Bills still need to be paid when a soldier goes on deployment, even if organizing the details of your personal and financial life are somewhat complicated when you’re dodging bullets several oceans away. To help soldiers deal with these problems, a variety of laws have been passed which shield them from legal hassles. For example, before foreclosing on or repossessing the property of soldiers on active duty, financial institutions are required to obtain a court order. And yet, in a blow to their otherwise-pristine image, it turns out that sometimes financial institutions can’t be bothered.
Last year, Wells Fargo was placed under investigation for not adhering to military lending laws when it was reported to have repossessed at least two cars from active-duty soldiers without a court order. Santander was reportedly doing the same thing, paying $9 million in fines for repossessing over 1,000 vehicles over a five-year period. This included at least one incident in which they reportedly took a soldier’s car in the middle of the night after finding out he was at basic training.
It gets more depressing. Banks wrongfully foreclosed on the property of over 700 military personnel in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. One disabled veteran had his house taken away two months before his return from Iraq, removing one of the vital elements of a homecoming before it could even occur.
“This seems like the kind of thing a database could solve,” you might reasonably say. And indeed, the government has thought of that already and set up such a database, so that banks can see who is eligible for the protections which come with being active-duty personnel. They just don’t bother to check it.