After a public pressure campaign through the Eviction Free Zone of Occupy Homes MN, Gayle Lindsey, a nursing assistant and grandmother in South Minneapolis, who was facing imminent eviction, has won a modification of her mortgage from M&T Bank. Her victory marks the seventh for Occupy Homes MN and the first in the Eviction Free Zone, a project that brings neighbors in the Central and Powderhorn neighborhoods together to refuse to leave their homes without a fair negotiation.
Lindsey, whose renegotiation came a month after her redemption period ended, is the first victory in “the Zone.” With the help of Occupy Homes MN, she organized a series of actions, community potlucks, and press appearances. Lindsey received a call, while sitting at her kitchen table, from an executive at M&T Bank. The bank offered to write her a new and affordable mortgage.
“It shows that Occupy Homes MN works,” she says. “I want to move on to more victories for the community.”
On Thursday, dozens of homeowners and supporters joined Betty Badro in confronting Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at a banker's conference on the day before her home of 19 years is scheduled to be foreclosed. Ms. Badro, who has worked for the State of California for 22 years, attempted to deliver a personal check to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf while he was giving a keynote address at the American Banker Retail Lending Conference at a luxury beach resort hotel in Carlsbad, California.
Betty has spent months attempting to get Wells Fargo to consider her for a loan modification. Betty lives with her disabled brother and one of her two children, and suffered recent financial setbacks due to state furloughs and personal health issues. Her finances have now recovered, a HUD-certified housing counselor has reviewed her case, and believes that Ms. Badro qualifies for a loan modification.
Ms. Badro took the stage, shook hands with Mr. Stumpf, and proceeded to explain that his bank was poised to take her home the next day. She told Mr. Stumpf that she can afford the mortgage and had a check in hand that she was asking him to accept. Not saying another word, Mr. Stumpf turned his back on Ms. Badro and left the stage. As presumably other bankers attending the conference attempted to restrain Badro while calling for "security," she bravely stands her ground and insists on telling the crowd her story.
Then the entire group of fifty homeowners took over the stage and made a presentation outlining how Wells Fargo has failed the community and the changes that Wells Fargo should make in their foreclosure practices.
"I've been working hard all my life," says Betty Bardo, member of ACCE. "I have income, I want to pay my mortgage, I just want a modification with principal reduction so that I can stay in my home. It is everything to me. John Stumpf and Wells Fargo are raking in money - they just had their most profitable year ever - but they're profiting off the homes and livelihoods of American families."
When the economy crashed and his business slowed down, Wells Fargo offered to modify Steve’s loan to lower his payments. After making a series of trial payments, Wells Fargo notified Steve that his modification was on the way.
A few days later he received a letter stating that his modification had been denied. The Wells Fargo representative he spoke with reassured him that they had made a mistake and that he should keep making the payments, which he did for seven months.
Steve then started to receive foreclosure notices. Again, the bank representative assured him that the notices had been sent in error.
Then Steve checked his credit. Wells Fargo had reported him delinquent on his mortgage for the last six months. The reduced payments that Steve had agreed to pay for the previous months had been put into a separate trust by Wells Fargo, and they had not gone towards his mortgage.
Steve took the case to court but lost despite mountains of evidence in his favor. He lost his home and his business.
"100 Stories of What Wall Street Broke" is a project created by the Home Defender's League, which is collecting first-person accounts from homeowners around the country. Homeowners can submit their own stories here.
The Home Defenders League is a national movement of underwater homeowners and their allies "Fighting Wall Street to get back what Wall Street stole from us and for a stronger economy for all of us."
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced “Aaron’s Law” on Tuesday night, announcing it via the user-generated site Reddit. The piece of legislation would modify the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to exclude terms of service violations. “There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced,” Lofgren wrote. “The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute.” Read the full bill here.
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that federal prosecutors came under fire yesterday by lawmakers for their "ridiculous and trumped-up" charges against Aaron Swartz:
“The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) told The Hill. “It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else.”
Polis called Swartz — a co-creator of Reddit who was accused of stealing articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a "martyr" for why Congress should limit the discretion of prosecutors.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the government's handling of the case was “pretty outrageous.”
“Based on what I know, I think the Department of Justice was way out of line on the case,” she told The Hill.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has said that his Oversight panel will take a look at the case to determine if the federal prosecutors acted inappropriately:
Issa expressed sympathy with some of Swartz’s goals. While “cybercrime and hacking has to be taken seriously,” he said, Congress should take up Swartz's cause of making more information freely available to the public.
“We're looking at the real question of open government,” Issa said. “Has the government or even MIT been holding back materials that the public has a right to know?”
Issa said he wanted to make sure “that what is paid for is as widely available as possible to the American people.”
Many materials on JSTOR are funded by public universities or government research grants. Subscriptions to JSTOR cost thousands of dollars.
He also said “whether or not there was excessive prosecution is something we’ll look at.”
All three lawmakers -- Issa, Polis, and Lofgren -- serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. They also worked with Swartz and his group "Demand Progress" in 2012 to defeat online piracy legislation that was backed by the entertainment industry.
This week, a 30-second TV ad featuring six real-life foreclosure fighters will air on national television. The spot advertises ‘Occupy Our Homes,’ an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has empowered thousands of people in housing crisis to fight back against fraudulent foreclosures, to demand fair treatment by mortgage lenders, and, in many cases, to keep their homes. The ad ends with a plug for the movement’s website, OccupyHomes.org, where people can find helpful resources and success stories of communities that have fought back against the banks.
The spot opens with Monique White, a north Minneapolis resident who was the first resident to approach an Occupy group for help in fighting foreclosure. Activists with Occupy Minneapolis occupied her front lawn with tents and banners, and kicked off a seven-month campaign that led to US Bank renegotiating her loan. Five out of the six people featured—including an Atlanta pastor who joined with Occupy to fight the foreclosure of his historic Vine City church—have won their campaigns and fended off foreclosure.
“We’re all in this together,” said Marine veteran and longtime Minneapolis resident Bobby Hull. “Even after we bailed out the banks, they’re stilling trying to take the homes of millions of Americans. I hope this ad will inspire people to fight back like I did, and join forces with the Occupy Homes movement.”
Ruby Brown of North Minneapolis won a renegotiated mortgage from Bank of America, just days before her home of 17 years was to be auctioned off in a sheriff's sale. Her settlement marks the fourth negotiated victory for Occupy Homes MN, the activist group formed to help troubled homeowners in the Twin Cities area fight to avoid foreclosure, and homelessness.
Brown fell into foreclosure after years of struggling with inflated payments in an adjustable rate mortgage — a predatory lending practice which is now illegal. She eventually received a trial modification and complied with its requirements for 12 months, but was dropped from the program anyway. The confusion surrounding her modification prompted her to ask the question: “The people at the top (of Bank of America), do they really know what’s going on?”
Brown began working with Occupy Homes MN and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change six months ago. Like others who have taken the pledge to stay in their homes, she felt her shame dissolve. “It generated a fight in me,” she said. “I didn’t realize there were so many people in the same situation, that it wasn’t just me.”
Ruby Brown has a message for others going through similar situations:
“Come out of the foreclosure closet. You know, there’s help. There are people around the country that are fighting. There’s power in numbers. There are a lot of people going through the same thing. There’s no shame in what is going on. It’s not your fault. It’s an epidemic, and we have to fight for the antidote.”
Jennifer Britt of Detroit’s Rosedale Park is like thousands of homeowners pushed to foreclosure by economic disaster and personal loss. Financial difficulties occurred about 6 years ago when Jennifer's husband was killed by a drunk driver as he was crossing the street near his home. Jennifer assumed the moragage payments but the bank, Flagstar Bank, refused to negotiate the debt since the morgage was only in her husband's name. Jennifer exhausted her life savings and paid Flagstar more than $45,000 to keep her home after the death of her husband and the loss of her job, but Flagstar refused to modify the mortgage and foreclosed. Jennifer is working again, but Flagstar has sold the mortgage to Fannie Mae, with taxpayers footing the bill. Eviction is imminent.
Occupy will distribute flyers reminding festival goers that Flagstar is not a “community bank,” but is owned and controlled by Matlin Patterson of New York, a “Vulture Investor,” as Forbes Magazine describes it. Flagstar has confessed to mortgage fraud and has not paid back the taxpayer bailout it was gifted in 2009. It should take back the mortgage and modify the loan to keep Jennifer and her family in their home.
Evictions play a crucial role in the devastating visual landscape of Detroit's inner city. Vacant, crumbling structures destroy neighborhoods, property values plummet, neighboring homes are put at risk by the threat of arson and other criminal activity. Jennifer's story is not unique. Unfortunately, there are many Detroit residents facing home foreclosure and eviction.
The Guardian: Occupy Wall Street: the story behind seven months of protest:
In September last year, anti-corporate activists descended on a small park in lower Manhattan and Occupy Wall Street was born. As protesters ready for a spring resurgence, film-maker Kat Keene Hogue looks back at more than six months of Occupy, a movement that spread from Zuccotti Park to over 100 cities around the world
Statistics are the smoke and fog in the war on women. Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner struck out against Mitt Romney’s repeated claims that women made up more than 92 percent of jobs lost under President Obama’s watch. “It’s just a political moment,” Geithner said on CBS News’ Face the Nation, arguing that there was more job loss among men at the beginning of the recession and that Obama inherited economic decline that began under the previous White House. Romney’s campaign isn’t budging, though. “The President should stop making excuses for his failures,” spokesperson Andrea Saul said in an email to reporters. “He is entitled to his own spin but not his own facts.” Too bad Geithner didn't have any facts to back up his idiotic running off at the mouth.
Via Think Progress: Bank of America Forecloses On Homeowner With Disabled Daughter After Offering Her A Modification:
Rodriguez took out a loan to retrofit her house for her special-needs daughter. After she fell behind on her payments, the Bank of America lowered her monthly obligation, but then sold the house at a foreclosure auction last September. The new owner, a house flipper from El Segundo called West Ridge Rentals, moved to evict the family. [...]
Yet still nearly 7,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters have been arrested to day. Bankers arrested? Zero.
There were only around 40 protesters last night who chose to unfurl their sleeping bags and ground pads on the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street in "sleepful protest" last night. But unlike the vibrant, if somewhat insulated atmosphere of Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street's newest encampment is positioned at the nexus of a neighborhood, and residents and passersby seemed eager to engage the demonstrators on the well-lit corner a few yards away from the New York Stock Exchange.
An impeccably dressed, if somewhat intoxicated man began speaking with protesters and eventually sat down, legs crossed, deep in dialogue. His expensive watch peeked out of the cuff of his starched shirt as he made motions with his hands. His wife had left him and he stressed that he had problems, too.
Another man wearing a blue Oxford and carrying his dinner—a frozen chicken dish from Duane Reade—began speaking to a group after he asked one protester, "Tell me again why you're here?" What followed was a conversation that lasted over an hour, ranging from cutting the cost of higher education ("We gotta stop subsidizing four-year colleges,") to the tax rate on capital gains, to solutions to house the homeless.
Also from Think Progress, if Mitt Romney could relate at all to the general population, wouldn't he support paid sick days for workers?
Forty percent of private sector workers and 80 percent of low-wage workers do not have a single, paid sick day to recover from a short-term illness or to provide care for their loved ones. This leads to impossible choices for moms in the sandwich generation who are often working while serving as the main caregiver for an aging parent or school-age children. Missing just three days of work to care for a kid with chicken pox would mean losing the entire month’s healthcare budget for the average two worker, two child family without access to paid sick days.
Paid sick days legislation would enable workers to accrue paid sick leave and provide for provisions to help employers manage. It also makes economic sense as it costs businesses more in lost worker productivity to have sick employees come in, than it would cost to offer paid time off in the first place.
President Obama has come out in favor of such legislation. Mitt Romney, who claims to understand the plight of working people, has been silent.
See how much more effective actual facts are, Mr. Geithner?
Occupy Ninjas, coming to a bank near you soon.
Occupy Detroit is celebrating their 6 month anniversary all weekend:
A general assembly will be held at noon at Eastern Market. The group also will hold an open house from 4-10 p.m. Saturday at its new home at 5900 Michigan Ave. Events will include an ox roast and musical jam session around a bonfire.
HERE’S a window into a tragedy within the American military: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands.
As TeacherKen notes, there is so much more work that needs to be done before military suicide can be effectively prevented.
Buffet Rule Vote on Monday
On Monday, April 16, the U.S. Senate will debate and vote on the "Buffett Rule," which guarantees that millionaires will no longer pay a lower share of taxes than working people.
Join SEIU and Daily Kos by sending an email (super easy, just click the link) to your senators, telling them to vote in favor of the Buffett Rule. No matter whether your senators are Democrats or Republicans, they all need to know there is big support for making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.