The Immortal Life of Martha Kunkle


Martha Kunkle’s name appears on thousands of affidavits sent out by Providian National, a credit-card company once owned by Washington Mutual, now owned by JP Morgan, to delinquent customers. In them, she swears that “to the best of my knowledge” the amount owed “reflects a true and correct accounting of the cardholder’s credit card account,” with a bubbly, neat signature whose friendliness belies the tone of the letter. Not much was known about Kunkle until 2008, when a number of Montana residents sued the collection agency Providian sold its debt to for abusive, unfair, and unlawful practices. “We made an effort to meet Martha Kunkle and verify what she said,” the lawyer said. “They never made her available.” BECAUSE SHE WAS DEAD.

It was subsequently discovered that Martha Marie Kunkle, a resident of Arlington, Texas, who was born, according to public records, in 1922, had died back in 1995. Her life, it appears, was undistinguished, or at least unblemished, until her daughter, Lorraine Kunkle, a onetime employee of Washington Mutual, made the unorthodox decision to authorize colleagues at the bank to use her mother’s name for the dread process of “robo-signing.” Today, Martha’s name appears on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, featured as an example of the “an epidemic of mass-produced, sloppy and inaccurate documentation in the debt-collection industry,” and will likely be repeated many times over as the story of this terrible period in history is repeated for generations. Immortality, Martha Kunkle, is thine.

Dead Soul Is a Debt Collector [WSJ]
He took the fight to debt collectors — and he collected [Billings Gazette]