Chaos in the White House Can’t Stop Progress in the Streets

Bristol ACORN

Bristol   Maybe President Trump needs to get out more? Perhaps there’s something in the air in the White House that is clogging up his so-called “fine-tuned machine” and bringing out the crazy? Maybe from the outside looking in, it would be easier for him to understand better why the rest of us are scared sillier every day?

Who knows, but for me it was relief to jump off the merry-go-round of the Trump-Watch and back onto a plane again. And, though sleepless and a walking-zombie imitation, sure enough it was possible to find signs of continuing progress away from the maddening vortex of chaos in Washington.

Visiting with the ACORN organizers in Bristol, the big problem of the day was one every organization likes to have. On the eve of ACORN’s first all-offices, national action scheduled only days away from Edinburgh to Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, and beyond against the giant multi-national bank, Santander, they threw in the towel and caved in. The issue was a requirement that Santander attaches on any loans in housing that tenant leases mandate rent increases. ACORN was demanding the provision be dropped from all leases, and Santander announced that it was doing so, and in a bit of dissembling claimed that they had never really enforced it anyway. Hmmm. I wonder if they had told any of their landlords, “hey, ignore that part, we don’t really want you to raise the rents, we’re just kidding, it’s only money.” Hard to believe isn’t it? And, we don’t, but a win is a win, and the action will now become a celebration and a demand that all other banks in the United Kingdom also scrub out any such language.

Back home, ACORN affiliate, A Community Voice, was front page news as they laid the gauntlet down once again around an expansion of the Industrial Canal that divides the upper and lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The expansion would dislocate homes and further bisect this iconic and beleaguered community.

Meanwhile, as we get closer and closer to being able to target big real estate operations and private equity that are exploiting lower income home seekers in the Midwest and South through contract for deed land purchasers, there was progress in the courts. A federal judge ruled that Harbour Portfolio, a Dallas-based bottom-fishing private equity operation with a big 7000-home play in FNMA, would have to abide by a subpoena from the much embattled Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and disclose information on its use high-interest, predatory contract-for-deed instruments in its home flipping. As we get closer and closer to having our arms around not only terms and conditions of these exploitative contracts, but also lists of potential victims in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, this is good news, even though far from the relief and victory families will be seeking.

All of which proves that if we can keep our focus away from the chaos created in Washington and our feet on the streets, there are fights galore and victories aplenty to reward the work and struggle.

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A Corrupt Credit Business Model Travels to Chile and Brazil

New Orleans Cred

ODECU of Chile

ODECU of Chile

it card scams are the bad penny perfected in the United States that is turning up now elsewhere in the world.   These practices are not the foul play of bad actors as predatory lenders always claim, but intrinsic elements of corrupt, exploitive business models.  The economic success stories in Brazil and Chile now seem threatened by the avarice of casual corporate corruption matched as usual with light to non-existent regulation and consumer protection regimes.

In Brazil the debt to income ratio has risen from 22% to 40% in only five years from 2006 to 2011 according to a study quoted by Alexei Barrionuevo in The New York Times. In Chile in 7 years the ratio has goen to 70% according to the Central Bank.   There’s no question the model is predatory with interest annual interest rates reaching 220% in Brazil and no limits anywhere it seems.   The situation is especially intense at retail chain, freely issuing cards to working and moderate income customers to access basic consumer goods, and then routinely adjusting the terms and levels of the interest rates on the debt without any notice to the customer.

These cards were supported by transnational banking big boys like UK’s HSBC and Spain’s Santander and Itau-Unibanco, all of which, especially HSBC, absolutely knew better, but couldn’t resist the rip-off, knowing that they could get away with it.  When confronted by the prosecutor’s office in Brazil, the banks ignored appeals to fully compensate customers.

It was shocking to read that there are no only no limits to the level of interest rates in Chile, but also no way for an individual to be able to file for personal bankruptcy and get their act together.  Unfortunately, when ripped, there’s no way for them to run – or reorganize.  Stefan Larenas of the Organization of Consumers and Users of Chile, speaking about the Equifax-owned, unregulated Dicom credit score outfit in that country, was quoted ominously that, “If you are in Dicom, if you are not in hell, you are on the way there.  It is a true social stigma here.”  Seems a bad score not only bars you from any future loans, but is also seen as a legitimate reason to block you from future employment, creating a debtor’s prison without walls.

Predatory financial injustice is a global issue with most central banks simply burying their heads in the sand, just as our Remittance Justice Campaign has uncovered everywhere, and leaving workers and families nothing but fresh meet for corporate crime.

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