SEATTLE, Jan 16, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Hagens Berman is investigating Wells Fargo and its appraisal subsidiary, Rels Valuation, based on reports the companies allegedly engaged in a rigged appraisal process designed to boost profits at the expense of homeowners and independent appraisers.
The firm is investigating claims that the company forces homeowners to use its appraisal firm, Rels Valuation, which then turns around and subcontracts the work to independent appraisers while charging homeowners an inflated fee for the work.
The practice, if proven, damages homeowners as Wells Fargo and Rels Valuation control the appraisal market, a profit-boosting move that allows the companies to control third-party appraisers.
"The real estate industry and lending practices in this country put homeowners at the mercy of companies like Well Fargo and others controlling the marketplace," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.
"We recently filed a lawsuit against Countrywide claiming the giant rigged its appraisal process and it's not surprising to us that other lenders may mirror Countrywide's practices."
The firm is investigating additional claims against Wells Fargo, including the use of strong-arming tactics with independent appraisers, pushing them into low-ball pricing guidelines. Some claim if appraisers don't comply with Wells Fargo's fee structure, the company adds them to a blacklist and refuses business with them in the future.
"If the claims are correct and Wells Fargo and others inflate appraisal fees the damage to homeowners could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars," said Berman. "That doesn't even take into account the abuse and loss of business independent appraisers may be experiencing."
Hagens Berman is looking for anyone who's purchased or refinanced their home through Wells Fargo and Rels Valuation. You can contact attorneys at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about this investigation at www.hbsslaw.com/WFCappraisals.
About Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is based in Seattle with offices in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and New York. Since the firm's founding in 1993, it has developed a nationally recognized practice in class action and complex litigation.
Among recent successes, HBSS has negotiated a pending $300 million settlement as lead counsel in the DRAM memory antitrust litigation; a $340 million recovery on behalf of Enron employees which is awaiting distribution; a $150 million settlement involving charges of illegally inflated charges for the drug Lupron, and served as co-counsel on the Visa/Mastercard litigation which resulted in a $3 billion settlement, the largest anti-trust settlement to date. HBSS also served as counsel in a $850 million settlement in the Washington Public Power Supply litigation and represented Washington and 12 other states in lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in the largest settlement in the history of litigation.
For a complete listing of HBSS cases, visit www.hbsslaw.com. SOURCE: Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro Steve Berman, 206-623-7292 Steve@hbsslaw.com or Firmani + Associates Inc. Mark Firmani, 206-443-9357 Mark@firmani.com