Tag Archives: occupy wall street

Marine Fights Freddie Mac to Save His Home.

Arturo de los Santos, a 46-year-old Marine who lives in Riverside, California, doesn’t usually listen to National Public Radio, but a friend told him to pay attention to a disturbing report broadcast Monday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The report disclosed that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company, whose mission is “to expand opportunities for homeownership,” invested billions in mortgage securities that profited when homeowners were unable to refinance.

De los Santos is one of those homeowners that Freddie Mac bet against. Sunday night he got a court summons at his door from Freddie Mac stating that the mortgage giant was going to evict him.

But he’s fighting back, pledging to get arrested rather than leave voluntarily if Riverside County sheriff’s deputies try to remove him, his wife and four children from the home they’ve lived in for almost a decade. He is part of a growing movement of Americans inspired by Occupy Wall Street to stop banks and other lenders from foreclosing on their homes. On Thursday at noon, de los Santos, his friends and neighbors, and activists from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) will protest at Freddie Mac’s west coast headquarters (444 South Flower St.) in downtown Los Angeles. They will call on Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman to get the mortgage giant to renegotiate a fair modification of de los Santos’ loan, including reducing the mortgage principal.

The NPR investigation of Freddie Mac, done in cooperation with ProPublica (an independent, nonprofit newsroom), uncovered another aspect of the unfolding scandal of Wall Street abuse of struggling homeowners that has led to a nationwide epidemic of foreclosures.

De los Santos and his family moved into their modest three-bedroom house on a cul de sac in Riverside’s La Sierra neighborhood in 2003. It was their first home and represented the American dream they had worked their whole lives for. He has worked for over 21 years as a supervisor at a Santa Ana metal finishing company that makes parts for the aerospace industry.

In 2009, the economic crisis led the factory to reduce his work hours, reducing his income and making it harder to make his monthly payments. He applied for a loan modification with JP Morgan Chase, the giant Wall Street bank that services many of Freddie Mac ‘s loans. Chase told de los Santos that in order to negotiate a loan modification he had to be in default on his loan. Chase notified de los Santos that it was rejecting him for a permanent modification, that they would refuse to accept further payments, and that they intended to foreclose on his home, even after he provided the bank with evidence showing that his income had recovered to its previous level. De los Santos was caught in a Catch-22, but it turns out that — according to the NPR/Pro-Publica investigation — this was not an anomaly but part of Freddie Mac’s strategy.

Last June, the family was evicted from their home and moved to an apartment in Orange County. The bank put the house up for sale, but in Riverside County’s devastated housing market, found no buyers. Seeing his home sit empty infuriated de los Santos. He continued contacting Chase, hoping to persuade the bank to renegotiate the mortgage. After the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to California, de los Santos heard about other homeowners who faced similar abuses and contacted ACCE, a community organizing group that has been helping homeowners throughout California and is part of a national effort to get Congress and the Obama administration to force banks to modify “underwater” mortgages, especially for homeowners victimized by lender manipulation, such as predatory loans.

On December 6, de los Santos took the courageous step of re-occupying his Riverside home, where he has been living since then. He was one of many homeowners around the country who took similar actions that day as part of a nationwide “Occupy Our Homes” campaign. On December 24, de los Santos moved his wife and children back into the house. That day he was joined at a media event by local clergy, members of ACCE and the Service Employees International Union, and other supporters.

“We’re glad to be back in the house,” de los Santos told the Valley News, a local paper. “My kids are happy. They have a place to ride their bikes and play. Their school is just around the corner. They don’t understand what’s going on.”

“The foreclosure crisis has been devastating to the Inland Empire,” said Reverend Matthew Crary of Inland Congregations United for Change, referring to the Riverside and San Bernardino County area that has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. “As faith leaders it is our responsibility to stand with the residents of our community to force Wall Street to take action to help people stay in their homes.”

Rosanna Cambron, a national executive board member of Military Families Speak Out, also spoke at the Christmas Eve protest:

Art de los Santos served this country as a marine and he is again serving this country by standing up to Wall Street greed. My son just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq fighting to protect the principles of justice and democracy. But I think that the greed of Wall Street bankers like (Chase CEO) Jamie Dimon is more of a threat to our country in many ways than any foreign power. We will stand up to them as long as it takes to create a fair society for all Americans.

“We have celebrated Christmas in our home since 2003 when we bought it,” de los Santos said at the same event. “I wasn’t going to let this holiday season be any different. I owed it to my kids. If JPMorgan Chase and Freddie Mac had dealt with us fairly at the beginning of the loan modification process, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”After de los Santos heard the NPR/Pro-Publica report on Monday, he understood why he was in this quagmire not of his own making. It strengthened his resolve to fight to keep his home.

“Nobody likes to get arrested,” said de los Santos. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m doing this for my family and for the millions of other families in similar situations. We can’t let the Wall Street banks and Freddie Mac get away with these kinds of practices.”

Last month in California alone, there were over 52,000 foreclosures. A recent report sponsored by bank reform groups reveals that if banks lowered the principal balance on all underwater mortgages to their current market value, it would pump over $70 billion per year back into the economy, allow millions of families to stay in their homes, and create over one million jobs. They want Congress and the Obama administration to pass legislation requiring banks to reduce the principal for homeowners facing foreclosure. So do I.


A Credit Union to Bail Out People, Not Big Banks.

Protesters chained themselves to the door of the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco's financial district. / Credit:Judith Scherr/IPS
Protesters chained themselves to the doorof the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco’s

Financial District.

By Judith Scherr

SAN FRANCISCO, California, Jan 21, 2012 (IPS) – Occupy activists from Wall Street to San Francisco’s financial district have dramatised their anger with big financial institutions by blocking JP Morgan Chase Bank doorways, dancing atop Wells Fargo counters, pitching a tent in a Bank of America lobby, hanging banners across Citibank windows, and accompanying the actions with the now-familiar chant “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”

The Occupy Movement condemns the banks’ role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more.

But protesting isn’t enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People’s Reserve Credit Union (PRCU). Occupy San Francisco is encouraging the venture.

In the next few weeks, McKeown says he’ll be ready to submit the PRCU’s application for a charter to the California Department of Financial Institutions.

“The country’s been devastated economically because of greed and government malfeasance,” McKeown said in a recent interview at the downtown San Francisco Public Library. “I don’t think it’s hard for folks who are educated to understand that the banks have ripped us off.”

banks or even at most credit unions. However, they won’t be targeted to people who cannot pay them back.

Borrowers will be required to attend classes in business and personal finance and will have mentors to help their businesses succeed and to enhance their ability to pay back the loan. The PRCU will work with San Francisco State’s Community Service Learning Project to provide the education component, McKeown said.

San Francisco entrepreneur Tim Mayer, who is advising McKeown, said the bank will offer the same services other banks do. “But there will be a different consciousness,” he said. The PRCU board “will not focus on shareholder profits,” he said, but will be “concerned with the welfare of those they are servicing.”

While microloans in developing countries can be as low as 100 dollars, McKeown is planning to offer loans of around 1,000 dollars. That amount may seem small in a place like San Francisco, he said, but it’s enough to fund materials to make jewelry, buy a used server for someone creating computer apps, or to rent equipment, which an allied non-profit organisation would purchase. Funding student loans may come later, as the bank grows, he said.

“I’d rather support 12 taco stands than one Taco Bell,” McKeown quipped.

To apply for the charter, McKeown needs to have his board of directors in place – he said he does, but is not yet ready to reveal their names. (Selection of the board will be preliminary and subject to an eventual election by PRCU members.)

McKeown needs to present a business plan and show that he has adequate capitalisation to get chartered. He said they already have some wealthy backers and a fundraising concert is in the works.

The road ahead for the new credit union will not necessarily be easy, cautioned Rafael Morales, public affairs and west coast programme officer at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

“There’s generally a high rate of failure for most start ups,” said Morales, who has had preliminary meetings with McKeown. He said usually the NFCDCU recommends that a credit union begin with operating capital of one to two million dollars to carry it through several years.

“The first couple of years are unprofitable,” Morales said. “The more working capital, the higher chance of success.”

Others say it can be done for less. Warren Langley, former president and CEO of the Pacific Exchange in San Francisco – and a supporter of the Occupy Movement – told IPS he thought a credit union could be established with 100,000 to 200,000 dollars.

McKeown said he plans to capitalise the bank at 250,000 to 500,000 dollars for the first year, keeping expenses at a minimum with bank officials working at low or deferred salaries and some without compensation. Mayer acknowledged, however, that it will be a challenge to find a CEO for the PRCU that has the requisite experience, shares the PRCU philosophy and will work for low wages.

A startup credit union also needs “a committed, capable organising committee”, Morales said, noting that McKeown’s group is very strong in this area.

The Occupy Movement is a “big tent” that includes libertarians, Democrats and communists. McKeown may part ways ideologically with those among his fellow Occupiers who reject capitalism.

“I’m a capitalist,” he said.

The problem, as he sees it, “is in the way capitalism is run. When my business fails, it doesn’t get protected. No one comes and bails me out. Why are we bailing out the businesses – financial institutions – – that are supposed to be the most conservative in the world?” He said if the system were working, the big banks would have failed.

“When we had that 800-billion-dollar bank bailout….they took the money and allowed the mortgages to fail,” he said. “Now all of a sudden Wall Street is making profits again, like it was before. It’s a jobless recovery. People have a right to be pissed off. Access to capital and credit made this country great.” He intends to make that access possible through the PRCU.

Of course, one new small credit union won’t make big changes in a system that’s not working. Langley, the former Pacific Stock Exchange CEO, noted, however, that the PRCU could solve the problem for its members.

“And if everybody, then does more of those [credit unions], it would certainly help,” he said. “It provides people alternatives.” Yes. Just like iSellerFINANCE!

A National Day of Action

Standing in the rain, in front of a Bank of America in San Francisco’s financial district – one of the half- dozen or so banks shut down Jan. 20 by protesters from Occupy Wall StreetWest and some 55 allied organisations – Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network spoke through a bullhorn, telling the crowd gathered around her, “In places like Appalachia they have blown up mountains and poisoned people’s drinking water, because it’s easier for banks to make a profit on those investments than it is to make a responsible decision.

Starbuck pointed to credit unions and small local banks that are alternatives. “With credit unions and local community banks, the money stays in the community and is rarely invested in destructive environmental practices,” she said.

Elsewhere in San Francisco’s financial district, crowds of protesters that included clowns and jugglers and stilt walkers shut down streets and intersections. They turned one bank into a food bank and served lunch to all; they used song and dance at one Wells Fargo Bank to denounce profiteering from student debt, and, at a different Wells Fargo, used street theatre to show the link between Wells Fargo investments and private detention centres for undocumented immigrants.

Many of the protests targeted the 12,000 foreclosures in San Francisco between 2008 and 2011. Bank of America foreclosed on the home of Josephine Tolbert, a 75- year-old African American cancer survivor.

“Bank of America sold my house while they were working with me for a loan modification,” she told a crowd. “They said, ‘as long as you are in review, you cannot be foreclosed on.’ They lied.”

The day of protests included demonstrations at the federal courts against the Citizens United decision that treats corporations like people and protests at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office against the deportations that break up immigrant families.

They also demonstrated support for hotel workers fighting for better conditions and for health care for all. There were reportedly 18 arrests.


Hitler Got It Right … Too Bad Congress Doesn’t Get It!

SOPA and all the fools who don’t GET IT!


A New Social Finance Site is Coming Soon!

This site will enable people who cannot qualify for conventional financing to borrow money and/or purchase goods and services financed by sellers over time. The services might be those of a contractor, electrician, plumber, etc. The goods might be a house, a car, a bike, a boat, a living room set, etc. Once a seller has entered into a purchase contract with a buyer, s/he may turn around and post the resulting note for sale on the same site. It is a great way for people to buy and sell, and to enable people to re-build credit as the site manages the payment process and tracks payment performance over time generating a credit score. We will also enable micro-funding and Crowdfunding for communities, non-profits, entrepreneurs  and small businesses. The Amazon of the social finance space. Our launch date is June of 2012. More to come later. Stay tuned.