Will a $63 million FTC-CFPB settlement encourage Green Tree to turn over a new leaf?

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As the name suggests, Green Tree Servicing was supposed to service homeowners’ mortgages by collecting and crediting monthly payments. But according to a $63 million settlement announced by the FTC and CFPB, rather than service, Green Tree gave many homeowners the business.

Mortgages are often transferred during the life of a loan, so consumers may find themselves locked in a relationship with a servicer they didn’t select – and with no opportunity to shop around. Green Tree was a big name in servicing loans for manufactured housing, but recently made a major move into the residential market. It billed itself as a “high-touch servicer” – a euphemism for a company that places frequent collection calls in an effort to get people to make timely payments. With that strategy, it’s not surprising that Green Tree acquired the mortgages of a proportionally higher percentage of people already in financial trouble. For many of those cash-strapped consumers, that’s when things went from bad to worse.

According to the lawsuit, when homeowners were even just one day late with their payments, Green Tree’s collectors often unleashed a barrage of phone calls, some starting as early as 5 in the morning or continuing until as late as 11PM. The collectors didn’t limit themselves to home phones, getting some people in trouble by calling them at work. They illegally threatened them with arrest or imprisonment, used obscene language, and mocked the problems that led to their financial distress. (One collector said to a woman, “You should leave your husband if he can’t provide for you.”) Green Tree’s loose-lipped collectors were known to discuss people’s debts with bosses, co-workers, neighbors, and family.

When borrowers sought options like loan modifications or short sales, Green Tree allegedly mishandled many of those requests, leaving consumers in even worse straits. For example, some homeowners were in the process of finalizing loan modifications with other servicers when their mortgages were suddenly transferred to Green Tree. Rather than honoring those arrangements, Green Tree often yanked that lifeline from people struggling to stay afloat. Others were told they’d have to pony up payment before they could even be considered for certain loan modification programs – an illogical (and often illegal) requirement for folks who had already sent out a financial SOS. In addition, the lawsuit charges that when homeowners tried to get a short sale approved, Green Tree said it would respond within a set period – say, 30 days. But Green Tree dragged its feet, sometimes taking as long as six months to respond. As a result, people faced foreclosures that could have been avoided.

According to the complaint, even when managing homeowners’ accounts and payments – the bread and butter of a mortgage servicer – Green Tree often overcharged people. For example, Green Tree knew or had reason to know that some borrowers had received loan modifications from their former servicers, but went ahead and insisted on the original amount. And in numerous cases, Green Tree pressured people to use a method called Speedpay, which the company falsely claimed or implied was the only way to make a payment or the sole choice to avoid a late fee. Using Speedpay cost a $12 “convenience” fee per transaction – but convenient for whom? Not necessarily consumers, many of whom could have used free methods and still avoided late fees.

The lawsuit also alleges Green Tree helped itself to payments from consumers’ bank accounts without their authorization. For example, homeowners who gave Green Tree their account numbers to set up a one-time payment through Speedpay later discovered the company had used the information to arrange for additional payments without their consent.

Green Tree also was aware that specific portfolios it acquired from other servicers contained unreliable data. But when homeowners spoke up to dispute the misinformation, Green Tree left them in collections without adequately investigating discrepancies. In a similar vein, Green Tree reported unfavorable information about homeowners to credit bureaus, even when the company had reason to know the data was inaccurate. 

The $63 million settlement is a start, but what’s being done to protect consumers from underhanded tactics from here on in? Among other things, the order requires Green Tree to implement a home preservation plan to offer options to consumers whose loans were transferred to the company during the time covered by the complaint. In the future, when Green Tree is involved in the sale or transfer of servicing rights, requests for help – like short sales or assistance with loan modification programs – will have to be properly reviewed and agreements honored. What about those long delays? The company has to have people and technology in place to respond quickly to customer inquiries, including questions about options for avoiding foreclosure. Green Tree also has to stop collections of disputed amounts until it investigates and provides consumers with verification of what they owe.

When the company has reason to believe that information in newly transferred loan portfolios is iffy, Green Tree has to get proof of what consumers really owe. In addition, Green Tree will maintain a comprehensive data integrity program to help ensure the accuracy of information about customers’ accounts. The settlement also prohibits material misrepresentations about loans, payments, and fees, and mandates compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

What’s the message for others in the industry?

  • There’s a reason it’s called servicing. Mortgage servicers have an obligation to provide service to homeowners. That rules out misleading statements about what people owe, deceptive delays, and unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts.
  • The loan servicing process depends on accuracy at all stages. Inaccurate servicing practices can throw homeowners into a spin cycle with far-reaching consequences, including errors on their credit reports that can haunt them for years. The Green Tree case underscores that accuracy is essential at every step of the process.
  • Deceptive, unfair and abusive debt collection practices are out of bounds. The law provides procedures for collecting debts, but high-pressure tactics, baseless threats, incessant phone calls, and the disclosure of information to employers, relatives, and friends are on the DON’T list.
  • The FTC and CFPB are united in their commitment to protect consumers in financial distress. It’s no coincidence that the action against Green Tree was brought through the cooperative efforts of the FTC and CFPB. The agencies coordinate their activities to make efficient use of resources. In appropriate cases – for example, the $63 million Green Tree settlement – that may include joint law enforcement.

     

Comments

I have already submitted my case for the Greentree Servicing lawsuit. But I have heard nothing for almost 2 years. I have read some of the peoples​ posts and what they ended up getting for the lawsuit. Some are getting $10.00, $20.00 for what they went through. I'm beginning to think that nobody will get more than the $20 or $30. I thought something good was going to happen.

They really scammed my mother because she was an elderly and talked her into taking other a second mortgage. When she fell upon hard times, they harassed the hell out of her. To make a long story short, when I tried to sell her home for 58,000 we only got 7,000 and theye got the rest. This happened in 2006.

I am trying to settle with green tree on my 2nd mortgage that was discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy over 7 years ago. It was mishandled and should have been in a chapter 13 and stripped. However, trying to avoid a chapter 13 now we decided to try and settle for the lien release from them on our property. They have screwed us before financially and we received harassing phone calls from them also before. I am hoping they honor this and to just be done with them. Any advice or has any one settled and actually just been done from them? Looking for any advice. Also is it to late to get in the class action lawsuit? Green Tree also stated that if I filed a Chapter 13 to have the 2nd stripped they could deny it?

I have never seen a company like Greentree.I have been in my home since 1993.I was with bank of America. In 2013 my husband and I received a letter stating this is our new mortgage company. From the first invoice I knew we had problems, according to Greentree we were 3000 dollars behind, so I wanted to know for what, after faxing receipts in, I was asked why did I send that in.We have a class action lawsuit for Greentree insurance. We received paperwork in 2015,hadn't heard anything yet.

I had a loan with greentree for 10 years or more. Now Diteck has forclosure on my house with starting price of my irginal loan since 2001. Something is wrong. What happen to law suit with green tree. I was waiting for results. These companies need to be look into

I hope this is look into also greentree and Diteck need to stop calling my ec husband. We were divkrce years before i applied or knew who greentree was as well as other members its embarrassment. I hope this get look at soon. As long as i have had this loan should be about paid off. This needs some special handling. Its sad and unfair.

This company is frickin ridiculous. I had suntrust, then lending something, then greentree and now ditech. They are fraudulent and don't give a damn about their customers. They are out to destroy each of us financially. They know if they ruin our credit then we're stuck with them. I've been trying to get refinanced for 2 years w/a different mortgage company and NO ONE will touch this loan.

im begging to think that this is never going to happen. Many, many people who were messed over by Greentree an DiTech, are suffering. Why was there lawsuit in the first place? I have waited nearly 2 years for something to happen with this lawsuit, But other people have waited longer. I just wish someone would just let us know.

Green Tree haven't merged all their accounts with Ditech.

It's Countrywide story and Bank of America All over again, they are just highly paid collectors of funds for the private investors.

Record every conversation even if it's just for your own time line of events, also have your phone service send you your lof of in bound and outbound calls, this will give additional proof of contact.

I think this a terrible joke or a bad dream. I have heard nothing about what is going with the lawsuit for Greentree and Ditech! They messed me up, and were cruel and uncaring when my husband was killed in a roll over in 2008

They are loan sharks and they go after blood...

Ii have Green Tree to. they are going under the name of DITECH now that is what the letter said, I mailed them a check for the 5th and they tried to cash it before the date . it bounced 2 times. they held the check for 30 days and called me talking very nasty telling me it was my fault and I need to pay a late charge. now they are at the slick stuff again. A letter was sent with a 2 checks stating I was going on vacation June 11 until July 11 and I would not be home in time to pay. chased July first and tried to cash June and it bounced 2 times maybe more

I just received a $1,161.15 check in the mail today, in regards to this class action lawsuit. Unbelievable, the system does actually work on occasion!!!! And it couldn't have come at a better time, I am going to give 10% to the church at Sunday services.

Green tree and the same company Ditech are a bunch of thieves

Was in a loan mod with another bank when they flipped my loan to green tree. They sent me papers saying totally different things told me not to worry there system just needed to catch up with everything that was going on not to worry. Then later claimed they sent me papers to finalize the mod sense I successfully paid and did everything that was asked of me. The papers never sent to me. They then told me I had to start over and apply for another mod. They continuously told me that I didn't send this in. D they needed this or that. Which I would immediately, the same day fax back. They eventually foreclosed on me and now after having an attorney envolved. They want to put me in a new loan where I have lost all equity in my home. This has been awful. I went from oweing 133000 on my home to 186000. This home has been in our family for years. I even feel duped by my atty. The judge through out the lawsuit but what the judge signed off on with the proposed order is not what they are having me sign now. Feel pressured and in distress but I don't want to loose my family home.

I am with Ditech for the last 10 years I applied for Loan modification in last May 2016 never heard any thing from them. I send all the paper work and was in process and got I a call from manger who ids assigned to my account and I was told your case in process

I have waited for a very long time to find out about the lawsuit against Greentree Servicing. I too am a victim of their terrible actions. It will be 9 years Oct 17, 2008, when my husband was killed in a roll over. We had been in our home for a couple of years when Greentree took over. These people were not human, they were mean and uncaring. When I told them about the death of my husband, they acted like they could care less. They told me I better not forget to pay them, and the woman yelled at me. I hoped that I would get some help to stay in the house. I was on Social security and my husband was paying the mortgage. What was I supposed to do? I would get my husband's WCF, but it would only be $770.00. That would be the first payment from WCF. Then I would start to get $1,540.00 the following months. The mortgage payment was $891.00. I tried to find a way to get the whole payment to them but I couldn't. I was in tears and suffered an emotional breakdown. How can people be this way? I was told the home would go into foreclosure. Very humiliating!

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