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2012-01-31

Ex-Marine Reoccupies His Own Foreclosed Home in Fight Against Freddie Mac, JPMorgan Chase

Guests

Arturo de los Santos, began reoccupying his home in Riverside, California, last December after JPMorgan Chase and Freddie Mac foreclosed on it in June. Arturo is a former U.S. marine who has lived in his house for almost a decade with his wife and four kids.

Jesse Eisinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica, covering Wall Street and finance. His recent piece is called "Freddie Mac Bets Against American Homeowners." Eisinger also writes a regular column for the New York Times’s DealBook section.

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As Freddie Mac comes under scrutiny for betting billions on investments that profit if homeowners they issued loans to are locked into high-interest mortgages, we speak with Arturo de los Santos, a U.S. Marine veteran who was evicted last year in Riverside, California, after Freddie Mac and JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on his house last June. "We were trying to get the bank’s attention to review our case again. We couldn’t believe that after they had evicted us, they modified our loan," de los Santos says. "I called, and I told them, 'I thought we were doing the loan modification.' And they go, 'Well, we have a loan modification department and a foreclosure department, and the foreclosure department decided to sell the house.' So they sold the house." De los Santos and his family reoccupied their home in December with help from the Occupy movement, but face eviction again this week. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined from Irvine, California, by a homeowner who could face eviction this week by Freddie Mac, which, with JPMorgan Chase, foreclosed on his house in June. Arturo de los Santos and his family began reoccupying their home in Riverside after the banks foreclosed on it. He’s a former marine who has lived in his house for almost a decade with his wife and four kids.

Arturo de los Santos, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain your situation right now.

ARTURO DE LOS SANTOS: Good morning.

What I was doing, I was having a—I was doing a loan modification. And during my loan modification, we received a call the day before our house went to sale, and they sold the house. And eventually, we were evicted. When we were evicted, two weeks after we were evicted, I received a letter with—saying we had been approved for the loan modification. So, in December, we reoccupied the house. We were trying to get the bank’s attention to review our case again. We couldn’t believe that after they had evicted us, they modified our loan. When—the day before they sold the house, I called them and told them—this is the third time I had applied for a loan modification. I asked them—somebody—they called the house saying they were going to sell it the next day. So I called, and I told them, "I thought we were doing the loan modification." And they go, "Well, we have a loan modification department and a foreclosure department, and the foreclosure department decided to sell the house." So they sold the house. So, when we received the loan modification two weeks after we had been evicted from the house, I decided to fight back, and we reoccupied the house in December. And just this week, actually on Sunday, I received a letter that I have a court date February 2nd for—they’re trying to get a court order to evict us from the house.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Freddie Mac and JPMorgan Chase?

ARTURO DE LOS SANTOS: Correct. The court order—the court date is for Freddie Mac. So what we plan to do—we set up a website, www.makebankspaycalifornia.com. And if—we’re going to put up tents. And we have supporters from different groups. The main group is ACCE, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. So we’re going to—we have supporters that are going to stay at the house. So, if we do get evicted, we have people there supporting us.

AMY GOODMAN: Arturo de los Santos, what was your reaction to Jesse Eisinger’s story, learning that Freddie Mac had bet against homeowners?

ARTURO DE LOS SANTOS: I think that has a lot to do with it. Like I said, we were working with the bank. And during our loan modification, I would call them, and they would reassure me everything was going fine. And then I find out, a day before they sell the house, that their foreclosure department had decided to sell the house. So it’s—I felt like I was being tricked. The loan modification had told me not to make any more payments. I applied three times. The first time I was denied, they told me not to make any more payments. And I think what happened is, one of their departments, which was the loan modification department, told me not to make payments, while their foreclosure department didn’t know they had told me that. And they were thinking I was delinquent. So, I told—the first time I was denied, I told them my income was back to normal, my hours at my job were back to normal, so I could make my original payments. And they wouldn’t accept any more payments. So I’ve been trying to work with the bank, trying to make my payments, and they won’t accept any payments.

AMY GOODMAN: How has Occupy Riverside helped you, Arturo?

ARTURO DE LOS SANTOS: They have supported me. Actually, Occupy Riverside and Occupy L.A., when we reoccupied the house on December 6th, they supported me. They were at the house until—almost 'til the end of the year. And they've been supporting me, having people there, make sure there’s a presence at the house.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesse Eisinger, how typical is Arturo’s story?

JESSE EISINGER: Well, my understanding is it’s extremely typical, that this has been an enormously frustrating situation for millions of homeowners trying to get modifications. In fact, our story deals with refinancings, which is kind of distinct from modifications. There’s a federal program that has been widely viewed as a calamity, trying to deal with modifications, helping homeowners who cannot afford their loans, and maybe in homes that are underwater, as you said, or their interest rates have skyrocketed. And then there is a separate category of people who, for our story, what’s relevant is that these people are not—they’re not delinquent on their loans. They are paying their loans, and they would benefit from a lower loan, but they otherwise don’t have deeply tarnished credit. They may have some issues, but it’s nothing spectacular. And what they would benefit from is a lower mortgage rate.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesse Eisinger, what do you make of Gingrich’s claim that there’s too much regulation of the housing industry?

JESSE EISINGER: Well, I mean, that’s a fairly comical and bizarre assertion to make, because in the lead-up to the housing crisis, most of these loans were unfettered by regulation. The most troubled activities, like collateralized debt obligations and credit derivatives, were completely unregulated. So, there’s no indication that onerous regulation led to either the housing bubble or the financial crash. But this is a line that the right has propagated since the housing crash and since the financial crisis, and it’s all typical. But there’s really little evidence to support it.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesse Eisinger, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

JESSE EISINGER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. His piece is called "Freddie Mac Bets Against American Homeowners." He writes for ProPublica. This piece was done with ProPublica and NPR News. Arturo de los Santos, thank you for being with us. He and his family began reoccupying their home in Riverside, California, last December after JPMorgan Chase and Freddie Mac foreclosed on it in June. He is a Marine veteran.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, the Sundance documentary prize film, the prize-winning film called The House I Live In. Stay with us.

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