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CHASE HOME WEASEL BACKS OFF

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It didn't quite fold--like the cheap camera to which Rabbi Yehua Levin likened Carl Paladino after the latter backed off his nasty remarks about homosexuals and gay marriage--but our mortgage bank, Chase Home Weasel, finally 'fessed up, in writing, to wrongdoing.

Readers of my previous posts on this subject (here, here, here, here and here) know that for the last three months, my wife and I have been working out our issues with Chase, which in June wrote us to say we were in default for payment of our next door neighbor's water bill ($81.59). As a result of this "delinquency," Chase was adding an escrow charge of almost $500 to each monthly mortgage payment to cover all the taxes we were clearly in the habit of not paying. This was far from Chase's first attempt at making us pay more than our mortgage requires-it's tried the neighbor's water bill thing four times-but it was possibly the most transparently fraudulent.

Well, after three months of letters, phone calls, emails, blog posts, legal threats and, in the privacy of the home, voodoo rituals, I am happy to say that Chase has officially apologized. The tone of its letter isn't quite as mealy-mouthed and abashed as I'd hoped. Still, there on Chase Home Weasel letterhead are the words "We apologize," preceded by statements of Chase's various heinous acts: Yes, they escrowed us for payments that were not late, or missing, or even ours. Yes, those letters of notification Chase claimed it had sent were never actually sent. Yes, our escrow waiver was violated when the bank made tax payments on our behalf without our knowledge or permission and which we had already made, and now the Brooklyn tax authorities, those meanies, won't return the bank's dough, putting it instead toward our next quarter's payment. The letter "requests" we reimburse Chase for the disbursements it made "on our behalf."

If Chase were a class act, it would eat those tax disbursements as a nice show of contrition. But these days no one expects banks to be class acts and I'm sure the only contrition felt Weasel about our situation has to do with getting caught. Still, there's something about the smell of apology in the morning.

It's a small victory, certainly, and one I'm sure we owe more to the challenges Chase faces at the moment than to our tenacity. It has always amazed me that, despite Chase Home Weasel's leading roles in both peddling crap mortgages and then illegally foreclosing on them, it's never forgotten the little things-like persistently trying to cheat us. I picture the bankers dabbling with such petty larceny as a fun break from selling derivatives and seeking new ways to suck blood out of the economy.

Guess there's no time for fun these days. Chase Home Weasel has had to halt its brisk business in foreclosures amidst accusations that they are based on paperwork that is unverified, inaccurate, falsified, or otherwise flawed. The mother ship, JP Morgan Chase, faces scrutiny, not to mention lawsuits, related to its securities lending and for its role in manipulative silver trading.

With problems like these, you can see where the Weasel might decide to reel in the small-bore scams such as ours. Its letter assured us that the parcel number of the neighbor's house has been removed from Chase's system, presumably to reassure us that his water bill will no longer be levied upon us. We'll see.