Workers Tell Their State Attorneys General: Banks Aren’t Above the Law

“Banks don’t need a slap on the wrist, they need a kick in the ass.”

Jim from Escanaba, Michigan, wasn’t mincing words when he wrote his message to Attorney General Bill Schuette. Jim was one of thousands of Working America members and union members who sent messages to their state attorneys general about the impending settlement with Big Banks on the issue of foreclosure fraud.

As Seth wrote yesterday, state Attorneys General will be deciding soon on a “50 state deal” that could let banks off the hook for their shady, deceptive, and possibly illegal foreclosure methods. Stories about tactics like “robo-signing” – where a bank employee signs thousands of documents and affidavits approving mortgage foreclosures without really looking at them – are widespread, but if the state AG’s take sign on to a proposed deal, none of these cases will be thoroughly investigated. Worse, the very people responsible could get legal immunity.

It would be one thing if the large financial institutions were truly doing their part to aid in the recovery of the economy they helped destroy. But what we’re seeing now, and throughout 2011, is that the wealthiest are having their own private recovery while the rest of the 99 Percent remain stuck in the mud. “Please stand up to these greedy banks and punish them as though it was one of us 99 Percenters,” wrote Doug from St. Clair Shores, Michigan, “Why did my house’s value decline by nearly 50 percent while their bonuses grew?”

As for homeowners, 7.5 million homes have entered the foreclosure process, and 11 million are at risk. The problems that started the mess in 2008 have not yet abated.

If your state Attorney General doesn’t call for an investigation, and instead takes the lazy, easy way out by taking a deal, the people responsible for our economy’s collapse will never be held accountable. There will be no reason for the robo-signers, fraudsters, and predatory lenders to change their ways. Stephanie from Greenwood Lake, New York, in her message to AG Eric Schniderman, says that she has seen these dirty tactics firsthand:

As a foreclosure prevention counselor at a local non-profit for the past 6 years, I know the devastating effects of the financial crisis; I see first-hand the irresponsible behavior of the big banks towards homeowners. There is clear evidence of misconduct, fraud and out-and-out crime perpetrated against the American people and no one is doing anything about it!

If any of us did our jobs the way the Big Banks did theirs, we’d not only get fired – we’d probably go to jail. “Ordinary Americans who commit a sliver of what high financiers did over the past half-decade would be lucky to see sunlight for the rest of existence,” wrote Jim from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to his AG Robert Cooper, Jr. Stephanie from Greenwood Lake, New York echoed those sentiments: “If I ever attempted to commit any of the acts the big banks perpetrated before, during and after the mortgage crisis, I would be in jail for a very long time.”

The central issue here is not revenge, but fairness. Many messages mentioned the fact that if you or I committed theft, or if a fellow American lost their home because of our negligence, we would be summarily punished. Unless we want history to repeat itself, we need a thorough investigation of these shady mortgage practices and put a stop to them.

We know that Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial aren’t above the law. The question is, do our state Attorneys General agree with us?

Photo by scad_lo on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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