Obama Administration and Banks Close to Unacceptable Foreclosure Settlement – Take Action

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The Obama Administration, led by Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, is in final negotiations with state Attorneys General to give the tiniest slap on the wrist to the five biggest banks for years and years of reckless foreclosure fraud activities.

There was talk over the past few months about a $25 billion settlement, which would help less than 10 percent of underwater homeowners. Now today we’re hearing about an even smaller settlement, valued at around $19 billion.

Of course these are huge numbers in theory, but we’re talking about the combined financial power of Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial. It’s not even a slap on the wrist – this is like a tap on the shoulder, or a Facebook poke.

Dave Dayen at Firedoglake points out that there is $750 billion in negative equity in America, and a $19 billion settlement will deal with about 2.5 percent of that. And helping a million homeowners is great, but there are about 11 million homes in foreclosure and another 7.5 million homes on the precipice.

Not to mention that, according to reports, the proposed settlement with the banks would keep the participating states from “pursuing various claims against them in the future.” Translation: Banks don’t want anyone to really investigate the acts they committed against the American homeowners and communities. So-called “robo-signing,” the practice of assigning one person to approve thousands of foreclosures over a short period of time without checking the paperwork, is the focus of the settlements, but could be the tip of the iceberg if the Administration launched a full-scale investigation.

This could be the last chance we have to really find out what caused the housing bubble and the economic crisis that followed. This could be the last chance to hold the real financial criminals accountable. This could be the last chance to show the foreclosure fraudsters that they can’t negotiate their way out of the consequences of ruining millions of American lives and livelihoods – they’ll go to jail for robbing us the way anyone else would go to jail for robbing a home or a store.

Luckily, Thomas Perrelli, the man at the Justice Department overseeing the settlement with the banks, is leaving the post in March. Reports say he wants to get the settlement deal before he leaves.

He needs to hear from you now. He needs to know you think this tiny slap on the wrist for years of fraud is unacceptable. And he needs to know you won’t stay quiet about it.

Write to Thomas Perrelli now. Tell him to stand up for homeowners, not the Big Banks. Tell him that Bank of America and their friends might be rich and powerful, but they aren’t above the law.

Take action now.


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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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Hey Bank of America: We’re Not Your ATM

Bank of America is instituting a new policy starting in 2012 that would charge debit card holders $5 a month – $60 a year – to use their own money.

Don’t be fooled: this is a big bank’s version of a hissy fit. Bank of America claims this is in response to a new law that limits “swipe fees,” which protects small businesses from getting jacked every time a customer uses a debit card. So instead of continuing to jack businesses that rely on their cardholders, which was making them piles of money, Bank of America has decided to jack their own customers. You know, to hurt us more directly.

Let’s just quickly review that Bank of America made $3 billion in profits in 2010, and paid absolutely no federal corporate income taxes in 2009 and 2010. In fact, Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS, despite their huge profits, not to mention the gargantuan amount of money we all paid to bail them out in 2008. While they and the other big banks are losing some money because of new regulations that limit swipe fees and overdraft fees, we’re not talking about a struggling business here.

And to answer the possible label of “job creator,” let’s also review that Bank of America is laying off 30,000 American workers, double more than any other U.S. based employer in 2011 so far.

What’s worse? They aren’t the only ones instituting new fees:

Wells Fargo and Chase are testing $3 monthly debit card fees. Regions Financial, based in Birmingham, Ala., plans to start charging a $4 fee next month, while SunTrust, another regional powerhouse, is charging a $5 fee.

People are outraged. We’re outraged. And as the AP describes, Bank of America and Co. really think they can get away with it.

They are banking (ha) on the idea that you are too tired, too beaten down, too apathetic to switch banks and take your money elsewhere.

They want to continue to treat us like an ATM. They won’t get away with it. We’re going to remind Bank of America, we’re Not Your ATM.

Visit WorkingAmerica.org/NotYourATM and join our conversation on Twitter today using the hashtag #NotYourATM.

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