Meet the Bank Exec Fighting to Foreclose on a Wheelchair-Bound Cancer Patient
Across the country, families facing foreclosure and homeowners with "underwater" mortgages are fighting back against the big banks that stripped them of their one valuable asset and crashed the economy. The resistance takes many forms - homeowners refusing to leave when the sheriff arrives with an eviction notice, community groups engaging in civil disobedience at bank offices and lobbying campaigns to get city and state government to enact protections from banks foreclosing on owners for missing one or two payments, often as a result of banks making unscrupulous loans.
Occupy Wall Street provided Americans and the media with a new framework for explaining the nation's economic hard times - the "1%" vs. the "99%." But veteran community, union and faith groups that are mobilizing against Wall Street know that to hold big banks accountable, they need to identify and name the top executives whose decisions ripped off consumers, plunged the nation into a deep recession, plummeted housing prices and put cities and states at the precipice of fiscal ruin due to declining property values and revenues.
One of the banking industry's ruling elite is Timothy J. Sloan. Sloan has spent 25 years working his way up the Wells Fargo corporate hierarchy. After heading the bank's commercial real estate and securitization business, in March 2011 he was named Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Sloan lives in a 5,804 square foot, 8-bedroom Spanish-style mansion at 1320 Woodstock Road on a cul-de-sac without sidewalks in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. He purchased the home in 2007 for $5.15 million. Last year, Sloan made $8.4 million, according to Wells Fargo's proxy statement.
For several years, Sloan's bank has been trying to kick Ana Casas Wilson, a wheelchair-bound homeowner, out of her modest home. Wilson, a court interpreter, lives with her husband (a school janitor), her mother (a retired factory worker who now works as a home health aide), and her 17 year old son in the gritty working class city of South Gate, only 10 miles away - but worlds apart - from tony San Marino. The family has lived in their tiny 949 square foot house since 1975 which, thanks to plummeting housing prices brought about by the Wall Street mortgage collapse, is now worth no more than $175,000.
2009, Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She also suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Her husband James quit his night job as a security guard - and reduced his income - to tend to her. While Wilson was in the hospital and undergoing chemotherapy, the family fell behind on its mortgage payments and the bank started to foreclosure on their property.
Once the family's financial situation stabilized, they sought to resume making payments and asked Wells Fargo to renegotiate their mortgage. But the bank refused to accept the Wilsons' checks and pursued legal proceedings to foreclose on the house and evict the family from their home.
Last October, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE, a community organizing group), the Service Employees International Union and other activist groups showed up in front of Sloan's mansion to protest Wells Fargo's predatory lending practices. In response, the five-member San Marino City Council adopted a new law, requiring protesters to keep 150 feet from a target residence, or 75 feet from the curb adjacent to the home, whichever is farther.
"The purpose of the ordinance is not to reduce picketing, but to protect the people who are the victims of picketing," San Marino city manager John Schaefer told the Los Angeles Times. "We're a prime target. We have a lot of people who fit the profile to be the victim of this type of crime."