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August 14, 2008

Mortgage Lenders Offer Assistance to Disaster Victims

Assistance can include delaying payments – but borrowers must contact their lenders.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Three of the nation’s largest home mortgage lending companies are offering a possible break to Iowans who are having trouble keeping up with their mortgage payments as a result of floods or other disasters.

Top officials of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Bank of America (which now includes Countrywide Home Loans), and Citi joined Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller at a news conference in Cedar Rapids – perhaps the epicenter of dozens of Iowa communities hard-hit by tornadoes and floods.

“Our top message is this: Talk to your lender right away if you are having a hard time keeping up with your mortgage payments as a result of the disaster,” Miller said.

“These companies are stepping forward to assist consumers in very important ways, such as agreeing to delay one or two or three monthly payments,” Miller said, “but they can’t extend any assistance if the homeowner doesn’t contact them and work out some arrangement.”

Miller said customers should call their mortgage company at the toll-free number designated to assist disaster victims. [Individual company numbers are listed below.]

Miller also emphasized that borrowers always can call the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline at 877-622-4866 to be directed to the companies’ toll-free phone numbers.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran welcomed Miller and the company representatives who spoke at the news conference: Leesa Whitt-Potter, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Michael Gross, Managing Director for Loan Administration, Bank of America (which now includes Countrywide Home Loans); and Dolan Pederson, CitiFinancial Area Director for Iowa and North Central States. (Biographical notes -- next page.)

The three company representatives emphasized the importance of borrowers contacting their mortgage lenders about any possible assistance. Miller noted that other lenders also may offer similar programs. Any arrangements must be made on a case-by-case basis, and programs may vary somewhat between different lenders, but typical elements are likely to include:

  • Borrowers must be in a declared disaster area to qualify for this kind of special assistance.
  • Assistance might be triggered by financial hardship resulting from flood damage to a home, or from loss of income related to the floods or disaster.
  • Assistance might include delay of monthly payments, typically for one to three months, without triggering late-payment fees, foreclosure action, or negative credit reporting.

Miller and the companies emphasized that delayed payments still would have to be paid later, typically on a payment plan agreed to by the borrower and lender.

“These programs are mainly to give people some breathing space financially before foreclosure proceedings, late-payment penalties and other adverse consequences take effect,” Miller said. “People will still be responsible for the payments eventually, so if you can make your full mortgage payment you definitely should do so.”

The three companies listed their toll-free numbers for consumers to obtain information if they need temporary assistance with their mortgages as a result of floods and other disasters. Citi: 800-374-7613 (or the number on a borrower’s mortgage statement.) Bank of America / Countrywide: 800-669-6076. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage: 888-818-9147, or 515-213-7700 (6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.) [Go to Wells Fargo Flyer.]

Miller also noted that some people may face longer-term difficulty in making their mortgage payments, whether caused by the disaster or other causes. Those people also should call the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline at 877-622-4866, regardless of who is their lender. Iowans can reach housing counselors through the Hotline, and in some cases may obtain assistance in reaching an agreement with their lender to modify the mortgage in ways to reduce their payments and keep them in the home -- a result that also can help the lender avoid costly foreclosure proceedings.

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 Participants in the Cedar Rapids news conference, from left to right: Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran, Michael Gross of Bank of America/Countrywide, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Dolan Pederson of Citi, Leesa Whitt-Potter of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. (Photo by Debora Blume, Wells Fargo.)

Biographical Notes for Speakers

August 14, 2008, News Conference

Leesa Whitt-Potter – Senior Vice President, Customer Operations for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is one of the nation's leading providers of residential mortgages. Leesa Whitt-Potter is directly responsible for overseeing customer service sites in Des Moines, Iowa, and San Bernardino, Calif.; leading the affiliate relations operations including the Hotline, and the company's Mortgage Relations Unit. She began her career with Wells Fargo in 1993 and has more than 22 years of mortgage-banking experience.


Michael Gross, Managing Director, Loan Administration, in the newly-combined Bank of America mortgage operation, which now includes Countrywide Home Loans. Mr. Gross manages the outreach and advocacy activities which are focused on Home Retention for Countrywide.

Mr. Gross joined Countrywide in 1998 as First Vice President of Acquisitions. In 1999, he assumed responsibility for the Alternative Mortgage Products division, servicing HELOC and Sub Prime loans. Mr. Gross was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2004, the same year he assumed responsibility for all Countrywide Home Retention divisions. In 2006, he assumed the position of Managing Director, Home Retention. In 2007 he moved to his present role of working with legislative, regulatory and community advocacy organizations on Home Retention issues.

For more than 38 years Mr. Gross has worked in the financial services/mortgage industry. Prior to joining Countrywide, he was with Washington Mutual/Great Western Bank from 1991 to 1998.


Dolan Pederson – Citi. Dolan is CitiFinancial Area Director for Iowa and North Central States. Dolan has been with CitiFinancial for 16 years and has led CitiFinancial’s Iowa team for the past six years. He is a West Des Moines resident and leads the Citigroup Iowa Leadership Council. The Leadership Council supervises the volunteer and philanthropic activities in Iowa for Citigroup and their employees.


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