JP Morgan Chase Rip and Run with State Government Help in Louisiana

New Orleans   Joe Nocera starts his column in today’s New York Times with a story of running into Jamie Daemon, Chase CEO, who rhetorically asks the elevator crowd, “Why does the New York Times hate banks?”  Yeah, I wish, but back to Nocera, he responds that that everyone hates banks and gives credit card collection practices by banks as the example.  There’s rich soil there!

Perhaps more perversely we have a current set of examples with the curiously sweetheart deals between the State of Louisiana and Chase which allow Chase to ineptly handle citizen monies on unemployment benefits and now tax refunds without heed to customers or concern by the state over the fees.  I’ve commented in recent years on the problems that unemployed workers have had in Louisiana trying to obtain their benefits when offered by Chase on a debit card.  Phone numbers would often not work or have been changed without notice.  Frequently the only resolution would be trips to certain Chase branches hoping for a resolution.  I have known unemployed workers where it took over a month for them to successfully access their unemployment benefits.  The program was a unreported disaster, which continues largely intact to this day.

Now it turns out that unless the state is given a bank account number for a direct deposit, the State of Louisiana in its wisdom joins with Chase to automatically issue the tax refund in a Chase debit card.  There is no transparency on the question of fees.  No way without a computer to determine balances on the card once received and used.  No choice on the front end between a debit card and receiving a check.

When questioned, Byron Henderson, a spokesman for the Louisiana Revenue Department, said “the state doesn’t have an interest in monitoring the fees.  It’s not our interest in how they’re making money.’”  Incredible!  Meanwhile Chase makes money on the interest from the $57 Million.

Even the Times-Picayune normally kneejerk apologists for all manner of mayhem with the Jindal Administration and certainly businesses and banks like Chase, is clear in an editorial:  “A taxpayer who choose to get a refund through direct deposit doesn’t lose money in the process.  Neither should one who doesn’t or can’t use that option.”

Amen!

Privatizing state functions to banks like Chase, can’t just be a “get rich scheme” for the banks at the expense of the citizens!

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Gulf Coast Hospitality Workers Need to Sit on Oil Spill Santa’s Lap Now!

Nimages-1ew Orleans My darling and brilliant niece’s husband, an Australian bloke who we dearly love, was working this summer running a high end, specialty bar at the W Hotel on Poydras Avenue in New Orleans during the time of the terrible British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill.  My daughter, Dine,’ now a mainstay of the Local 100 United Labor Unions organizing staff in New Orleans and ever alert to both injustice and opportunities started telling me a couple of weeks ago about huge, wild settlements going to bartenders in the French Quarter, CBD, and even in our Bywater neighborhood.  The amounts were amazing:  $7000 to one, $17000 to another, and so on!  I was skeptical.  She cited Will Miller as an impeccable source, so I was moved, but wanted to know more.  Maybe this was just a benefit being sought and received by a secret society of New Orleans bartenders, rather than part of the Kenneth Feinberg compensation and damages program, official called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility?

With the deadline hard on us for emergency claims to be submitted (Close of business on Tuesday 11/23!), I didn’t’ want to start an irresponsible gold rush, if this was nothing more than rumor fueled by alcohol coming from the hands of the same bartenders.  I know not to trust the hometown paper as the ultimate authority on these matters, but all of their storylines had focused on oil workers, fishermen, and others barely staying afloat with graphic photos from the beautiful and damaged bayou country south of the city.  Why were we not seeing pictures of lines trailing out into the streets here in broke ass New Orleans, if money was falling from BP trees, especially in the always hospitality hard luck and humidity summer season?

My daughter – the organizer – felt the issue was that not enough people knew this was possible and were going to apply and get the compensation.   Pressed this week for more information, she confirmed that other conversations with hospitality workers in her haunts, I mean after more outreach and research, she had turned up servers and other “line” workers who had applied and gotten payments also ranging in the thousands of dollars.              Ok, I’m there!

Continue reading “Gulf Coast Hospitality Workers Need to Sit on Oil Spill Santa’s Lap Now!”

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