I unfortunately couldn't be there, but a very important protest took place today outside of Bank of America, in response to their attempts to foreclose on a couple that had made all of their payments on time (a story that is all-too-common). KMOV had a story earlier today, and I'll try to update this as I come across more reporting on the events. In the meantime, however, here is the press release from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), along with some photos from the rally below:
Days after 22 people are arrested at Chase Bank in Los Angeles, Six homeowners take arrests in St. Louis at Bank of America:Slideshow of photos from Juan Montana:
After an hour of protesting and singing parody Christmas Carols outside Bank of America, to attempt to work help a family in day 408 of the loan modification process, six people were arrested by Clayton, Missouri police attempting to enter the Bank branch. Someone inside the bank was repeatedly told that Bank of America would get someone on the phone to deal with Mike and Mary Boehm’s loan, but negotiations proved fruitless. At that point, one homeowner with a January 10th sale date and 5 friends and neighbors of the Boehms attempted to enter the bank and were arrested, at 7800 Forsyth Boulevard. The demonstrators were accosted and quickly arrested and are still being processed. Pictures and the local news release are attached.
The Story: When Mike Boehm lost his job in 2009, he and his wife, Mary, applied for a Making Home Affordable (HAMP) loan modification from Bank of America. “They told us it would take 45 days to get our modification. It has been 408 days and they still can’t tell us if we’re approved,” says Mary, a homeschool teacher whose days have been consumed with calls to Bank of America. “Not once has Bank of America called us. Every call—the hundreds of calls—we have initiated. Oh, except the other day. Yes, once, they called us, and that was a collection call.”
Mike, who is now working as a Buyer for an Illinois based company, has done everything he can to be able afford to continue making payments. “We are current on the modified payments that Bank of America told us to make and they are still foreclosing on us” says Mike.
According to St. Louis area housing counselors, Bank of America is one of the worst servicers for families seeking permanent loan modifications under the Making Home Affordable (HAMP) Program. Bank of America ignores repeated calls, refuses to modify loans, and will not assign people in trouble to one counselor.
Liz Van Lieshout, a close friend of Mary, who worked at Gershman Investments for many years is outraged. “I worked for a mortgage company, and at that time we serviced all of the loans we made. A mortgagor could speak to a decision maker in one phone call or meet with a representative personally. If a person wanted a copy of their payment history, it was put in the mail the same day. It is incomprehensible that Bank of America won't provide information to a mortgagor within 24 hours of a request, either by mail or email.”
A critical number of individual problems could be solved if banks did the following three things:
-Froze foreclosures temporarily to create decent servicing practices.
-Allowed an appeal to a neutral third party: mandatory mediation
Those are the larger issues that Mike and Mary, MORE, and the arrestees in Los Angeles are fighting for.
More photos (and M.O.R.E. photos) from Max M below the jump:
Update: KMOX has pretty good coverage of the Bank of America protests and arrests:
Echoing complaints heard by people facing foreclosure nationwide, the Boehms claim that Bank of America repeatedly asked them to send in their paperwork related to the loan modification process, and repeatedly claimed to have lost it or never received it.The Post-Dispatch also reported on the story, although so far the story seems to lack some of the context provided by KMOX and KMOV.
“I’ve done everything they asked us to do,” Mike Boehm said, “We filled out all the applications sometimes two or three times, after they lose it or can’t find it, whatever the case.”
Update#2: The Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch also covered the story. And KWMU.