Wildfire Credit Union Sues Fiserv in Core Dispute
Wildfire Credit Union has sued the Brookfield, Wis.-based financial tech company Fiserv. At issue are claims, promises and performance of Fiserv’s flagship DNA core system.
In its filing, the $677 million Saginaw, Mich.-based credit union said it had initially expressed interest in Fiserv’s ill-fated Acumen core, which had been billed as state of the art but was killed off when it bought Open Solutions Inc. and its DNA core to fill that higher-end market niche.
Just over a year later, on Nov. 13, 2014, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Wildfire expressed its profound dissatisfaction with Fiserv in a lengthy court filing.
The credit union has alleged fraud, and it wants every cent it paid refunded, according to court documents. The filing represents a kind of dated diary of a relationship that started out with high expectations and ended in anger.
In the filing, Wildfire said it had clearly stated to Fiserv before entering into a contract that it wanted the Acumen screens, not DNA’s.
“The Acumen overlay was important to Wildfire because the Acumen User Interface (UI) was very clean and elegant looking, while from the beginning the DNA UI looked convoluted and confusing,” Wildfire said. “Wildfire would not have been interested in DNA if the UI was not going to change, but the promise by Fiserv that the Acumen screens would replace the DNA screens alleviated that concern.”
Wildfire also identified another stumbling block.
“The Fiserv representatives never discussed or indicated that a conversion from Wildfire’s current core system provided by Symitar to the DNA platform would be especially difficult or unusually challenging due to their lack of experience with converting from the Symitar system to the DNA system," the credit union said.
A source not involved in the litigation confirmed to CU Times that there had been very few takeaways from Symitar by OSI/DNA.
In a June 2013 meeting, senior Wildfire executives met with a platoon of Fiserv brass including CEO Jeff Yabuki.
In that meeting, claimed Wildfire, “[Wildfire Vice President, IT Mark] Schuiling indicated that, with all of the complexities of a core system, it is nearly impossible to vet every aspect of the system, so the decision to move forward in changing that system is largely based on trust, and asked Yabuki directly why should Wildfire trust him? Yabuki agreed that there was a lot of trust involved and made it clear that Fiserv was committed to DNA as its platform of the future, and that Fiserv had and would be committing significant resources to DNA and therefore Wildfire could trust him that this will be successful.”
At various meetings with Fiserv, Wildfire alleged in its filing, company representatives made “false representations.” Included was “DNA can do everything Wildfire wanted it to do, because it is open and flexible and can write applications, and that Fiserv would hit a ‘home run’ with this conversion.”
According to Wildfire, the project manager assigned by Fiserv to oversee the core conversion “had no working knowledge of DNA or any of the other products and services which Wildfire had purchased.”
The complaint continued: “On Feb. 3, 2014, [Wildfire CEO Timothy] Benecke sent email correspondence to [Fiserv], indicating problems that Wildfire was already experiencing with communications and training, such as the fact that the Fiserv trainers did not even know what products and services Wildfire had purchased and on which its employees needed training.”
On April 15, 2014, at a dinner meeting, according to Wildfire, a senior DNA executive informed them that, “Fiserv was not going to be redoing all of the screens of DNA, contrary to [Fiserv’s] representations to Wildfire before it signed the [contract].”
In May 2014, said Wildfire, “it became clear to Wildfire representatives that, contrary to Fiserv’s representations, DNA was not as efficient as Symitar. Wildfire representatives asked Fiserv representatives if there was something they were missing to correct that fact, but received no solution.”
“On Aug. 27, 2014,” claimed the credit union, “Wildfire representatives (there were at least 20 people in attendance) learned from Fiserv that a referral feature which it had been promised six months earlier and which was represented to be ‘better than Symitar,’ and which was in Fiserv’s written Best Practices report as available, was in fact not available.”
Then, the divorce happened.
“On Sept. 11, 2014, Benecke spoke with [Byron C. Vielehr Fiserv Group President, Depository Institution Services] and advised him that it was apparent that, contrary to the dates in the Schedules which were part of the Master Agreement, the conversion from the current Symitar platform to that of DNA was not going to happen timely or successfully, and that accordingly Wildfire had to terminate the contract.”
Wildfire, in turn, demanded that Fiserv refund “$1,360,568.18 it had already paid to Fiserv for products and services which it had not received.”
Fiserv refused. The suit resulted and, in its filing, Wildfire said it is seeking a refund of all monies paid.
The credit union said it also seeking compensation for alleged damages. According to the filing, “Wildfire respectfully requests that this Court enter judgment in Wildfire’s favor and against Fiserv in an amount to be determined by a jury that compensates Wildfire for Fiserv’s injuries to Wildfire, plus costs, interest and attorneys’ fees.”
As to Wildfire’s chances in court, Brad Smith, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based financial technology consulting firm Abound Resources, indicated he had no specific knowledge of the Wildfire complaint.
However, he said, “Most vendors have contractual language that absolve themselves of any promises made during the sales process. Unless the promises were written down and ideally added as an addendum to the contract, it's very difficult to prove breach.”
A spokesperson for Fiserv emailed: “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
Wildfire had not responded to a request for comment.