Tag Archives: Chase

Bringing Down Bank of America: Social Media or Social Movement?

New Obank-transfer-dayrleans The queue to “count coup” on Bank of America and its decision to step back from stealing debit card fees from its customers is almost unseemly.  We expect it from politicians, and props to Senator Durbin, VP Joe Biden, and the rest of the DC gang for the pile-on, which in fact was about damn time and very helpful, but at another level it’s the old story of defeat being an unwanted child and victory having a thousand fathers, but the self-aggrandizement is particularly stark in the face of community organizations, unions, and now social movements through the Occupy forces that have made Bank of America and its corporate confederates like Chase and Wells Fargo the largest corporate targets of direct action activity.

The Times post-mortem for the business readers continued with their usual theme of trying to manage protest by promoting social media (remember Egypt which they immediately had to retract with the “real” story?) as the “organizing tool” for change with the enthusiastic, over-the-top help of www.change.org, which is a great outfit, but seems to have had no boundaries in their personal congratulations on this one.

“But those customers may have found their voice, which has been amplified by social media. “People can now use tools like Change.org, Facebook and Twitter to rapidly organize and collectively act to influence the policies of even the largest companies,” said Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org, which allows consumers to start grass-roots campaigns using its online platform.

He pointed to Molly Katchpole, a 22-year-old woman from Washington who collected more than 300,000 signatures opposing the fee by using his company’s platform. And then there is the grass-roots effort that is calling for this coming Saturday to be “Bank Transfer Day,” where customers of big banks move their accounts to community banks and credit unions.

Mr. Rattray and other consumer advocates said the outcry was about much more than fees. “Bank of America’s new debit card fee was the last straw for many consumers who are tired of banks that got bailed out that are now turning around and hiking fees,” said Norma Garcia, manager of Consumer Union’s financial services program. “There was this phenomenon with banks and others confusing passivity with loyalty. And consumers are saying, ‘You can’t take us for granted anymore.’ ”

To be fair the “powers that be” want to make sure that protest continues to operate between the straight lines, so ample praise of course in the same piece by Tara Bernard (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/business/bank-of-america-drops-plan-for-debit-card-fee.html?scp=1&sq=social%20media%20and%20bank%20fees&st=cse) :

Lawmakers also openly criticized Bank of America’s planned fee. Days after the bank announced that it would charge the fee, President Obama said customers should not be “mistreated” in pursuit of profit, while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called the move “incredibly tone deaf.” And Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, spoke out on the Senate floor, urging consumers to vote with their feet. He had sponsored the rule, known as the Durbin amendment, that limited the amount banks could charge for debit card transactions.

On Tuesday, he took to the floor again. “What we have at work here is a very fundamental principle of our economy, the free market economy, transparency,” he said. “So people know what they are being charged. So they have a choice.””

But, speaking of “tone deaf,” how is it possible not to mention the daily protests around the country and the world around banks and the admitted traction that Occupy has picked up in hitting Bank of America hard where previous large protests by community organization networks and unions had failed to gain traction?

I don’t mind being manipulated by the media anymore than the next person, but, gee, can’t they be a little more slick about it?  I know we are not supposed to believe that direct action, social movements, and mass protests make a difference as we parse the new tools that focus on a “theory of change,” but it takes people to use tools, and when the people are in motion, as they are now, let’s at least be clear about stating the obvious no matter how much credit some might want to claim or how much others might want to deny.


Banks Silently Step up on Remittances

24basic.1.600Atlanta On ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign (www.remittancejustice.org) we have had difficulty getting any response from the big banks except in the most cursory terms.  Wells Fargo did finally reply and told us they were doing great within a small footprint of countries.  Bank of America and JP Morgan/Chase were stone silent.  Not surprisingly given the predatory nature of their pricing.

A story broke yesterday on the wire and NPR which might more clearly indicate that the big boys can actually hear the footprints coming up behind them even as they stick to stonefaced spinning.   These three banks got together on something called ClearXchange in order to try and retain some of their customers exhausted with the constant fee rip-offs and increasingly inventing other alternatives including hand-to-hand transfers through prepaid debit cards within families or utilization of the PayPal if folks are sophisticated.

Frankly, this is a Band-Aid the banks are applying when a tourniquet is called for.  They may keep a couple of their more inept and lazy customers, but folks are leaving this train station and demanding other tools that reflect modern technology, rather than ancient and pervasive greed.

The NPR report seemed to hint that Google was talking about moving into the space of money transfer utilizing phones and mobile devices.  Talking about “doing good” or something like that which used to be their motto, I could fall in love again!  I couldn’t track down the whole story on a Google search (sounds contradictory doesn’t it?) but I did find that it has been possible to move money between various Google accounts fairly seamlessly using something called Google Checkout for the last two or three years.  Obviously not widely recognized or publicized, but they could also be knocking on the right door.

In Citizen Wealth I argued that companies, even big bad boys like Wal-Mart and H&R Block could create business models with huge returns by delivering service that low-to-moderate income families need and demand.  Money transfer of remittances is precisely the service that will see the game change fundamentally in a short time.  The banks and credit unions are trying to hold on to old models that are predatory and not realizing that you can’t leave $22 billion in profits out there and not have other, easier and cheaper services eventually suck them dry.

It’s past time for remittance justice.