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10:19 p.m. August 6, 2012
Madrid-based bank, Santander, bilking billions of dollars from American consumers
Knoxville automobile dealerships connecting consumers with bank that funneled $3 billion in clients' funds into Bernie Madoff scheme
By Jeaneane Payne

One of the world's largest banks, Santander, based in Madrid, Spain, has been bilking Americans out of billions of dollars.

Santander infiltrated the US banking industry and purchased loans from much smaller lenders in 2008-2009. Upon purchasing the loans, Santander then changed the due date on the loans without notifying consumers causing the loans to be late every month for several years without consumer knowledge.

As a result, thinking they had made a final payment on their loan, consumers were not notified that they owed several thousand dollars in additional interest fees. If the loan was for a vehicle, Santander waited a few weeks after the final payment on the loan was made then repossessed the vehicle without notifying the consumer.

There have been 3,888 closed complaints against Santander with the Better Business Bureau in Santander's US home office town of Dallas, Tx in the last 3 years. J. D. Powers ranks Santander at the bottom of the banking industry. Santander is known as the worst bank in Great Britain.

According to several class action lawsuits filed against Santander recently, Santander now faces consumer fraud lawsuits alleging that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because "agents routinely fail to identify themselves, use obscenities, call people other than the actual debt holder and reveal to those people details about the debt." The company is also being charged with violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act because the consumer fraud lawsuits allege that "the bank has also used automated dialing systems and prerecorded messages directed to cell phones without permission."

Jim Sokolove, an attorney who has filed a class action suit against Santander on behalf of consumers, states "Despite growing complaints against the bank in the U.S., Santander continues with its plans to further expand in the U.S. market. In 2009, the company acquired Sovereign Bank, which is largely based in the northeast region of the nation. Santander has been granted approval to convert to a national bank from a savings bank and has plans to start rebranding Sovereign bank branches in 747 locations in early 2012."

One of the most recent lawsuits filed against Santander was filed in the Michigan Eastern District Court on August 3, 2012 by Barbara Rose Gory against Westborn Chrysler Jeep, Inc. and Santander Consumer USA, Inc. The nature of the suit is Truth in Lending. A similar lawsuit was filed on July 23, 2012 by Kimberly Fentress in the Kentucky Western District Court against Town and Country Ford, LLC and Santander Consumer, USA, Inc. Plaintiffs in both suits have demanded a trial by jury. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. since 2009 against Santander.

In the case of one Knoxville consumer, they were under the impression they had made their final installment payment to Santander earlier this year and were awaiting receipt of a car title. Instead, a repo company showed up on their doorstep at 7:00 a.m. one morning. A man driving a black SUV with a J & W Roofing Co. sign on the side demanded the vehicle which was sitting in the consumer's driveway. He did not have paperwork but began threatening the consumer that if they did not give him the keys to the vehicle he would cause a scene in front of their neighbors.

The consumer had just been released from the hospital the night before for high blood pressure and indicated to the Knoxville Daily Sun that they were not thinking clearly because of lightheadedness and they were very ill and gave the key to the repo man.

The repo man did not leave any paperwork proving that he had repossessed the vehicle nor did he leave a business card or contact phone number.

The consumer immediately called her attorney who advised her that the vehicle had probably been stolen. However, the attorney attempted to call Santander to see if they may have taken the vehicle but they refused to talk with her and told her to fax a request on letterhead to the Santander legal department. After faxing the letter, Santander still refused to talk with the attorney. Santander also refused to talk with the consumer. After logging into their online account, the consumer found that Santander had shut their account down. The consumer contacted the Knox County Sheriff's Department to report the vehicle as stolen and were told they could file a stolen vehicle report but there was really nothing they could do to start an investigation because they didn't have the name of the person who took the vehicle.

The consumer spent many hours trying to locate their vehicle based on various locations J & W Roofing had fraudulently documented on the Internet. They had documented two locations in particular; one in Louisville, TN which turned out to be a deserted area frequented by drug dealers and a very old, dilapidated house. The other location they documented was on a street named Woods in Lenoir City which was literally a woodsy area and no street.

After four days of attempting to contact Santander, the consumer was able to talk with an agent who informed them that the vehicle had been repossessed and they owed approximately $3,000 in additional interest fees because 41 of their 48 payments had been late. Although the consumer had believed they had made most of their payments on time, they were unaware that Santander had changed the due date on the loan by moving it forward a few days.

The consumer called Santander three times to inquire as to how much the payoff would be to recover the vehicle. Each time they were quoted a vastly different figure. Santander also informed the consumer that because the consumer's attorney had faxed a letter to their legal department that they were placing the consumer under a cease and desist order which meant they could not contact Santander for any reason and if they wanted to recover their vehicle they would not be able to do so because they would not have instructions on how to do that. They did inform the consumer that the company that repossessed their vehicle was Ford Recovery, 1094 Mulberry Street, Loudon TN. They also operate as a gambling addiction treatment center and as an alcohol and drug rehab center. Santander informed the consumer that their vehicle had been taken immediately upon repossession to an auction company in Nashville, TN.

The Knoxville Daily Sun contacted Nathan Post, Finance Manger at Lance Cunningham Ford who had financed the consumer's car loan with another lender originally, and stated "It's been brought to our attention that some of your customers have fallen victim to predatory lending by Santander Consumer USA. One person indicated that you financed a vehicle through a finance company which was purchased by Santander within one year after you financed the loan and that Santander changed the due date on the loan without notifying the customer. While the customer was under the impression that they had made almost all of their payments on time and recently paid off their car loan, while they were awaiting receipt of the title to their vehicle, Santander repossessed the vehicle. Santander has indicated to the owner of the vehicle that they were behind on all of their payments and that interest accrued to the tune of several thousand dollars. Santander did not notify the customer that they owed additional interest and repossessed the vehicle without notice of any kind."

The Knoxville Daily Sun informed Post that they were writing a feature story on predatory lending involving Santander. When asked if Lance Cunningham Ford finances customer loans through Santander, Post indicated that they do because they are one of the largest lenders in the world. He indicated that he was unaware of the outstanding lawsuits against Santander and that he was unaware of the thousands of complaints to the Better Business Bureau concerning Santander. Post said, "We have our customers' best interest at heart and do whatever we can to take good care of them. We would never do business with a company that does not have an outstanding reputation."

Lance Cunningham Ford and thousands of other automobile dealerships in America have chosen to connect their customers with the same bank that funneled $3 billion of its clients' money to Bernie Madoff prior to the exposure of his Ponzi scheme. The money was channeled through Santander's hedge fund Optimal Investment Services which is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Santander was the first bank in the euro zone. It has a hundred million customers, more than three million shareholders and the largest branch network in international banking. Santander is the largest foreign bank in Brazil and 3rd private bank in total assets. They have 24 million customers; 23 million individual customers and 1 million corporate customers in Brazil.

Santander has banks in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. They have not been able to penetrate Israel.

According to The Guardian, UK, journalist Jill Treanor reported "Banco Santander Central Hispano, the Spanish bank which owns Abbey National, has been fined $20,000 (£10,000) by the US authorities for breaching trade sanctions against Cuba." The fine was levied against Santander's bank in Nassau, Bahamas for a transfer of funds through Cuba. Santander was fined under the range of civil penalties used by the department, which can levy financial penalties of up to $55,000 for each violation. Criminal penalties for violating the sanctions range from 10 years in prison, $1m in corporate fines and $250,000 in individual fines.

News out of Shanghai, China indicates that Santander will pay $48 million for a 20% stake in Bank of Beijing Consumer Finance Co.

Richard Irvine-Brown of Motor Finance reports in December 2011 that Santander is ready to launch a motor financing operation in China; a joint venture with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Company (JAC) with each company holding a 50% stake in the new company. This move gives Santander a network of over 1,000 dealerships in China.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Spain gave Santander's CEO and board member Alfredo Såenz Abad a three-month ban from working as a banker, after a long legal action. Santander has allowed 70 year old Såenz to remain in his banking position.

According to, Såenz was compensated $12.5 million in 2009 by Santander. According to, Sáenz will be Santander's top earner in 2012 with pay of $13 million as well as $1.5 million in shares awarded in earlier years but only to be received in 2012, and a $11 million pension contribution for a total of $25.5 million in 2012. ThisisMoney remarked that this was "despite the bank suffering a huge slump in profits due to a £538 million bill for mis-selling." That would be $659 million U.S. dollars.

According to Forex, Trade and Finance, Sáenz was chosen second best CEO of European banking after being selected by 1,470 analysts of 150 companies.

Mr. Marcial Portela has been the Chairman of Santander Brasil at Banco Santander, S.A. since September 2011 and serves as its Chief Executive Officer.

Third Vice Chairman 64 year old Matias Rodriguez Inciarte is compensated $7,775,000 annually.

Juan Rodríguez Inciarte, age 60, is CEO of Santander Consumer and earns $4.4 million annually from Santander. He serves as a Member of the US-Spain Council and Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.

Other board members include 75 year old Francisco José Pereira Pinto de Balsemão, former Prime Minister of Portugal and 88 year old Antoine Bernheim who, in Italy, was made Grand Official of the Order of the President of the Italian Republic. Also serving on the board is Ms. Esther Giménez-Salinas i Colomer, age 63, an executive vice-president of the Center for Legal Studies of the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia in Spain.

Currently, Santander has 32 board members. Their ages range from 39 to 80 with the average age being 66; old money, old families.

One of Santander's most recent investments in the United States was a $125 million stake in the Arizona CSP project (Solana concentrating solar power) project. The bank will become an equity stakeholder in the $2 billion project.

Solana will be the first solar plant in the US to include energy-storage capability. The plant is scheduled to begin generating power by next summer and will supply enough power for 70,000 homes. The Utility Arizona Public Service (APS) has signed a deal to buy the output from Solana.

The project received a federal loan guarantee of $1.45 billion from the US Department of Energy.

Santander is establishing strong connections with the US federal government.

The Knoxville Daily Sun has not yet been able to determine the direct connection between Santander and Bernie Madoff whether it was through a board member or an executive officer of that bank.

Related Articles:
Consumers Complain about Santander Consumer USA
Huge Eurobank, rated 'Britain's worst,' now accused of gouging US consumers

Published August 6, 2012

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