Fairbanks Meets with Disgruntled Customers

After months of being under fire from politicians, regulators, consumer advocates and increasingly bold Democratic presidential hopefuls, a representative from Fairbanks Mortgage took some heat directly from a room full of the company's customers themselves in late August.

About 200 Fairbanks customers met with Maggie Matthes, the company's senior vice president, in what the East Side Organizing Project, a community group that organized the event, described as a contentious but constructive meeting on August 28. The main goal of the evening was to add a human aspect to disputes between individual customers and the mortgage servicer.

The meeting's organizers wanted the company's officials and customers to realize that one another were actual human beings.

"I work in an office. It's very easy to take a piece of paper and throw it to the side. But when you realize it's a person you have thrown to the side it's harder to do," said Barbara Anderson, an ESOP leader. Ms. Anderson described the event as a turning point in a relationship that has been developing over the course of several months. She added that Ms. Matthes had agreed to sign off personally on all responses to complaints filed through ESOP.

A Fairbanks spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting in particular or on the company's relationship with ESOP in general, saying that it was policy not to discuss its dealings with consumer advocates.

Fairbanks and ESOP reportedly began working together after members from the community group contacted Fairbanks officials in an attempt to make the company more responsive to customers' concerns.

Ms. Anderson said that the initial relationship was one of suspicion, but that Fairbanks has become increasingly cooperative as time has gone on.

Fairbanks now accepts the group's Hotspot cards, a form that customers can use to appeal foreclosures. The company will put a foreclosure on hold while that claim is examined. The company claims its policy is to do this with any qualified written request within the parameters of RESPA, with several specific qualifications.

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