Mortgage Days I – “Nen Barter”

One thing I think I’ve learned after three years in finance is that karma is complete BS.  I never believed in it to begin with (in fact, I was accosted by co-workers in my earliest days at my last job for stating that I didn’t buy into karma at all), but it has been confirmed all the more:  sometimes evil and mean people are also really smart and clever when it comes to the system around them, and can secure themselves to be evil and mean until their last days with little-to-no consequences in this life.  I’ll probably expand on that idea more later on in this “series,” but know that for now I’m just being careful with names in these entries.  So this is the story of a guy named Ben in Chicago, but when referring to his full name, he’ll be “Nen Barter.”  Did you see what I did there?  Eh?

So let’s get some of the technical stuff out of the way so I can tell you how amazing Ben was (and I mean “amazing” in a not very positive sense).  Also, after this, the following entries should be more concise.

After being employed at this place for a year, I was moved to the Administration Department and I helped in the process of hiring new loan officers (“hiring” can be something of a misnomer since all loan officers, or LO’s, are contracted and work 100% off commissions, and less than 2% ever came into the corporate office).  Over the course of the first of my two years doing that job, I slowly and eventually took over the entire process:  from collecting the needed documents, gathering application and licensing fees, entering their information into our system, doing a complete background and due diligence report, and making official proposals to the executive staff to hire or decline.  The complete application package consisted of a 12 page contract, filled out completely with personal and contact information, signed and dated, an I-9 form (for the DHS to prove you are who you say you are and that you can work in the USA), a tax form (many states allowed W9, but some, like Illinois, required a W4 for LO’s), crystal clear copies of identification per the I-9 (a passport, or a driver’s license and social security card, etc.), a resume, and a $45 application fee to cover background check costs, plus any state licensing fees (for this story, you need to know that Illinois has a $35 fee). Around the point that Ben came “knocking,” I was running maybe 70% of the process, and my genius bosses (sarcasm) were bringing in a dim-witted loan officer to assist with the other 30% as he also recruited other loan officers for the company.   Seriously–this guy knew no other way to survive in life other than trying to find some way to manipulate someone else out of their money.  We’ll call him “Todd.”

Ben sent in his hire package about a week before Todd started.   Ben’s package included three of the twelve pages of the contract, a W9, an I-9, and a hand-written note that said “I’ve been in the mortgage business for two years.  Please rush my application.”   Oh, I should also mention that he only wrote in his name on the W9 and I-9 (they require SSN, date of birth, address, etc.), and gave minimal information on his contract and didn’t sign it.  Also, his handwriting made it look like he was filling it out at the post office with a line of 15 angry people behind him, shouting for him to hurry up.  Except this was a fax.  As was procedure, I emailed him letting him know that I needed 1) the complete contract, filled out in its entirety and signed and dated, 2) proper identification per the I-9, 3) the $45 and $35 fees, 4) his resume or, at the least, a 10-year work history, and 5) a W4 instead of a W9.  Within the next day or two, I got another fax from Ben.  This time it was almost the same documents as before, with all the same, incomplete information on them except he had ONE additional page from the contract included.  I wrote again, telling him what he needed to send in, and a day or two later he sent in another fax, this time he was missing the W9 altogether, had three completely different pages of the contract included (but no other pages, not even the ones he sent before), and also had a piece of paper with a black rectangle on it, which I could only assume was an attempt to photocopy his driver’s license.  I wrote back to him, yet again, and shortly afterwards he sent another fax, which was a weird mishmash of his two previous faxes, with other stuff missing, too.  At this point I just said “screw him,” and filed the stuff to the side and started focusing on other applicants.  You know, ones who could follow instructions.

Well it wasn’t long after this that Todd started.  Todd’s position was one of many mind-blowing decisions made by the executive staff to put an ignorant person in authority over me, while telling me that I had to train them.  Our office relationship quickly became about me giving him small, simple tasks to do to free up my time to focus on the difficult ones he was hired to supervise, because he’d let stuff sit on his desk for days as he chatted on the phone all day with other loan officers.

It was about two weeks into Todd’s time in the office that Ben came back up.  You see, the whole time I was figuring out how to manage Todd as he was supposed to manage me, Ben continued sending in faxes.  Usually one a day, sometimes more.  At best they were faxes of the same stuff I’d already received with one additional page added; at worst they were a single page.  Sometimes he’d fill out a new form of some sort with the information he was missing on the previous form, but not put the information on the previous form on this one (e.g. he’d have one I-9 with just his name and address on it, then he’d fill out another one with his social security number and birth date, then another one with his name and social security number, then another one with his address and social security number, and so on and so on).  I ended up with a very thick stack of papers in Ben’s file because I didn’t waste time sorting through them.  Up to this point, Ben had just been fax-happy and never emailed a word.  Well, now he started to ask about the status of his application.  I would respond to tell him he still had not sent a complete package, nor was anything sent in the way I told him.  I would then list out in the kind of detail a parent gives to their six-year-old what he needed to do.  He would respond that he did exactly what he was told (he hadn’t), and then fax another incomplete set of papers.

(For the record: at this point in the company history, the goal was to hire as many people as possible, so we put up with this crap until we could do a background check (which required a complete application) before we declined; about a year later the policy was changed and a time-limit to get a complete package was implemented, though not always enforced by the executives.)

After a few days of this, he started to call the office.  I would see his name on the caller ID and would refuse to pick up–as far as I was concerned, he was a discard because he couldn’t be trusted to handle people’s very personal financial information, which is a huge liability to our company (people can get huge fines or lose all commissions and fees in the mortgage business for something as trivial as not check-marking a box on some random form, and we would be liable because it would be under our license).  Eventually, though, since I wasn’t picking up, he got on the phone with Todd.  Oh, they just had a great conversation.  Todd comes to me after getting off the phone with him, “Hey, man, how come you’re giving Nen Barter such a hard time?”

“Giving him a hard time?” I replied in disbelief,  “He’s completely incompetent and has spent the last three weeks or more sending me incomplete packages while refusing to follow the instructions I give him.”

“He says he’s sent it all like you asked.”

“I know he said that, but its not true; look,” and I would show him the 40+ pages of faxes I’d received from him, “And none of this equals a full package.”  Todd saw it and laughed and just went back to his desk, shaking his head.

The next day I hear Todd talking to Ben, “Well, Ben, you’re not sending the stuff in like he’s asked. . . . I know that, but we can’t do anything until we have everything . . . Man, I’ve seen it, you don’t have everything.”  After finishing, Todd asks me to email Ben what he needed to send again.

“He’s a waste of time, Todd.”

“Why do you say that?  I’ve talked with him a few times, he seems like a cool guy.  I think he’d make a good salesman.”

“He’s going to be handling people’s financial information.  He cannot be that disorganized, and he cannot fill out important documents so incompletely.  He’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

“Yeah, he is a bit scatterbrained,” said Todd, to my surprise, “I was talking to him earlier and I was in mid-sentence and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go, there’s this hot girl I gotta talk to,’ and hung up on me.”

I didn’t say it, but I was thinking, Really, Todd?  You think this guy is quality after he does that?  Are you that dense?

Yes, Todd was.  He still pushed for me to keep working with Ben.  I argued and fought and demanded that my time be used on quality applicants (the few we had).  Well, Todd took it to the president of the company and I was ordered, at an executive level, to proceed.  Since it was clear that emails weren’t working, I got Ben on the phone and took him page by page, line by line, though what he needed to send to me.  (“And the next page starts, at the top, with a continued sentence that says, ‘at will and can be . . .,’ is that the page you have?”  “Yes.”  “Okay, then the next page starts with the end of another sentence that says, ‘liability,’ and then item twelve starts after that.  You have that one?” and so on).

Well . . . the fax he sent minutes later was STILL incomplete, but it had the last few pieces I needed to complete the package from the now-60+ pages I had from him.  I put it together like a puzzle, tossed the tons of duplicate pages, and started on the background check/due diligence report.

Part of our background check was checking credit history.  Ben had a credit score in the mid-400’s.  In case you don’t know, that’s REALLY REALLY bad.  If  you’ve got a 575, you’re not doing well at all, 700 is decent, and 750+ is just “good.”  His was close to 450.  He had, if I remember right, three repossessions of sports cars in the previous three years (and he was 26 or so at the time).  Since the proposal to hire or decline was in my hands, I saw no other solution but to decline.  I wrote up the report, explaining the previous month’s events and what I found in doing a check on him (not much else of note other than his poor financial history, really, but that was more than enough), and sent it to the CEO/Owner of the company, who made the final decision.  This guy, whom I will call “Matt,” sent an email to Ben, and I was CC’d.  He copied and pasted the bulk of my report into his email and commented to Ben, “See below, I’m not sure we’d be comfortable with you representing our company if this is how you handle the application process.  How can we trust you to be as organized as you need to be to properly do mortgages?”

Ben responded, “I have a processing team of three older women who have over 50 years experience combined.  They handle all that paperwork stuff.” (Author’s note: 90% of mortgage after someone agrees to get one is “paperwork stuff”).

A day or so passed by, and I got an email from Matt in which he said to me, “good call.”  I looked and there was correspondence between him and Ben on which I was not included.  There was a little more back-and-forth of Ben making a very poor case for himself, and Matt finally saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think that you’ll be a good fit with us.  I wish you well.”

Ben responded, “Whatever, man.  What the f**k do you care about how I organize my business?  It’s all just commissions.  This is bullsh*t, just like your whole stupid company.”

. . . and that’s actually the last I heard from Ben.  Writing that makes this part feel a little anti-climactic, but I guess that’s just the nature of this particular story.  In the end I ended up “winning” that one, but it was far too long of a journey to get there.  Actually, many of these stories I’m going to tell I did end up “winning,” but the part that amazes me is how many times I went through the same crap with the executives to keep a dangerous person out of the company.

Okay, this one’s long enough.  Next time I might talk about Pector Hementel.  Ha!  These names are so funny when I switch letters like that.

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