More Evidence of Home Invasions by Zombie Bank Criminal Conspiracy

New Orleans   Evidence of the death march of the zombie bankers continues as they desperately try to shore up balance sheets based on non-existent assets with continued predatory cannibalization of homeowners through blatant home invasions and foreclosure seizures.  Two more stories provide more evidence of both the criminal conspiracy and the banks blatant lying that has won them sweetheart settlements with the government to let them steal with impunity.

The recent deal with the banks that stopped their self-supervised investigation of their own wrongful foreclosures because they lacked documentation or had used robot signatures or other faulty paperwork for a sweetheart deal seems now – to no surprise! – to have been uncovering MORE faulty foreclosures than previously disclosed.  The sweetheart deal, as you will remember, had also made the banks judgment proof on these issues in the future.  Once again the government caved in and seems to have been snookered.

News breaks today that indicates that, “Wow, yes the banks evicted people by mistake!”  Seven hundred (700) military veterans lost their homes this way according to a story by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess in the New York Times.   Dan Petegorsky with the Campaign for a Fair Settlement correctly called the earlier sweetheart deal a “step backwards, which is an understatement if anything.  Can the deal be unraveled and really negotiated?  Unclear to me from anything I’ve seen.  At the least perhaps there are other cases still out there where a real settlement might finally be reached to provide relief for those facing foreclosures and the millions of victims crippled already.

Having ranted for years about the work of Arizona Advocates & Action winning the case of Frances Gomez in Phoenix when Bank of America stole her house, were forced to admit the theft, and then still wouldn’t return the house for years or give her a fair settlement, none of this is a surprise, but an open sore wound that the government keeps allowing to fester.

How about a break here, Mr. President?

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Bank of America’s Countrywide Ghoul Strikes Again

Nebank of americaw Orleans Reports from Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times are raising the specter of Bank of America filing for bankruptcy for its Countrywide mortgage unit detonating the “nuclear” option to save the parent company and run from the toxic mortgage load bought in 2008.  I wonder if this doesn’t finally give another explanation to Bank of America’s continued resistance to rational modification of mortgages to allow mortgage holders to stay in their homes.

According to these reports, Bank of America, its lawyers and strategists have spent time and money making sure that they contained the Countrywide operation as a separate entity.  The Bloomberg report notes:

“Countrywide has $11 billion in assets that could be depleted through demands to repurchase defective mortgages,” Jonathan Glionna of Barclays Plc said in an Aug. 31 note. After that, Bank of America may not have any obligation to pay claims from Countrywide’s creditors, he said.

Typically, a corporation that acquires another firm’s assets isn’t liable for the seller’s debts, unless the transaction is considered a de facto merger or there was fraud in the takeover, Robert M. Daines, a Stanford Law School professor, wrote in a legal opinion prepared for BNY Mellon, trustee for the Countrywide mortgage bonds. Daines analyzed whether Bank of America would have to pay bond investors if Countrywide couldn’t.

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the insurer that sued Bank of America last month to recoup more than $10 billion in losses on Countrywide mortgage bonds, argued that the bank is a legal successor to the unit. New York-based AIG cited a series of transactions by Bank of America in 2008 that “were structured in such a way as to leave Countrywide unable to satisfy its massive contingent liabilities.””

Obviously one reason all of the big whoops suing Bank of America from Freddie to Fannie are making sure in any litigation or settlement that BofA is on the hook for Countrywide is their fear that the company will finally jettison this toxic nightmare.  But for poor, working homeowners the problem in getting modifications and preventing foreclosure is that Bank of America clearly has to continue to play pretend and pump up the fake value of Countrywide mortgages that are still on the books at the loan terms rather than the underwater value.

In Phoenix where values have been halved and Arizona Advocates and Actions has been mired in the modification process with Bank of America few if any modification offers make financial sense for homeowners because the bank continues to pretend that houses now worth little more than $100,000 are still holding the $250,000 loan value of the original mortgage.  Restating the mortgage to the actual value would save millions of homeowners.  Unfortunately, injecting reality might bring the whole house of cards down, not just the Countrywide unit, but all of the nation’s largest financial institution, Bank of America.

What a mess!

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Deserted Communities in the Desert

Phoeniforeclosurex From the outside many of these communities in and around Phoenix still look normal and nice as you drive by.  It is only when you slow down and look more closely at house after house that you notice even in the desert how many are overgrown with tumbleweed coming in, paint starting to chip, and the telltale symptoms of abandonment everywhere.

Estimates in the greater Phoenix area are for 3500 foreclosures this month and more still coming.  More than half of the mortgages are underwater.

Modifications are mirages in the desert.  They look like they are coming just ahead, but then when you get closer too often they disappear.  The “business model” for Arizona Advocates & Actions focused on high front end payments to allow aggressive foreclosure resistance until modifications were achieved on fair terms.  Talking to the members, the problem is that months turn into years and require constant servicing which competes with recruitment of new members, similar to the problems that local unions face.

The Obama Administration still seems to have no clue how deep the wounds are in beleaguered communities that have gone from bloom and boom to bust and disgust, but the signs are everywhere as we went neighborhood by neighborhood in Phoenix and the surrounding cities.

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Nadar is Right on Airlines and Small Claims Courts

N112905_small_claims_courtew Orleans As part of the meetings between ACORN International organizers in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere our up and coming star organizer with Local 100’s program in Dallas was coming.  She had never flown on a plane.  She had to get a passport for the first time.  We were all wildly excited.  She was going to help translate.  At the last minute she had a health crisis and was pulled into surgery the day she was supposed to fly to Tegucigalpa.  A tumor was removed and two months later she was able to come back to work, and hopefully soon this will be simply a bad memory for her.

We assumed with the doctor’s note that we would have no trouble getting the ticket refunded.  Our hard care, tough negotiating union staff pressed forward on the case.  Nada.  Stonewall city!  No refund, simply the promise of a charge to change the ticket and, equally bad, a credit for a future flight, but only usable for this same individual for whom we had purchased through Expedia with Continental Airlines.  We stand to lose about $1000 of union members’ dues money, and we are not happy about this rip-off.

I read with interest a similar rip-and-run reported in The New York Times to Ralph Nadar.  He and an associate were traveling to a speaking gig and appeared snowed into DC, so they rented a car, drove three or four hours, and made some college kids happy.  He sought a refund then from US Airways.  They gave him the same spiel about $150 per head change fee and a future credit with them for the two tickets.  Nadar being Nadar, sent a couple of letters to the company and made some phone calls and still got nothing.  According to David Segal’s “The Hagglar” column, he then threatened to take the matter to small claims court, and they folded like a cheap suit and gave him a full refund on the tickets and his change fees.

I want that, too, and I want it now!!!

The problem might be that we aren’t all lawyers, like our old friend, Ralph.  No matter, he’s right.  None of us are using small claims court sufficiently to seek justice as we advocate for what are becoming daily rip-offs of consumers by the big boys on land and in the air.  Most small claims of course by definition allow non-lawyers to participate fully.  At Advocates and Actions (www.advocatesandactions.org) we had been studying how to utilize these and similar tools to collect on unpaid wages and other obligations, but were missing the obvious in our own situation.

I think a lot of us ought to take a good look at small claims and see if we can finally get some justice in areas where the money means a lot to us, but nothing to them, perhaps this should be the court of first resort.

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Arizona is the 21st Century Mississippi

United-Nations-gun-ban-sculptureNew Orleans I really love Arizona.  It’s beautiful country with an amazing history and people.  So was, Mississippi fifty odd years ago, but sometimes the fusion of time, land, and change produces hybrid aberrations that shake society to the core.   We need to stop pretending that there’s not something serious wrong in the political and social structure of Arizona.  The evidence is too overwhelming.

A friend from British Columbia made the point on my Facebook wall over the weekend and Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist, said the same thing in today’s paper about gun control.  Gun should not be popping out of pockets at public events in Arizona because of a wrongheaded laissez faire carryall policy.  Arizona does not have the political ability to change that, which means Congress needs to do so.

Same thing with automatic weapons.  Collins normally spices her column with humor but today she was deadly serious.  If automatic weapons had been banned, Congresswoman Giffords would have still been shot and perhaps one other, but we would not be dealing with 6 dead and another dozen wounded from a Glock 9mm and reading about a 9-year old girl born on 9/11 and now dead, the heroism of a husband dying as if in a warzone while covering his wife’s body with his own, and a woman who heroically helped wrestle away the 2nd 30-shot gun clip, allowing for the shooter’s capture.  Arizona can’t stop this anymore than Mississippi would integrate itself.  They need help.

The Pima County Sheriff spoke the truth about Arizona being ground zero for haters, baiters, and wildness now, and the reasons matter, but they are not material, especially when we still have Sheriff Joe and his anti-immigrant mischief in Maricopa County up the road, because the situation cries for intervention.

Certainly we need to see a dialing down of the rhetoric from all sides in our political discourse, but even at a whisper hate can grow unabated even in desert soil.  We need start understanding Arizona differently.  This is a cancer on the national soul and the body politic, and as a citizenry and a community, we have intervene and create a different climate.

Now!  Ahora!

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Avaaz.org

avaaz-logoNew Orleans It is hard to explain how I stumbled on an organization with 6.5 million members, but in the modern world of high tech campaigning and low entry internet membership, it turns out to be easy to do, and that was the case for me and Avaaz.org when I was contacted by a Berlin-based, American born campaigner on a Skype call from the Hague, Netherlands.  To increase the wild, randomness quotient to the nth degree it also turned out that her brother and parents were now living in New Orleans.  As they say in the world of shipping lanes, then cars, then air travel, and now the internet, “it’s a small world.”

The very smallness of the world and its interconnectedness seems to be part of the point for Avaaz, which they say means “voice” in several Middle Eastern and European languages.  They seek to be a “global web movement brining people power-powered politics to decision making everywhere.”  Ambitious certainly, but since being founded in 2007 by a partnership of the US-based web political giant MoveOn.org and something called Res Publica, which seems to have focused on expanding the “faith” dialogue to push back from the right previously, they have zipped along to a significant membership and some impact on issues in various countries.  In Canada where ACORN International has some experience they were a player in the pushback against the Harper efforts to facilitate the creation of a Fox News North, which is a huge public service.  In Brazil they seem to have been helpful in creating election reforms in this bellwether Latin American country.

The membership they have attracted is also intriguing to me given the time I spend supporting organizing internationally, because the huge concentrations are not the “usual suspects.”  Their two biggest country-based memberships with more than 700,000 a piece are in first, Brazil, and secondly, France.  They have over 400,000 in Canada and the USA, which is good sized in the north but obviously only an afterthought in the States where I suspect the default would still be the MoveOn program, despite the New York headquarters of the organization.

Importantly they argue that they are self-supporting, which is critical and allows them huge independence on their issue-based campaigns which include climate change in the middle of the road and more controversially for some, strident support for Wikileaks.  Interestingly, they indicate that most of their support comes from less than 4500 sustainers out of the over 6M members.

This is an advocacy organization of activists rather than a democratic membership-based organization of course, but to their credit they have created very broad tools to guide decisions and a “sink-or-swim” mechanism to stay close to their base.  Annually they seem to do a survey ranking campaigns and issues available to all of their membership, and even as they dive into these campaigns they “field test” them with sample response from 10,000 of their members to see whether they act and respond to email alerts on the issue.  The dozen or more campaigners around the world in New York, Berlin, London and so forth come together and “pitch” campaigns to each other and their managers every couple of weeks, which undoubtedly creates a competitive sense of advocacy and action.

Clearly, Avaaz is an interesting and fascinating organization and worth a good look.  I certainly joined, and for ACORN International’s part came away from the long Skype conversation before Christmas with some real hope that we can find common ground for partnerships on our Remittance Justice and other campaigns in the future.

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