Orleans Given all of the niggling around the impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its impact, it is worth raising some footnotes a little higher on the tally sheet where the results are important, but perhaps unnoticed. Take these recent developments into account.
Small example, but telling is that JP Morgan Chase, perhaps the most arrogant of banks led by Jamie Dimon, announced that they were NOT planning to add the surcharge onto customers’ accounts for use of debit cards. Bank of America, which had led the jump into the deep water with their announcement of the $5 per month charge, has also indicated that it is perhaps backing up from its Netflix moment in the wake of customer response.
As we have discussed earlier, lawyers who have successfully litigated with these outfits have called this nothing but grant larceny. I had the discussion with my banker at Capital One who could only rationalize that it was being considered because “they had to raise money somewhere.” We all know that the defense that “you needed the money” is both the truest and least effective response any criminal can make.
The Times did a sad service with a front page article on the shrewd calculations that Bank of America and its colleagues have made by pushing direct and automatic payments for customers to their regular vendors from utilities to credit card companies to home mortgages and back again. The story was an easy reminder for readers both how easy it is to sign up for such payments and how hard it is to unravel them to the degree you become welded to your bank regardless of the outrageous charges and abuse. We are near the point where we are going to need to demand an easier “exit” policy from our banks, just as we had to achieve with our cell phone companies around keeping our phone numbers in recent years. The little things can kill you!
Even though Occupy has not been successful in seeing any traction on the urgent “Geithner Must Go!” campaign to hold him responsible for some much of the Wall Street pandering and pampering he led first as the critically important head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the storm may finally be coming on the horizon. Amazingly a story in today’s Times documents the giveaway with AIG where banks were paid in full from the federal coffers and were not asked to take any haircut, but in face were even required to shave. Even banks that offered to take less that they were owed were informed by Geithner’s Fed, since he was head at the time, that they would be paid in full.
At least Geithner, now at Treasuery, with Ben Bernacke at the Federal Reserve are having to line up to finally provide some regulation for non-bank banks in recent hearings in the wake of Occupy. Of course it is not enough, but even bringing 30 financial institutions like Mass Mutual, Zurich, some hedge funds and outfits like Blackrock and others under regulation because they control over $50 Billion in assets is something. The Financial Stability Oversight Council still has to wait for comments so the lobbyists will be feeding at the trough, but at least now they need to realize that they might have to reckon with real, immediate, and potentially powerful political outrage if the boys give yet another break to the bankers.