Business bureau fields uptick of complaints about mortgage-solution business
The Better Business Bureau and state watchdog agencies have received a number of customer complaints about a Beaverton-based mortgage payment process center in recent months, but the company appears to be responsive in addressing the uptick in concerns.
Since May 2010, the Better Business Bureau that serves Oregon, Washington and Alaska has logged 377 complaints against Seterus Inc., a division of International Business Machines Corp. formerly known as IBM Lender Business Process Services Inc., or LBPS.
The North Carolina-based company has a call center in Beaverton at 14523 S.W. Millikan Way that employs around 900 workers.
Consumers with mortgage loans that were transferred to Seterus Inc. have complained about customer service and billing issues regarding inconsistent billing statements, paperwork delays, unexplained fees and other problems, said Kyle Kavas, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau office in Lake Oswego.
Some complaints contend the business' failure to correct billing errors or provide assistance through phone or written requests has led to credit issues or foreclosure risks.
With around 17,000 inquiries since 2010, Seterus is one of the most 'inquired about' businesses in the country, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
'It stands out because previously we weren't getting anything, then they started coming at a rapid rate,' Kavas said specifically of the 277 official complaints. 'The volume has been high, but for the most part (Seterus) has been responsive.'
In about the same time frame, the Oregon Department of Justice has recorded 26 complaints, most of which were referred to the state Finance and Corporate Securities division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services.
All told, the latter agency has fielded 92 complaints from Seterus customers across the country since 2010, around the same time IBM acquired Wilshire Credit Corp. from Bank of America. IBM rebranded its LBPS mortgage servicing division last July as Seterus Inc., which offers mortgage options for distressed homeowners through repayment plans, loan modifications and U.S. government programs such as the Home Affordable Modification Program.
The only listed phone number for Seterus Inc. leads to a recording that requires a customer number to gain further access, and an email request for comment to the company's parent headquarters in Research Triangle Park near Durham, N.C., on Tuesday was not responded to by press time.
Of the 377 complaints through the Better Business Bureau, 207 are from the past 12 months. Although monitored by the agency for customer service, Seterus Inc. is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau. Because the company is under the bureau's review, it has no current rating for Seterus.
'We're going through the complaints at the company's request,' Kavas said. 'They're interested in the (bureau) following up with them. Our goal is to help both the consumer and the business and make sure complaints are closed out accurately.'
Kirsten Anderson, mortgage lending manager of the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities, said it's likely the sheer volume of distressed mortgage holders in a long-depressed housing market contributes to consumer dissatisfaction.
'With specialty type loans, we expect to have more complaints because the more customers they have who are struggling,' she said. 'The majority of (complaints) are servicing issues, such as, 'The company denied me a loan modification. My payment didn't get posted on the date I thought it would.' Or, 'I'm in bankruptcy.'
'In some instances we're able to get (Seterus) to modify the loans or fix whatever the underlying problem was,' she said.
Because the company has been responsive, the complaints have not triggered an investigation. In February, however, the state agency intervened with letters to Seterus in two specific cases when mistakes were allegedly made on accounts.
'Both were resolved appropriately when we intervened,' Anderson said. 'Our concern was that it really should have been addressed when the consumer contacted them.
"They are responsive when we inquire," she added. "We just hope they are being as responsive with customers, which is what triggered the letter."