Five years after Wall Street criminals destroyed our economy there are still millions of underwater homeowners and millions more foreclosures in the pipeline.
The good news is that Home Defenders and local elected officials have figured out an innovative way – called Local Principal Reduction – to deal with this problem. The bad news is that Wall Street criminals are in in full attack mode fighting as hard as they can to stop us.
Here’s what’s happening. We have figured out a way to purchase certain underwater loans, reset them to fair market value, and then get the homeowners into new, sustainable mortgages. The costs of the program are borne by the private funders who the cities are partnering with and the beneficiaries are the homeowners, with affordable mortgages and new equity, and our communities, with greater economic activity.
The key to making this program work for everyone is the use of eminent domain – the ability of a government to take property for the public benefit – to acquire the underwater mortgages if the Wall Street investors refuse to make a fair deal. And that’s what’s freaking Wall Street out.
We are facing a stark choice. Either we and our elected officials control our economic future, or Wall Street criminals and their banks do. It’s clear where Wall Street bankers stand. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), made up same old Wall Street bankers that brought you the foreclosure crisis, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank, etc., is bullying and threatening cities that are exploring local principal reduction programs including El Monte, La Puente, and Richmond, CA; and North Las Vegas, NV. 
This fight is just starting; Wall Street and SIFMA are committed to fighting as dirty as they can to keep this from happening. With your help Home Defenders and our cities will take bold and courageous action to build a future that works for all of us, starting with the struggling underwater homeowners in our own back yards
Just in time for the Week of Action, a new report highlights the continuing consequences of inaction on the foreclosure crisis.
As hundreds of struggling homeowners and allies are preparing to arrive in Washington as part of the Justice to Justice Week of Action to protest the Department of Justice’s reluctance to prosecute Wall Street bankers responsible for the financial crisis, a new report released by the Home Defenders League, Alliance for a Just Society, and New Bottom Line details how the foreclosure crisis is still devastating our communities and our economy.
The Report, titled Wasted Wealth: How the Wall Street Crash Continues to Stall Economic Recovery and Deepen Racial Inequity in America, reveals that, although the Great Recession was technically declared over in 2009 and reports are surfacing that the housing market is on the mend, if nothing is done to deal with the foreclosure crisis another $221 billion will be added to the $192.6 billion in already lost wealth for everyday people. Fortunately, with the correct policies in place, we could put $101.7 billion back in our pockets.
Highlights of the report include:
- In 2012 the foreclosure crisis continued to destroy wealth on a large scale with $192.6 billion in wealth lost due to foreclosures across the U.S.
- The most devastating impacts of the ongoing foreclosure crisis were in majority communities of color and racially diverse communities
- More than 13 million homes are still underwater and at risk of foreclosure and Americans stand to lose nearly $221 billion in additional wealth from these mortgages alone.
- A strategy of principal reduction would save money for homeowners, boost the economy to the tune of $101.7 billion, and create 1.5 million jobs
Big banks’ unscrupulous lending practices caused a mass loss of homeownership and wealth in communities across the country. Communities of color, who were specifically targeted with sub-prime and high-risk loans have fared the worst. The report shows how ZIP codes with majority people of color populations saw 16 foreclosures per thousand households with an average of $2,200 in lost wealth per household.
As Joetta Jones-Redmond of Oakland, CA shares in Wasted Wealth:
"I have owned my home with my husband for nearly 25 years. Throughout that time, I’ve always managed to make my mortgage payments — even in the roughest of times...We are badly underwater. I’ve applied for a loan modification with principal reduction to our bank at least 10 times. We’ve been denied over and over again... We didn’t cause this crisis, the banks did... It pains me every time I see another black family kicked out of our neighborhood by the banks. We don’t want to be one of those families."
Without proactive policy interventions, Americans stand to lose hundreds of billions more in wealth and the racial wealth gap will only continue to widen. Millions more homeowners will be foreclosed on, communities left desolated, and our country’s economic progress blocked.
“Wasted Wealth” documents how principal reduction--reducing mortgages to fair market value for underwater homeowners--is the fair policy our country needs. It’s impact could have far-reaching effects: from saving homeowners thousands of dollars a year, to creating 1.5 million jobs to being the needed boost our economy needs.
Spurred by the dire warnings in the report, Home Defenders from across the country are staging a Week of Action in Washington DC to call for President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to pursue policies like large-scale principal mortgage reduction and foreclosure reform.
The Campaign for a Fair Settlement has partnered with the Home Defenders League for the Justice to Justice Week of Action because dramatic actions like these represent our best hope of convincing President Obama to make significant changes to end the foreclosure crisis, many of which are possible without needing congressional approval, and prevent the additional leaching of wealth from the middle class predicted by the report.
You can find more information about the Week of Action, as well as find out how to best to get involved, by visiting the Justice to Justice Week of Action in DC campaign headquarters.
Here’s more on the top-line findings, excerpted from the original report, which is available HERE.
- The foreclosure crisis continued to destroy wealth on a large scale in 2012: Three years after the reported end of the Great Recession, the foreclosure crisis continued to destroy wealth on a large scale in 2012, with $192.6 billion in wealth lost due to foreclosures across the U.S., an average of $1,679 in lost wealth per household for each of the country’s 114.7 million households.
- The most devastating impacts of the ongoing foreclosure crisis were in majority communities of color and racially diverse communities: ZIP codes with majority people of color populations saw 16 foreclosures per thousand households with an average of $2,200 in lost wealth per household. In sharp contrast, segregated White communities experienced only 10 foreclosures per thousand households and an average wealth loss of $1,300 per household.
- More than 13 million homes are still underwater and at risk of foreclosure and more lost wealth: For reporting ZIP codes, there are at least 13.2 million underwater mortgages (when a homeowner owes more than the home is worth) on the books.1 The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13% of underwater homeowners are already “seriously delinquent” on mortgage payments — they are foreclosures-in-waiting.2 If action is not taken to prevent these mortgages from going into foreclosure, Americans stand to lose nearly $221 billion in additional wealth from these mortgages alone.
- A strategy of principal reduction would save money for homeowners, boost the economy, and create jobs: Principal reduction — writing down underwater mortgages to current market values — would create significant savings for underwater homeowners. It would also generate new economic activity and create jobs in local economies. Using 2012 data, a principal reduction program could produce average annual savings of $7,710 per underwater homeowner nationwide, boost the U.S. economy to the tune of $101.7 billion, and create 1.5 million jobs.
When President Obama took office in 2009 Americans everywhere placed their trust in him and his Administration to resurrect our plummeting economy, reign in reckless Wall Street gambling and provide relief and restitution to homeowners who found themselves facing high unemployment rates and daunting mortgages hawked by predatory lenders in the buildup to the crisis. Although early on President Obama appeared to make good on his promise of “bold and swift” actions, passing sweeping legislation to stimulate and protect our economy, since passing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection act in 2010 his administration has largely turned its back on the millions of homeowners still fighting to avoid foreclosure and eviction.
Despite calls from groups such as the Home Defenders League and Campaign for a Fair Settlement to mandate widespread loan renegotiation and provide restitution for homeowners cheated by Wall Street banks, the Obama Administration has continued to be content with allowing banks such as Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase to pay small fines and handle reviews of criminal foreclosures internally and without oversight. Worse, the Justice department has failed to respond to calls for holding those responsible for nearly sinking the U.S. economy in 2008 accountable - and to date not one Wall Street banker or executive has been criminally prosecuted for actions related to the financial crisis.
300,000 Demand Obama Administration Repudiate Holder’s Remarks that Banks are “Too Big to Jail”
Activists and Members of MoveOn, CREDO Action, Home Defenders League, Courage Campaign Deliver Petitions to the U.S. Department of Justice Offices in a Dozen Cities Nationwide
On Tuesday, April 2nd, activists in over a dozen cities across the country will deliver over 330,000 signatures to U.S. Department of Justice offices calling on the Obama Administration to reject Eric Holder's declaration that some financial institutions are too big to jail.
In reaction to Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony on March 6th, where he admitted that, in the administration's view, some banks are too large to prosecute, more than 300,000 people have signed petitions hosted by MoveOn’s online petition platform SignOn.org, CREDO Action, Home Defenders League, Campaign for a Fair Settlement, CourageCampaign.org and Campaign for American's Future demanding the Obama Administration repudiate Holder’s assertion.
The petition on SignOn.org was created by Brian Kettenring, Coordinator of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement, an organization that has been pushing hard during the first 100 days of President Obama’s second term for real accountability for the Wall Street criminals who, "stole our homes, savings, and pensions and destroyed our economy.” More than 141,000 people have signed onto that petition alone.
SIGN ON HERE: http://www.signon.org/sign/action-tell-obama-to
“The national mortgage settlement is supposed to bring relief to homeowners who were hardest hit by Wall Street’s malfeasance,” said Brian Kettenring of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement. “Unfortunately, the reports to date fail to provide any insight into whether the settlement is benefitting communities of color. Every week we see fresh evidence that the banks and servicers can’t be taken at their word: We need data and hard evidence that they’re doing what they’re required to do.”
Campaign for a Fair Settlement Calls on President to Repudiate Holder for Statements that Biggest Banks are “Too Big To Jail”
Joining a growing chorus of stunned lawmakers, the Campaign for a Fair Settlement expressed outrage at Attorney General Eric Holder’s admission in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Wall Street’s biggest banks have become too big to prosecute.
The Campaign’s Brian Kettenring said,
“Now we understand why the Obama Administration has failed to bring criminal charges against a single major Wall Street bank or executive for systemic fraud that brought down the entire economy. The President must repudiate Holder’s statements and prosecute the banks and bankers who broke the law. Moreover, the Administration must work with the increasing number of members in Congress on both sides of the aisle who believe we must break up the big banks and put an end to ‘Too Big to Jail.’"
Progressive strategist and Campaign leader Mike Lux added,
"When the Attorney General of the United States openly admits that the most powerful members of society won't be prosecuted for even the most egregious of crimes, we are in deep trouble as a nation."
Here’s what Holder said:
"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy," he said. "And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
Watchdogs Cry Foul Over New Foreclosure Relief Rules, Say Banks Can Now Get Credit for Money They’re Not Giving to Homeowners
On Thursday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released new IFR consent order amendments. The Campaign for a Fair Settlement and Home Defenders League issued the following statements in response:
“You’d think the Administration and federal agencies would learn from the strong criticism homeowners and advocates have raised about the flaws in the National Mortgage Settlement and impose stronger rather than weaker requirements for how Wall Street needs to fix what it broke. Instead, the new IFR consent order amendments posted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are a step backwards. Unless they’re changed, this means the Obama Administration is allowing the banks to get away with providing less, not more, relief to homeowners,”
said Brian Kettenring, Coordinator of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement.
As written, the new rules allow the banks to be awarded credit for the amount of the outstanding unpaid principal balance of loans they modify instead of the actual amount offered in principal reduction. In short, banks can offer minimal relief, but claim maximum credit. This means many fewer struggling homeowners will get help staving off foreclosure.
“While the OCC was right to pull the plug on one failing process,” said Kettenring, “they’ve substituted another flawed process in its place.Basically the banks went from investigating themselves to deciding on their own remediation.”
Major Progressive Groups Say National Mortgage Settlement Should Provide More Help for Homeowners, Greater Transparency
Today, the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight released the latest Monitor’s Report on the progress of the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement. The Campaign for a Fair Settlement and Home Defenders League issued the following statements in response:
Brian Kettenring, Campaign Director for the Campaign for a Fair Settlement,
“The National Mortgage Settlement was designed to help homeowners hardest hit by the housing crisis by requiring the major mortgage servicers implicated in systemic foreclosure fraud to provide relief. Most importantly, it was supposed to help those under threat of foreclosure stay in their homes. Instead, we’re seeing a settlement process run in secret by the same banks that caused the crash. We do not have evidence that help is going to families most in need, even as homeowners say that the same kinds of abuses that precipitated the foreclosure crisis are continuing.
"The limited data the banks are providing show that too much of the so-called relief is in the form of short sales, which do not help people stay in their homes; writing down large numbers of second liens that may already be worthless; and refinancing, which is a profit center for the banks thanks largely to heavy federal subsidies – and something they’d be doing even without a settlement. We need much stronger enforcement of the servicing rules and much greater transparency if this and future settlements are going to accomplish what they were intended to: ensure that help is going to the hardest hit and that Wall Street is paying for the damage it caused.”
Jacqueline Barber, a spokesperson for the Home Defenders League, a retired police officer who lives near Atlanta Georgia and is fighting foreclosure with the help of the local Occupy Homes chapter while undergoing chemotherapy, said:
“We are not seeing relief in the communities that have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. While I battle cancer and foreclosure, I have met and heard from people like me all over the country and I can tell you that people's lives are still being torn apart by the big banks that broke the law and crashed the economy. This is especially true in African-American and low-income communities. If the big banks say they are helping people they need to say who and how. These big banks have a history of messing with the numbers; right now they are still messing with people’s minds and lives.”
The Campaign for a Fair Settlement is a coalition of major progressive organizations that is the leading watchdog advocacy group ensuring that the settlements between the banking and mortgage industries address the needs of American families affected by the housing crisis.
The Home Defenders League is a national organization fighting against foreclosures and for a just resolution to the mortgage crisis with 24 community-based affiliates and member families across the country.
Lanny Breuer's resignation gives Pres. Obama a second chance to get Wall Street accountability right
Lanny Breuer, the point man for the Department of Justice's investigations of Wall Street crime, was an obstacle to accountability and justice for the crimes that crashed the economy. He was the weakest link – appointed as the sheriff of Wall Street who became its protector instead. As Tuesday night's Frontline on PBS made all to clear, Breuer's real "client" appeared to be the banks, rather than American homeowners and taxpayers.
With this announcement, President Obama has a second chance to get Wall Street accountability right. One year to the day from his State of the Union address where he pledged to bring banks to justice for their role in the housing crisis, President Obama can begin to change the story, and define his legacy as a President who got justice for millions of underwater homeowners and respects the rule of law. We ask the Obama administration to replace Lanny Breuer quickly with someone who believes that laws apply to banks, too.
You can help press the Obama Administration to take decisive action to hold Wall Street accountable, by joining our campaign, "100 days to fix what Wall Street broke".
"Today's bad deal is pittance compared to the wreckage still being caused in our communities and the profits reaped by Goldman, Morgan and other financial institutions the expense of homeowners," said Vivian Richardson, a local leader for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and spokesperson for the of the Home Defenders League, a national organization fighting foreclosures. "Goldman is being asked to pay less than a fifth of their earnings for one quarter as restitution to American homeowners for the damage they've done. We can only hope that this settlement is handled in a way that gets the money to those who need it most, quickly."
"In recent weeks we've seen the DOJ let banks off the hook, the SEC let banks off the hook, the OCC let banks off the hook, and the Obama administration do nothing," said Brian Kettenring, Coordinator of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement. "Now its the Fed's turn, on the same day that Goldman announced quarterly earnings five times what they are paying in assistance to homeowners for years of destruction. Worse yet, they'll likely be able to deduct those payouts on next year's taxes. The continued drumbeat of 'banks win again' has to end – someone has to hold mortgage offenders like Goldman and Morgan Stanley accountable."