FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cashing In on Foreclosures

Inside and outside of Wells Fargo’s annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, thousands of angry protesters decried the bank’s leading role in the loss of millions of American homes to foreclosure.

If you want to know why the protesters are so angry, consider this double standard. For most Americans, retirement security lies in the value of their homes. Millions of these people have been losing that security as the nation’s largest banks have foreclosed on them. Yet the CEOs of these banks are reaping giant pay packages and padding their own retirement security with profits squeezed from ordinary people.

For many American families, a paid-off home is part of the dream of a secure retirement. The roof over their heads has long comprised the largest element of most families’ net worth. The housing crisis brought to us by the country’s biggest bankers has stolen the dreams of the nearly 4 million families who have lost their homes to foreclosure since the housing crisis began in 2007.

Of those who continue to live in their homes, more than a quarter have lost so much equity that they now owe more on their mortgage than their residence is worth. Even those who have never missed a payment on these underwater mortgages have found it all but impossible to refinance their loans to take advantage of record low rates that would cut hundreds of dollars from their monthly payments.

As American families struggle with their shrinking equity, Wells Fargo is enjoying record profits. Its earnings clocked in at more than $4 billion during the first quarter of 2012.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America are the country’s two largest mortgage servicers. Over the past three years, the number of homes foreclosed upon by the two giant banks has steadily grown. At the end of 2011, they reported to federal banking regulators that they held $22.5 billion and $19 billion worth of foreclosed houses, respectively.

While foreclosures have devastated the financial security of millions of American families, the CEOs of Wells Fargo and Bank of America have seen their retirement packages balloon.

The pension assets of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf stand at $16 million, according to the company’s proxy statement. The vast majority of these assets came from a special plan available only to the company’s top executives. As high as Stumpf’s retirement assets have soared, they’re exceeded by those of another Wells Fargo executive. Mark Oman oversees the company’s consumer lending division, where most of its ill-fated subprime loans were made and where many customers have lost their homes to foreclosure. His retirement assets top $17 million.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan’s pension assets now total $6.8 million. His nest egg came mainly from a special “supplemental” pension plan.

It’s long past time that banking regulators stopped these dream-stealers from laughing their way to their gold-plated retirements. Protesters are insisting that the corporate funds diverted to prop up the lavish lifestyles of those responsible for upending the lives of the millions of American families who have lost their homes be redirected toward principal relief for homeowners devastated by these banks’ actions.

The Wells Fargo action was just the start. Don’t be surprised when thousands more protesters show up when Bank of America shareholders gather on May 9 in Charlotte, N.C.

John Cavanagh is a fellow in Global Economy at IPS. He is the co-author of 10 books and numerous articles on the global economy, including Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match (2008, Paradigm Publishers), written with Robin Broad.

Scott Klinger is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

This essay was distributed by OtherWords.

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail