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Bank of America’s Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year
By: Cassandra VertNov. 16th, 2011more from Cassandra Vert
As a reminder of why we moved our money (or are in process of), here is a review of some of Bank of America’s negative publicity this year. Not all of these news items appeared in the corporate-owned media, but some of them did, which is saying something right there.
The first big protests against B of A were by US Uncut in February. Following the model of UK Uncut, US Uncut went to bank branches to protest the fact that not only does B of A not pay taxes, it has received millions in tax subsidies from us taxpayers. Protests have continued around the country throughout the year.
February: According to emails released by Anonymous, Bank of America contacted the Chamber of Commerce to retain corporate thugs(internet security firms) to spy on and discredit journalists, watchdogs, and others who prevent B of A from doing what it wants.
Not six months after the decree condemning B of A’s foreclosure practices, and In the wake of additional resistance, B of A accelerated its foreclosures, presumably under that well-known moral doctrine that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.
B of A attempted to foreclose on a home in Florida for which the homeowners paid cash—not only did B of A not hold the mortgage, it never had. B of A was ordered to pay the homeowners’ legal fees. When B of A was slow in paying, the homeowners’ attorney and the local sheriff went down to a local branch and started foreclosure proceedings and locked the staff out of the bank. After an hour, the branch manager gave a check to the homeowners for the full amount.
Early this year, a family sold their Utah home and paid off their B of A mortgage. Several months later, B of A threatened foreclosure over a $1 coding error that had prevented title from transferring properly and allowed the bank to assess months of payments in arrears. Upon discovering the coding error, B of A promised to reprocess the paperwork, but after more months and more contacts, nothing changed.
September: B of A announced a $5 monthly fee on debit cards, a move that seemed to inspire more people to take action than any bank bailout had. The fee was retracted a few weeks later.
October: FDIC revealed that B of A moved $75 Trillion in derivatives from its own balance sheet into FDIC insured accounts, essentially shifting liability for the debt from B of A to taxpayers:
“…the amount is so large that the United States could not hope to pay it off without a major dollar devaluation, if a major contingency actually occurred and a large part of the derivatives were triggered. But, if such an event ever occurs, Bank of America’s derivatives counter-parties [fellow institutional bettors] will, as usual, be made whole, while the American people suffer. This all has the blessing of the Federal Reserve, which approved the transfer of derivatives from Merrill Lynch to the insured retail unit of BAC before it was done.” Avery Goodman, seekingalpha.com
B of A seemed to have no idea how to handle Occupy protesters and generally handled them badly. Branches of other banks didn’t represent themselves much better.
November: B of A had been charging a $35 debit overdraft fee. Perhaps surprisingly, this had not been an issue on its own. However, it became an issue when B of A manipulated its accounting so that customer deposits got credited after charges were applied, resulting in $4.5 billion (with a B) of improper debit fees over about ten years. The settlement reached this month? $410 million, or less than 10% of the ill gotten gains.
States have hired B of A along with other banks to deliver unemployment payments as bank debit cards. The cards were supposed to help recipients without checking accounts avoid check cashing fees as well as save states money. However, the banks charge users to access the money on the cards and also when they call to complain about the access fees.
As they say, time is money. Get moving.
Image: Bowery Boogie