On Tuesday July 8, homeowners and community groups took peaceful action at US Attorney offices around the country, delivering thousands of petition signatures and demanding greater oversight and accountability for settlements the Justice Department is reportedly negotiating with big banks. The actions, which took place in at least 10 cities, were a part of nationally coordinated effort under the banner "Show Us The Money"-- a sentiment felt by homeowners still waiting to see the relief promised from last year's record-breaking $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase.
In addition to a petitions, the groups delivered a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that he personally intervene to ensure that the terms of previous mortgage settlements are fully implemented and that future settlements provide greater relief to the consumers harmed by the foreclosure crisis in the first place. As the events were taking place, news of a possible deal with Citigroup worth $7 billion resurfaced. Bank of America is expected to reach a deal with the Justice Department soon that could top $17 billion bringing the total to close to $50 billion - money that struggling homeowners and hard hit communities could desperately use.
Sergio Ceballos Aguilar, one of the homeowners who hoped the settlement with Chase would help him save his home from foreclosure, took part in the day of action, joined by members of Occupy Homes MN and the Home Defenders League. The group marched to Chase Bank's Minneapolis headquarters, where they released a banner held by balloons that read "Sergio's House: Show Me the Money," before stopping at US Attorney Andrew Lugar's office to present the letter.
"I want to be able to support my children with stable housing on the street they grew up on. All we ask for is a fair negotiation, to sell my home back to me so that I can continue to pay for my home," said Ceballos Aguilar. It is terrible that JPMorgan is pulling the same trick on our country that it is pulling on me! First they negotiate, then they retreat before sealing the deal.”
In Newark, Home Defenders Grace Alexander, Teresa Hamilton, and Yolanda Andrews led New Jersey Communities United members to visit US Attorney Paul Fishman's office. All three of the homeowners are facing foreclosure by big banks and would benefit directly from any settlement that included loan modifications and principal reductions for underwater mortgages.
In California, ACCE members in Los Angeles and San Francisco delivered the letter, while members of Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition in Denver were able to sit down with spokesman and public affairs officer, Jeff Dorscher. Mr. Dorscher seemed familiar with the matter, especially the group's concern about the transfer of servicing rights which could prevent qualifying homeowners from seeing any relief, and promised to pass the letter on. When asked about the potential for criminal charges against big bank executives, he responded with "Frankly, that's above my pay scale."
An unexpected turn of events took place in Atlanta, where Federal Marshals at US Attorney Sally Yates' office refused to let a group of homeowners and Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members enter the building, even after being reassured that no disruptions would take place. After forcing them to wait outside in the heat, the Marshals became aggressive, knocking down a member of the group and kicking him. After supporters starting calling Attorney Yates' office with complaints, they were finally let inside to deliver the petitions and letter, and were promised that the message would be forwarded directly to Attorney General Holder.
Homeowners in Houston, Chicago, and Jacksonville also delivered letters and petitions to US Attorneys Kenneth Magidson, Zachary Fardon, and A. Lee Bentley.
As the Justice Department continues to negotiate with major banks, home defenders will continue to raise their voices and demand that victims of predatory lending and foreclosure practices receive the relief promised.