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Casares v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 7, 2017

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.


          AMY BERMAN JACKSON United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Manuel J. Casares has filed a complaint against defendants Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (“WFA”), Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and Robin Cobas, an employee of Wells Fargo Advisors. Plaintiff, who formerly worked as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors, alleges that he lost his home as a result of a mortgage fraud scheme, and that after he published a website critical of Wells Fargo's handling of the mortgage situation, he also lost his job. He filed this lawsuit alleging that Wells Fargo Bank, Wells Fargo Advisors, and Cobas engaged in wrongdoing, including treason, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, discrimination, and retaliation. See Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 5]. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They argue that the claims arising out of the foreclosure are barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and that plaintiff's employment claims are subject to dismissal under the arbitration clause in plaintiff's employment agreement. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 74] (“Defs.' Mot.”) at 1.

         While the Court can certainly understand Mr. Casares's frustration under the circumstances, he has already had a full opportunity to litigate the foreclosure in the state courts of Florida, and he exercised his right to appeal those matters all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Unfortunately for him, the law does not give civil litigants a second bite at the apple. Because he has already litigated to judgment complaints related to his foreclosure, those allegations cannot be litigated again. And due to the binding arbitration clause in plaintiff's employment contract with defendant Wells Fargo Advisors, he cannot bring his employment discrimination claims in federal court either. The complaint will therefore be dismissed.[1]


         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on October 23, 2013, Compl. [Dkt. # 1], and he filed an amended complaint as of right on December 2, 2013. Am. Compl. The amended complaint alleges the following facts, which the Court must accept as true for the purpose of resolving the pending motion to dismiss. The Court also takes judicial notice of the filings in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Indian River County, Florida, where plaintiff and defendants engaged in litigation surrounding the bank's efforts to foreclose on plaintiff's home. See Marshall Cty. Health Care Auth. v. Shalala, 988 F.2d 1221, 1228 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (Mikva, C.J., dissenting) (observing that courts may take judicial notice “of facts on the public record” in resolving a motion to dismiss).

         The complaint states that plaintiff began working as a financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors in its Prudential Securities office in May 2000 in Vero Beach, Florida. Am. Compl. ¶ 23. After Wachovia bought Prudential in 2004, it offered plaintiff an “employment benefit” of a mortgage “at a preferential rate of interest.” Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Plaintiff then purchased a house in Vero Beach for $470, 000, and Wachovia issued him a 30-year Fannie Mae mortgage of $355, 000 at ¶ 5.25% interest rate. Id. ¶ 30.

         When plaintiff purchased the house, he told the underwriters “that he had no interest in [the] property if an honest professional appraisal failed to meet Fannie Mae requirements/standards.” Am. Compl. ¶ 31. But, according to plaintiff, Wachovia had an “unwritten policy with [an] appraiser to produce an appraisal reflecting the amount which they provided to [the] appraiser.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that the broker failed to disclose “hidden but known defects” including damage caused by flooding and hurricanes, as well as mold. Am. Compl. ¶ 32. The complaint states that plaintiff became disabled due to the mold infestation, and he then sued Wachovia in the Circuit Court of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit in Indian River County, Florida for nondisclosure and personal injury. Id. Plaintiff alleges that his Florida lawsuit “has been plagued by numerous [illegal] acts” by Wells Fargo, Wachovia, and by numerous attorneys and judges. Id.

         The complaint states that as plaintiff's “disability worsened, ” a Vice President at Wells Fargo discriminated against him by, among other things, calling him a “whack job.” Am. Compl. ¶ 34. Plaintiff confronted another manager about that incident, but the incident was “brushed . . . aside.” Id.

         In January 2011, plaintiff became aware of the “appraisal fraud / mortgage fraud” that was allegedly perpetrated by Wells Fargo Bank, and he reported the alleged fraud to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Am. Compl. ¶ 35. An employee of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage allegedly told plaintiff that Wells Fargo “could not do a thing as long as [p]laintiff continued making mortgage payments.” Id. So plaintiff stopped making payments and defaulted on the loan. Id.

         Wells Fargo Home Mortgage then offered to forbear on the impending foreclosure if plaintiff paid Wells Fargo $700 through Western Union. Am. Compl. ¶ 38. Plaintiff sent the money, but, according to the complaint, Wells Fargo initiated foreclosure proceedings anyway. Id. Records from the Circuit Court for Indian River County, Florida reveal that Wells Fargo filed a complaint for foreclosure on December 20, 2011. See Ex. B. to Mot. for Remand & Attys' Fees & Costs [Dkt. # 2-2] (“Foreclosure Complaint”).

         Also in early 2011, plaintiff created a website “in the manner of an Ecuadorian ‘denuncia'” on which he criticized various Wells Fargo employees. Am. Compl. ¶ 40. After Wells Fargo personnel became aware of the statements on plaintiff's website, a Wells Fargo Advisors compliance officer requested that plaintiff make certain changes to comply with corporate policy. Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff alleges that despite complying with the repeated demands to make edits to his website, he was nevertheless terminated in retaliation for the statements on the website, and because of his national origin and disability. See Id. ¶¶ 45, 47, 48.[2]

         As plaintiff puts it, he filed this lawsuit to “seek[] monetary damages and injunctive relief from the Defendants for the blatant and egregious disabled adult, religious, racial and Ecuadorian culture discrimination he was subjected to during employment as a financial advisor at Defendant WFA's Vero Beach, Florida office.” Am. Compl. ¶ 17. He also alleges that defendants retaliated against him by conspiring with an “organized criminal enterprise” in Indian River County, Florida, including judges and court staff, which subjected plaintiff to an “illegal foreclosure action” in a “Star Chamber Court.” Id. ¶¶ 17-20.[3]

         The amended complaint contains ten counts. The first six counts arise out of the foreclosure action: In Count I, plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo Bank and others committed “treason and conspiracy” in handling the mortgage and foreclosure. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 84-89. Count II alleges that Wells Fargo Bank and others conspired to deprive plaintiff of his civil rights when they foreclosed on his property despite “knowledge of mortgage fraud / appraisal fraud.” Id. ¶¶ 90-97. In Counts III and IV, plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo and others conspired to obstruct justice during the foreclosure action. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 98-106. In Count V, he claims that Wells Fargo committed mail and wire fraud in ...

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