Meet the Bank Exec Fighting to Foreclose on a Wheelchair-Bound Cancer Patient
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As of June 2010, Wells Fargo had $17.5 billion worth of foreclosed homes on its books, making it one of the nation's three top banks in foreclosure activity. Despite getting a $37 billion taxpayer bail-out, Wells Fargo went kicking and screaming before it reluctantly agreed to participate in the federal government's Home Affordable Modification Program. Even so, it has provided help to few of its borrowers who are eligible for loan modifications that will keep families in their homes.
In the past six years, housing prices nationwide have fallen by a third. Families have lost nearly $7 trillion of home equity. More than four million homeowners have lost their homes. Another 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so behind in their mortgage payments that they soon will be confronted with losing their homes.
About 15 million homeowners are "under water" - they owe $700 billion more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Many economists agree that the most effective solution would be for the federal government to require banks to renegotiate mortgages for "underwater" owners to reflect the new market values of their homes. The Obama administration resisted this idea until recently, but the bank industry lobby, including Wells Fargo, has fought to stop any legislation mandating "principal reduction." Instead, they want any mortgage re-sets to be entirely voluntary.
Wilson is one of those many homeowners whom Wells Fargo refuses to help, which is why she wound up on Tim Sloan's doorstep, trying desperately to pay her mortgage so should can stay in her home.
Sloan's Huntington Library charity ball raised $300,000, almost twice the current value of Wilson's house, which she may soon have to leave if Sloan and his bank don't do the right thing.
California is ground zero in the battle between homeowners and Wall Street. ACCE, SEIU, and their allies (including groups like the National Council of La Raza, the Courage Campaign, and others) have won important victories on several fronts - keeping families in their homes by pressuring banks to rewrite mortgages, getting cities to require banks to pay for the costs of cleaning up vacant foreclosed properties, and getting the state legislature to enact of Homeowners Bill of Rights to protect consumers from banks pulling the foreclosure trigger too quickly.
Nationwide, community groups, unions, and faith based groups are laying the groundwork for a major assault on Wall Street greed. They intend to expand their protest actions by focusing on a handful of major banks that are responsible not only for the epidemic of foreclosures and declining home values, but also the implosion of family debt (due to outrageous student loans) and government austerity (due to declining property values and revenues).
And should Obama win a second term, groups like the Home Defenders League, a national network of activist groups, expect to push the president and Congress to adopt regulations to require banks to reset mortgage loans (called "principal reduction") so that payments align with the reduced value of their homes. They estimate that homeowners' monthly savings, if spent on consumer goods and services, would generate a million jobs a year.
"This is about more than helping homeowners stay in their homes," explains ACCE's Amy Schur. "This is about holding Wall Street accountable, fixing the economy and getting the government on the side of consumers, not bankers. To do that, we have to name names. People have to know who the enemy is. "