Occupy Wall Street Groups Protest Foreclosure, Try To Halt Evictions

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11/16/11 04:49 PM ET

Occupy Wall Street Foreclosures

Monique White of North Minneapolis has been hosting weekend barbecues for friends and family for years. On Sunday, her usual guest list of friends and neighbors expanded to include protesters from the local spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They’d come to try and stop the bank from throwing White out of her house.

“These people are here to support me — and not only me, just to let other people know and be aware of what’s going on,” White said.

What’s going on is American homeowners are still slogging through the aftermath of a recession caused by the near-collapse of the financial sector in 2008. Since then, bailed-out banks have allegedly treated struggling homeowners so badly that state and federal law enforcement agencies are negotiating a multi-billion dollar settlement, and federal bank regulators have offered to check for wrongdoing in any foreclosure that happened in 2009 or 2010.

Occupy Wall Street kicked off in September to protest economic injustice, and now in at least three American cities, Occupy protesters are using the stories of local residents losing their homes to dramatize and protest the ongoing foreclosure crisis. In each case, Occupy-affiliated protesters have pitched their tents on the lawns where they don’t want to see local sheriff’s deputies pile the belongings of an evicted family.

On Sunday evening, 15 or so protesters came to Elizabeth Sommerer’s home in Cleveland. They’d heard via Twitter that Sommerer, a mother of two, would be evicted on Tuesday.

“We’d been talking for a few weeks about ways to draw attention to what’s going on with the foreclosure crisis,” said protester Chris Soboleski, a 29-year-old web developer from Painesville, Ohio.

Sommerer’s home went into foreclosure in 2009, Cuyahoga County records show. Her husband postponed the sheriff’s sale by filing for bankruptcy. But they couldn’t keep up with their Chapter 13 payments, and then, Sommerers said, she and her husband split up. Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage company, bought the property in August.

Soboleski and other Occupy protesters helped Sommerer connect with her local representative on the Cleveland City Council, Brian Cummins, whose staff helped her get to court on Monday to file a request to postpone the eviction for 30 days. Her request was granted, court records show.

“I think it was a huge day for the movement,” said Cummins, a member of the Green Party. “This is really great because it got them out in the community and in touch with someone in a very real life situation.”

“They stand up for the little guy,” Sommerer said of the protesters in a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday. (Soboleski said Sommerer did not want to do another interview about her situation after already providing details to local reporters. Independent attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.) “This is Main Street. Wall Street can take care of itself. Main Street needs everybody.”

Sommerer said she’s looking for work and a nearby place to live so her kids don’t have to change schools. She’d be happy to rent her former home from Fannie Mae if possible. “I was not raised to be a freeloader. I don’t want to be a freeloader. I will pay my way. I just need time to put it together,” she said in the video.

“Even if you do have to foreclose on someone, you can do it with a certain amount of compassion and humanity,” Soboleski said. “There’s a certain amount to be said for rules, but on the other hand we all want to live in a society where humanity matters more than bureaucracy.”

Not all of the Occupy actions have been successful. In Snellville, Ga., protesters failed to prevent the eviction of the Rorey family, who told the Gwinnett Daily Post they fell victim to a scam artist who promised them lower monthly payments in 2010. The difficulty of obtaining loan modifications since the collapse of the housing bubble has made it easy for scam artists to prey on desperate homeowners, who have been susceptible to claims that a hired “expert” knows secrets to obtaining loan mods they don’t.

Fannie Mae, which has owned the property since last year, said it works to prevent foreclosures.

“We have a Mortgage Help Center in Atlanta where homeowners can meet with a trusted housing counselor to discuss their mortgage situation and options to avoid foreclosure,” a Fannie Mae spokeswoman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the homeowner did not seek assistance from our Help Center.”

Occupy protesters in Minneapolis hope they’ll have better luck with Monique White. Thirty or so protesters have been camping in her living room and kitchen, with some spilling out onto her lawn, since November 8.

“I’ve never had this many people in my house before. It gets kind of overwhelming sometimes,” White said. All the same, she added, “I appreciate everything that they’ve done for me.”

White fell behind on her payments in 2009. The following February, as she was trying to get a loan modification from U.S. Bank, she said, budget cuts cost her her job counseling at-risk kids for a non-profit. “That’s when everything started spiraling out.”

The Occupy protesters say U.S. Bank should cut White some slack.

“They just had record profits this quarter, and the CEO of US Bank, Richard Davis, just doubled his salary to $19 million,” said Nick Espinosa, 25. “So what we’re talking about with a family like Monique’s is pennies to them.”

Government-backed mortgage company Freddie Mac bought her house as a foreclosure in January, and U.S. Bank said what happens is now up to Freddie. Freddie Mac said White’s eviction has already been postponed and that the company was considering her for a program that would allow her to rent the property.

White said she has been working a part-time job at a liquor store and is desperately looking for new work.

“Basically what I’m looking for is for U.S. Bank to rewrite my loans in order for me to stay in my home and make it affordable for me,” White said. “I’m not asking for a handout. All I’m asking is for time or for Freddie Mac or U.S. Bank, whoever owns the house or is trying to take the house, to come to the table.”

 

TAMMY BALDWIN INTRODUCES RESOLUTION TO BLOCK BANK AMNESTY

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: That the resolution was even necessary shows how much pressure the Banks are using to get out of the corner they painted themselves into. The stage is set for the real facts to come out and they will continue to come out in large quantities of information and data that will show that the Banks didn’t just make mistakes — they took the honored traditions of Banking and turned them on their head using the irrelevant past as a means to deceive investors, consumers, homeowners, taxpayers, legislators and law enforcement.

The key fact that I see coming out is going to be relative to the Tier 2 yield spread premium that the Banks booked as trading profits. When investors get the data, they will be able to prove that the Banks skimmed a large chunk of the money intended to be used for funding mortgages. The amount loaned by the investors will not match up with the amount loaned to borrowers. Add that to the long list of intentional acts of fabrication, fraud and deception and those Banks are extremely vulnerable not only to civil attack for damages and injunctive relief but for criminal behavior. Remember that over 800 people went to jail when the savings sand loan crisis was revealed in the 1908’s. So far, in this case there have only been a handful of people.

If the full accounting for all money in and out is completed, there will be no doubt what happened. Whether the investors will recoup the money stolen from them by the Banks is for another day. But one thing is certain — if there was money coming in the Banks kept most of it and didn’t report accurately to either the investor lenders nor the borrowers. It is a certainty in my opinion that the account balances of borrowers on every type of loan will be affected and shown to be misrepresented when the Banks sought to enforce the debt. The balances will be reduced, in some cases below zero and in many cases the undisclosed profits and compensation is due back to both the investors and the borrowers under different laws. The Banks have created a double liability situation for themselves and I have no compassion for their situation.

The Banks are using their formidable resources to create a vehicle for amnesty in which the settlement is small and the liability for criminal or civil wrongs is effectively cancelled. Tammy Baldwin is running for Senate from her Congressional seat. She is running against the Banks and for America. Anybody in Congress who opposes this resolution will be an easy target in this election cycle. Aligning with the Banks now is seen by most as aligning with the forces of evil. Any politician looking to win an election this season had better take note.

Tammy Baldwin To Introduce Resolution Opposing Immunity For Banks In Foreclosure Deal

First Posted: 11/3/11 09:00 AM ET Updated: 11/3/11 09:00 AM ET

Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is set to introduce a resolution in Congress this week calling on the Obama administration and state attorneys general to ensure that any deal reached with the nation’s biggest banks on foreclosure abuses includes full investigations into what happened, awards proper compensation to victims and provides no immunity for potential wrongdoing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the state AGs have been working with the nation’s five largest mortgage firms — Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — to settle disputes over potentially illegal foreclosure practices, such as the so-called robo-signing of foreclosure documents.

Baldwin’s resolution states that any settlement should follow three guidelines: 1) Banks that engaged in fraudulent behavior “should not be granted criminal or civil immunity for potential wrongdoing related to illegal mortgage and foreclosure practices,” 2) the federal government and state AGs should “proceed with full investigations into claims of fraudulent behavior by mortgage servicers” and 3) any monetary sum paid by the banks should “appropriately compensate for, and accurately reflect, the extent of harm to all victims.”

“We have to do the best we can to make innocent victims whole. But secondly, especially in light of the taxpayer bailout of the biggest banks, we owe taxpayers a solemn effort to do everything we can do to uncover what went wrong and whether laws were broken,” Baldwin said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Part of that is to make certain this won’t happen again. That, to me, is one of the most basic responsibilities we have.”

According to news reports of a possible settlement between the parties, banks would pay around $2025 billion in return for immunity from state lawsuits.

“While I can’t discuss the details of our negotiations, I will say that we are negotiating a limited — not a broad — civil liability release. We are discussing additional ways to help homeowners while still holding the banks accountable,” said Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for lead negotiator Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Baldwin’s resolution follows a letter she wrote to Holder on Nov. 1, in which she argued that the low sum being discussed in settlement talks would be insufficient to help underwater homeowners. Twenty-four of her colleagues in the House of Representatives joined her on the letter.

“These underwater homeowners owe roughly $750 billion more than their homes are currently worth,” she wrote. “This $750 billion stands in contrast to reports of a $20 billion settlement with mortgage servicers. We are concerned that this $20 billion will provide little help to the estimated 14.6 million struggling homeowners who are underwater. Indeed, many of these families have been victims of outright fraud, and they deserve justice and just compensation.”

Obama administration officials, such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have repeatedly said they would like to see a quick resolution to the mortgage probe.

When asked why there is such a push for a settlement amongst some of the members involved in the probe, Baldwin replied, “What I’ve read is that there’s an interest in resolving this prior to the next set of elections.”

But, she cautioned, such a strategy could backfire. “I do fear that a settlement that is just a tiny drop in the bucket, given all the devastation that’s occurred because of this, would have strong political ramifications,” she said.

The negotiations originally involved AGs from all 50 states, but a handful of them have pulled out due to concerns reflected in Baldwin’s resolution.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) has been the leading voice pushing for a narrower deal, expressing concern that the proposed settlement would preclude state AGs from fully investigating and prosecuting banks found to have committed wrongdoing. In late August, he was kicked off of the 50-state task force after he refused to go along with the quick settlement the administration and his fellow state AGs were working out. Since then, several other state AGs have backed Schneiderman’s position.

Congress is not directly involved in the negotiations, but Baldwin said it was important for the administration and the state AGs to hear from the people’s representatives.

“I get a lot of constituents calling my office who are underwater in their mortgages, who are paid up but can’t refinance, can’t get lower interest rates. They’re struggling financially because of the economy,” said Baldwin. “Their calls aren’t even responded to by the big banks. They’ll call [my office] and say, ‘How am I supposed to talk about these federal programs that are out there for refinancing and help for homeowners who are underwater, if my bank won’t even call me back?'”

Baldwin is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl (D) and currently has no Democratic primary challenger. The GOP field is more crowded: former governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former congressman Mark Neumann are all running.

REPUBLICANS ATTACK ELIZ WARREN: SLEAZE BATH SHOULD BACKFIRE

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EDITOR’S NOTE: When you have nothing else throw mud. Some of it is bound to stick no matter how stupid it is. That’s straight out of the Republican playbook. The Banks are losing ground and they are pounding and threatening the Republicans withdrawing their support and otherwise trying anything they can to undermine the credibility of one of the ONLY people in the current administration that “gets it” and wants to do something about it, and has the power to do so. It is sleaze politics at its worst, and this is something that lies squarely at the feet of the Republicans. When will the sellout to the banks end? It will end when YOU make it end. Write your congressman and senators — both in the Congress and your state legislature.

Elizabeth Warren Fans Attack Patrick McHenry On Facebook Over Liar Charge

Patrick Mchenry

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Patrick McHenry’s pants may not be on fire, but his Facebook page is getting thoroughly flamed after he called Elizabeth Warren a liar Tuesday in a subcommittee hearing.

Fans of Warren think the North Carolina Republican took some unacceptable liberties with the boss of the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and they’re demanding that he get some McEtiquette and apologize.

Hundreds — and probably thousands — have flocked to McHenry’s fan page to singe him.

“I ‘like’ the fact that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans are appalled by your behavior,” wrote Jill Budzynski. “You are an insult to the title of chairman of any committee. It is out of order to abuse a loyal public servant who is trying her best to accommodate your flip-flopping of schedules. How reprehensible to accuse her of lying. Apologize now.”

The dust-up Tuesday came near the end of a hearing on the CFPB when the Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, noted that Warren had stayed beyond the time he had seen agreed to in internal committee communications.

But McHenry denied there was any agreement, even though the hearing time had been changed as recently as that morning to accommodate the subcommittee. “You’re making this up,” McHenry told her, to her shock and gasps from the hearing audience.

Warren and her staff had the same understanding as Cummings, and sources confirmed the previously agreed upon timing for The Huffington Post.

America Is Not Broke

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“For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic — and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.” — Michael Moore

“400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.” — Michael Moore

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: Michael Moore GETS IT! He understands that what happened was political, not economic. It was theft and a grab for power that worked. And he understands that “we the people” in the preamble of our great  Constitution of the United States of America together with the 9th Amendment to that great instrument of human rights, that we THE PEOPLE have the right to take back both the power and the money.

AND that is because, as Thomas Jefferson said, that when in the course of human events” it becomes necessary for the people to act to break the bonds of governance and reinstate the rule of law, we have the right to do it. And in this great country we have every right and obligation to do it without changing our form of government or even resorting to violent revolution. We need only the will to take the streets because we mean it and to start voting and acting like we are in charge, to give up fear as our prime motivator and replace it with hope.

Just because Wall Street has TAKEN the money and the power doesn’t mean we are required to let them keep it. The framers of our government meant for us to correct imbalances of power, high crimes, misdemeanors and other criminal acts and to enable people to get fresh starts and to deprive freedom to those who commit sins against our humanity and our society, committing them to imprisonment, fine and forfeiture —- just like any little guy.

Michael Moore
Oscar and Emmy-winning director

 

America Is Not Broke

Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011
America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic — and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don’t pay their fair share of taxes, the state can’t function. The schools can’t produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It’s part of the Big Lie. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there’s lots of money to go around. LOTS. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn’t work, they’ve got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day ˆ this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart — because you — yes, you, too! — might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it’s Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin’ awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. “Here! Take our money! We don’t care. We’ll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!”

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois — whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn’t have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn’t be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more ˆ something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job — their $19,000 a year job. That’s how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he’s stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn’t have to sleep in his car between shifts at O’Hare airport. That’s how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn’t be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he’s just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America’s fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement — a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don’t understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. “Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

“There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you…?”

America ain’t broke! The only thing that’s broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it’s one person, one vote, and it’s the thing the rich hate most about America — because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.

Follow Michael Moore on Twitter: MMFlint

 

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