The New Bottom Line, a national campaign to hold banks accountable for foreclosures, kicked off in San Francisco this week, as hundredsmarched through the Financial District to demand that Wells Fargo change corporate policies that bankrupt families, dismantle neighborhoods, and empty public coffers.
During the bank’s annual May 3 shareholder meeting, a group of homeowners and clergy addressed Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to demand a foreclosure moratorium.
According to protest organizers, which include Contra Costa Interfaith, ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) and other members of the New Bottom Line Campaign, unlike other national banks, Wells Fargo has not changed its foreclosure procedures despite reports of “robo-signing” and other foreclosure irregulalities.
“Since 2005, I have been fighting Wells for wrongful foreclosure,” San Leandro resident Donna Vieira said in a press statement. “But through this process, I have learned that I am not alone. A quarter of foreclosures in this country happen right here in California and 700,000 families are in foreclosure right now. We need these banks to have a new bottom line that includes investing in our communities.”
The New Bottom Line Campaign notes that, according to the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, 350,169 Wells Fargo homeowners were eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by the end of 2009. But as of Feb 2011, only 77,402 homeowners have received permanent modifications.
Protestors note this only amounts to a 22 percent modification rate, more than two years after the HAMP program began. They also charge that Wells Fargo has canceled 118,697 trial modifications and denied 175,336 homeowners from accessing HAMP.But during this same two-year period, Wells Fargo received nearly $43.7 billion in federal bailout funds, according to a study by the nonpartisan think tank, Nomi Prins of Demos.And in 2010, Wells Fargo reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it paid its CEO John Stumpf more than $17 million, including a $14 million bonus.
Protestors also claimed that, over the last ten years, Wells Fargo has paid the lowest worldwide tax rate of the top five biggest banks and did not pay federal taxes in 2009.
Protestors said the May 3 action was supported by a coalition of community organizations, congregations, labor unions, and individuals working to challenge established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities.
“Together, we work to restructure Wall Street to help American families build wealth, close the country's growing income inequality gap and advance a vision for how our economy can better serve the many rather than the few,” campaign organizers stated.
The New Bottom Line campaign, whic includes National People’s Action, PICO National Network, Alliance for a Just Society, ACCE, and Industrial Areas Foundation of the Southeast (IAF-SE), is making five main demands of Wells Fargo.
1.KEEP FAMILIES IN THEIR HOMES:
“We are demanding that Wells Fargo establish a moratorium on all foreclosures until it negotiates with our coalition to establish comprehensive reforms to their loan modification practices, including offering principal reduction; affordable, fixed interest rates; and provide proof of ownership of the loan,” NBL said in a press release. “We are also calling on Wells Fargo to cease all illegal evictions of tenants in foreclosed properties and commit to working with real estate companies and servicers who follow local and state tenant protection laws.”
2. STOP PREDATORY LENDING:
“We are demanding that Wells Fargo stop financing predatory payday lending companies and stop providing predatory payday loans to their own customers,” NBL stated.
3. REBUILD OUR NEIGHBORHOODS:
“Cities and counties estimate that it costs approximately $34,000 per each foreclosed home that becomes vacant and a potential blight on our communities,” NBL continued. “We are demanding you maintain and PAY the fines on your blighted properties and help share in the cost to our cities and counties starting with Cities and Counties throughout California with Foreclosure Blight and Building Registration Ordinances.”
4. PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE:
“Wells Fargo needs to stop exploiting loop‐holes in property tax laws and federal tax shelters to avoid paying its fair share of local, state and federal taxes,” NBL stated.
5. RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS:
“We are calling on Wells Fargo to stop investing in the GEO Group and other corporations that are profiting off of immigrant detention centers and private prisons that detain immigrants and separate families,” NBL concluded.
During the May 3 action, eight protestors were reportedly arrested for civil disobedience.