Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Big Bank Borg

Just got a list-serv email from a colleague who had a headache with Wells Fargo.  (It, along with Bank of America is among the worst financial institutions to deal with) And "Headache" and "Wells Fargo" are kinda redundant terms.

In my colleague's words:

A sister qualified to administer her brother’s estate.  Then she went to Wells Fargo, his bank, and was told that she would need a court order to access his funds.  She successfully opened an estate account at Wells and attempted to deposit several checks, including his final paycheck.  Wells refused to accept the deposit until she had obtained a court order. 

Inspired by the creativity coming out of Salem, I sought and followed Ross’ suggestion – sue a bank and it will come calling.  I filed a Warrant in Debt and listed the claim as “Failure to permit court-appointed Administrator access to decedent's property, including, but not limited to, bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, credit cards, etc.  See attached Certificate of Qualification and death certificate.”  Lo and behold, I got a call from the legal department at Wells Fargo today.

That post inspired a few comments, one being that with the flies at that bank, honey doesn't work and you gotta use vinegar. I then observed that their Borg Assimilated Mentality chokes getting things done. Star Trek - Next Gen. fans will understand the reference, if you don't, click the link.

But this inspired an idea:   Maybe "Borg"  could be a good code word for 'too big for their britches and incapable of dealing intelligently with . . . (whatever)'  AS IN:  "had to deal with the Borg at WF"   Yeah, you gotta be a (old) trekkie to appreciate it.

.olleague then posted on a group list-serv that "Creative Salem 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Attaboy for Verizon

We fuss and moan about the lack of service from big corporations.  Y’all certainly have seen me fuss and complain about banks. (No, they’re not any better).  I’ve always felt that if you complain when things go wrong, when something is done ‘beyond’ what you expect, you should give credit.

I know a lot of people have problems with Verizon.  I haven’t exactly had smooth sailing. But today I had a Verizon experience that was great.

I went into the office today – Sunday – to do some work.  My internet connection was down – DSL through my Fax line.  I checked further and found that there wasn’t a dial tone on the line either. I did a little trouble shooting on this end to make sure nothing in the building caused the problem. After eliminating that, I called and got the computer. 

Verizon’s computer response system has a lot of limitations, but in the instance of ‘no dial tone’ it walked me through the steps (which I had already done, so I responded accordingly) and then scheduled an appointment for Monday “between 8 AM and 7 PM”.  I can live with next day.

But I didn’t have to wait!

About 45 minutes later someone banged on my back door. I looked and saw a Verizon truck in my parking lot.  It was the repair guy (who had been here before) who saw the repair order and my car in the parking lot.

He checked the line inside; went out and checked the pole and found that my line was cut – accidentally – by someone else who went up the pole to fix someone else’s problem.  He repaired the cut and did a few other things to enhance the DSL signal to the office.

The fax and DSL line now works – even better than before. And on a Sunday.

Thank you, Verizon.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Government stupidity

Government stupidity. 

Yeah, those two words are redundant.  But here’s a TRUE story.

Many years ago Puffuffnick owned property, went belly up in a spectacular way, both financially and personally. His executor was left trying to clean up the mess.

One of his properties was needed for a local government project, and the local government offered a very good premium price for the property.  Unfortunately Puffuffnick had some IRS problems – they had put a lien on his real estate and that had to be paid off as part of the closing.

Simple:  ask the IRS for a payoff or their agreement to release the subject property on payment of all proceeds, right? 

Nah.  For two months a bunch of lawyers tried to get the IRS to simply acknowledge the request. No luck.

So Puffuffnick’s estate sued, in US District Court:   Estate of Puffuffnick vs IRS.  The suit said, simply, “Judge: we own this property and the IRS has a lien on it.  We’ve sold it and we want to either pay them off or have them agree that they get all the money and will release the lien. Make them answer us”.  

This sets in motion the typical government response:  “Motion to dismiss because you can’t sue the government”.  And they fly a lawyer to Roanoke from DC to appear before the Hon. James Turk to get the thing dismissed.  The hearing went sorta like this:

JUDGE:  Mr. Government, it seems that the Puffuffnick Estate wants to pay money to the IRS.
GOVERNMENT:  Judge, you can’t sue the government.  We want the money, but you can’t sue the government and this case needs to be dismissed.
JUDGE:  Well, why don’t you simply agree to release the lien and they send you the money.
GOVERNMENT:  That has to go through channels.
JUDGE:  They’ve tried that for months and no one’s giving them any answer.  They need to get this deal closed.
GOVERNMENT:  You can’t sue the government.
JUDGE:  Well, isn’t the sale for a fair price?
GOVERNMENT:  Yes it is for a very good price, but you can’t sue the government.
JUDGE:  So if the Government sued and this purchaser offered this money, the government would take the money and agree to it?
GOVERNMENT:  Yes, but you can’t sue the government.
JUDGE: So you can’t sue the government but the government can sue Puffuffnick’s Estate?
GOVERNMENT:  That’s correct, sir.
JUDGE:  Fine.  Take this complaint and go to the US Attorney’s office on the next floor; they’ve got white out and typewriters.  Put IRS as plaintiff where it has Puffuffnick as plaintiff, and Puffuffnick as defendant instead of IRS.  I’ll then enter the order approving the sale, release of the lien and payment of proceeds to the IRS.
GOVERNMENT:   But . . . um . . . sir . . . um . . .
JUDGE:  I suggest you git up there now.
GOVERNMENT:  yes sir.

And so it was done.  And the next day the Roanoke Times headline read:  “Government gets judgment against Puffuffnick Estate”.

You can’t make it up, can you?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We all get 'em.  The messages from sonovabitch's in Africa (or elsewhere) that they've got a thousand million dollars unclaimed and want our help in getting it out of the country.  Got one today in my spamfilter, purporting to be from Spain.  It's below, between the =$=$ lines;  I'll point out the 'FAIL' part afterwards:


Dear Friend,
My name is Mr. Aaron Bradley, the financial controller at Caixa Bank (Main Branch) in Madrid, Spain, and I am getting in touch with you regarding a business deal worth €92,000,000.00 Million Euro in my control which will be executed under a legitimate arrangement.
I am contacting you independently and will intimate you more about myself and details of the project if and when I receive your response. Kindly get back to me if you are interested in partnering with me on this project with your mobile number.
Mr. Aaron Bradley
This message has been scanned for viruses and dangerous content by MailScanner, and is believed to be clean.
The University of Nairobi is committed to providing quality services to all its clients. The University will monitor and review its quality performance from time to time through an effective implementation of the Quality Management System based on ISO 9001:2008 standard.
University of Nairobi Website:


FAIL:  Since when does the Ciaxa Bank in Madrid Spain use email through the University of Nairobi  (Kenya) servers? Too transparent.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning from mistakes

As part of my elder-law practice, I subscribe to several 'list-serv' groups and learn from experiences of others.  On one recently was a question about whether someone was competent to grant a power of attorney.  It brought back a painful memory, which I related to the list-serv and copy here.  The more that can learn from my experience, the better.  The post:

Sometimes we learn the hard way. A personal experience.

Years ago in the early days of my career a couple came to see me with their daughter. There was discussion of a power of attorney and the growing disability of the parents to cope with their day to day needs. I 'helped' the daughter talk the parents into granting her agency through a power of attorney.

Six months later I got drafted by the Court (on petition of Social Services) to become guardian for these same parents as the daughter had fairly well cleaned them out. All money was gone, there was an equity line mortgage on their -- previously -- paid for house, that money spent also. She had let a drug dealer 'borrow' their car and he refused to voluntarily give it back. I had to place the people in an Assisted Living Facility and sell the house. (The Court also entered a $65,000.00 judgment against her for defalcation)

The husband -- by now in full blown dementia -- was aware enough that he knew he was going to lose the home he had worked very hard to buy and pay for. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking any fluid. He actually willed himself to die and did. The mother lived on for another few years in Assisted Living.

I never want to repeat that experience or lose sleep that way again.

If it's marginal, then I don't do it.

When I draft a power of attorney, it must be signed in my office and I must meet with both the principal and agent(s). I go over the rules governing POA's and was the first lawyer in my area to give the agents 'rules' to govern their actions under a POA. You can find them here. In my opinion, drafting a power of attorney and NOT giving instructions/rules is malpractice.

Frequently a doctor sees and evaluates individuals for a brief interval, some don't even do a 'mini mental' test. To really evaluate takes a specialized approach - in the Roanoke area we have the Center for Healthy Aging, part of Carilion Clinic. Doctors also do not understand the legal standards and implications of 'competency' unless it's for purpose of consenting to treatment (and even that can be dicey). When I started practice, a doctor's evaluation was a one-sentence letter that said "Irving Puffuffnick has been examined by me and needs a guardian". Now we have a checklist of things the doctor must address in his report.

We are part of the checks-and-balances in the system trying to protect feeble senior citizens.

Trust your gut.

If you suspect someone's taking advantage of a disabled individual, let Adult Protective Services know; contact (other) family members, call the police, contact a lawyer.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Attaboy

Last fall my daughter had a procedure done at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. It went fine, but that's not what I'm writing about.

While I was there I was impressed by the courtesy and friendliness of every staff member I met.  They truly wanted to make my 'experience' in the hospital (even as a visitor) good.  Even the orderlies (or whatever they're called these days) had a friendly demeanor and bantered nicely with the patients and their families.

I can't recall any time this wasn't the case -- when I was having trouble with various pebbles in my kidneys, or visiting clients, I've found the staff to be helpful and friendly.

It starts from the top.  In my years I've learned that the front line folks reflect the way management and top echelon approach their work and those who work for them.  It seems that the top management of Carilion gets it, and my hat's off to them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Could you explain . . . ?

I heard this story from another Councilman who was there.
Around 40 years ago Roanoke City was in an annexation battle with Roanoke County. One day Roanoke City Council decided to appropriate something for pensions.  The City's (then) director of finance told Council "You shouldn't have done this; you have bankrupt the City".  A week later he testified in the annexation trial and as to the City's finances said "Roanoke City is in wonderful financial condition. Revenues are strong and expenditures are under control.  There are not any financial problems".
Next meeting a Councilman put on the agenda a "personnel matter" and council went into closed session.  In that session the Councilman reminded the Director of Finance of both statements, and asked "All I want to know is,  Which time were you lying".
Probably a good question for today's politicians. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Wells Fargo story . . .

As if there weren’t enough reasons to stay away from Wells Fargo Bank, here’s another.

There was a brief article in the Thursday, March 15, 2012, edition of The Roanoke Times about some guy getting sentenced for identity theft. It seems that in 2010, Wachovia Bank (then owned by Wells Fargo; now actually called Wells Fargo) sent someone else’s social security number to the criminal who used it to open a bunch of accounts and charged at least $11,000.00. The Roanoke Times article

Excerpts from the story:

[The Victim] had a terrible time straightening out the credit history and Social Security information, but that is under way,” [the prosecuting attorney] said of the victim during the hearing.

[The Judge] asked [the prosecutor] whether [Wells Fargo] had been approached about the mistake, and whether the bank was willing to “step up to the plate” and help with a resolution to the matter.

“We suggested that but were soundly rebuffed,” [the prosecutor] said.

We all make mistakes;  I certainly have and probably more than my share. But when you make a mistake, you help fix it. If you’re honorable. If you care about people and your customers. If you’re NOT Wells Fargo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Citizenship qualifications

The Christian Science Monitor has an on line Citizenship test which those immigrants who wish to become citizens must pass (58 out of 96 questions). You can find it here:  Citizenship Test

Yeah, I passed with 94 of 96 (over-thought two questions).

This reminded me of when I taught a night course in Government at a local proprietary business school. On the first night I wanted to know the base line of the students, a mix of just-graduated from high school to been in the real world for a while.

The results were abysmal.  (That's worse than horrible). As I recall the highest score was 85% (naming elected folks was the toughest question). The lowest was one correct answer.  Mr. Porterfield (my High School Government teacher at PH) would have been horrified.

Here's that test:

Your name is optional:                        

US Government    Instructor:  Ross C. Hart, JD
September 14, 1998

The purpose of this quiz is to see how much you know about the government so I can better plan the course materials.  It will not count against you, however those students who are brave enough to put their name on it and who answer all questions perfectly will not have to take the first test.

1. Name the three constitutional branches of the Federal Government.
2. What are the two halves of Congress?  How many members in each half?
3. How many years do members of each half of Congress serve before re-election?  How many terms can they serve?
4. Where in the Constitution is the “Bill of Rights” found?
5. Which amendment protects private property from being taken by the Government without due process?
6. Which amendment protects the right to petition the government?
7. What part of the Federal Government “has the sole power of impeachment”.  What part of the Federal Government can try an impeachment?[NOTE:  this was around the time Clinton got a "Lewinsky" so impeachment was in the news]
8. Are you registered to vote?  If not, why not?
9. What City or County do you live in?  Who is your Congressional Representative?
10. Name all the Virginia members of the U.S. Senate.
11. How many justices are on the highest Court in the United States?  How long is their term of office?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wells Fargo Is Stupid (in my opinion)

I’m guardian for a guy (“Irving”) who is in a nursing home for the rest of his life.  He owns a house purchased for too much money by a agent under a power of attorney that was fired by the Court after which I was appointed. The guy owns a house with a Veterans Administration loan administered by Wells Fargo. I just had ANOTHER frustrating discussion with Wells Fargo which, in my opinion, is corporately too stupid to exist.

The value of the house is $115,000.00;  the loan balance is $135,000.00 (not counting late charges, interest, etc. because I'm not going to waste his money).  I filed a motion to abandon the property and allow it to be foreclosed as it’s upside down, and the motion explains that he’s in a nursing home and his income has to pay for his care, not for property that he’ll never get back.

Wells Fargo got a copy of all the court papers; a while ago I got a call and was assigned a ‘single point of contact’ (which OF CURSE has changed) (pun intended). Today I was called by the ‘new’ point of contact.

First, the ‘contact’ called me his power of attorney;  I’m the GUARDIAN with a court order – that trumps a POA any day of the week, but (in my opinion) Wells Fargo is too stupid to know that.

Then I was told that they were abandoning the ‘deed in lieu’ process because:
“Irving” hadn’t written a hardship letter. All that information is in the Motion to abandon property I filed, but (in my opinion) Wells Fargo is too stupid to know that.

They wanted an income worksheet, but that information for a worksheet is in the Motion to abandon property I filed, but (in my opinion) Wells Fargo is too stupid to know that.

In my opinion, and I told the poor individual this on the phone in my best Rossiferous voice and manner, Wells Fargo will make more money with a foreclosure, and make the Veterans Administration waste taxpayer's dollars on the foreclosure in this day of our Veterans needing all the help available. In my opinion, Wells Fargo is more interested in its own profit than saving the Government money (can anyone say ‘bailout’??).  Of course, they’ve paid for what is probably a wasted appraisal and title examination, so they get those dollars from the taxpayer also.

My frustration boiled over.  I told the representative that she’s only a small cog for a very stupid bank, and asked her to put in the notes, in all caps, that “WELLS FARGO CAN *&$# GO TO HELL”, and hung up.

Any question why I’ve closed over one-half million dollars of accounts with those idiots in the past year?

Any question why I urge my friends and clients (and blog readers) to leave Wells Fargo?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wells Fargo Complaint

I just filed a formal complaint against Wells Fargo Bank National Association with the Comptroller of the Currency.  They’re the folks who regulate (so to speak) the big banks – you can find them at  I’m administrator of an estate;  the decedent had accounts at multiple banks.  In EVERY case  I went into the bank with:
  • Certified Copy of the death certificate
  • Certified Copy of the Court papers appointing me as administrator
  • My original passport to prove I’m me.
  • Photocopies of the above for the Bank to keep.
and in EVERY case the funds were released without any hassle.  Except one.

Only Irving at Wells Fargo was the pain.  I first went in mid-December; he said he had to ‘run it by’ someone or other so – after showing him the originals – I left him with the copies and my card, with instructions to ‘call me when the check’s ready’.

I went back today;  Irving was there and said he needed something or other and that what I left him wasn’t the original.  His intelligence is immediately suspect.  I asked why he didn’t call requesting the information. No answer.

Anyhow, the branch manager gets into the act; she gets the check to close the account for me while Irving calls to ‘reactivate’ the account. The flunky on the other end wanted the estate tax ID number. They don’t need it – the account was in the decedent’s social security number and that’s as it should be.

They refused to deliver the check, payable to ‘estate of . . . ‘ so I filed a complaint. And poor Irving, dufus that he is, has his name on it.

Any wonder why I’ve withdrawn nearly One-Half Million Dollars from that bank in the past 6 months?