proof a loan was made. Presumably the check would be part of that package. The right judge might even turn a blind eye to such shenanigans just to get action.

    I am glad I don’t bank with them!

  14. mac-phisto says:

    “a few years back” <— there’s the problem right there. retention guidelines vary from state to state, but in my state, loan documentation only has to be retained for 24 months after the loan is paid off. a cancelled cashier’s check must be retained for 7 years.

    a bank cannot be held accountable under the law for failing to produce documentation outside of the retention period.

    if “a few years” was 3, this is just a typical case of people doing their jobs very poorly. however, if “a few years” is really 10, finding this information can be quite difficult.

    & if we’re dealing with bank mergers (like you took the loan from bank A which was sold to B & subsequently C) researching old info is a logistical nightmare.

  15. landsnark says:

    @mac-phisto:

    Surely those rules are for consumers, not legal proceeding? That is, if a judge wants to see a record, you had better fork it over unless you want to see a jail.

    As for finding the record being difficult – surely it’s easier than sending one of your lawyers not once but twice to a court hearing?

    Not sure why WaMu was stonewalling, but since the records finally appeared, it’s pretty clear that this was in fact stonewalling as opposed to an honest difficulty in tracking down paperwork.

  16. Juggernaut says:

    it’s in the mail… hahahahahahaha

  17. mac-phisto says:

    @landsnark: my understanding of the law regarding retention is that the company cannot be held liable by a court of law if you abide by the retention schedule set forth by the legislature.

    if destroyed records were subpoenaed, proof of their destruction in accordance with the law would satisfy the subpoena.

  18. HurfDurf says:

    @orielbean:

    Wamu wouldn’t allow me to change my business address on their website!

    This has as much to do with this story as this comment:

    “My WAMU credit card (via Paypal credit card) give me my FICO credit score for each month. No annual fee for the card or the score, and I don’t carry a balance on it currently.

    FICO scores are a really useful tool to have for refinancing and loans, especially when you don’t need to pay for the scoring service.”

    (Thanks for sharing about your Wamu credit card!)

  19. landsnark says:

    @mac-phisto:
    “if destroyed records were subpoenaed, proof of their destruction in accordance with the law would satisfy the subpoena.”

    Agreed, but from what the internets tell me, if you have the record, you have to produce it:
    [209.85.175.104]

    This judge seemed to have reason to believe the records still existed and he was right, apparently. That seems to make the retention laws irrelevant (but I am not a lawyer).