Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reports on the case of Edda Lopez-Lennards, who faced the loss of her Bronx home after the bailed-out Bank of America drastically raised her monthly mortgage payments. Bank of America backed down this week after coming under heavy community protest. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: And Juan, before we go to BP, you had a very interesting piece in the New York Daily News today about Bank of America.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, well, a victory for ordinary Americans occurred yesterday in New York City. I wrote about a sixty-one-year-old woman, a former legal secretary who had — her husband died a few years ago. She had fallen behind on her mortgage payments, and she got sick and actually ended up having to stop working and is now in a wheelchair. And she had arranged a modification of her mortgage payment with a previous creditor, a bank that had her loan, but then, a few months ago, Bank of America, the same bank that received a $45 billion bailout from the US government, took over her loan and immediately raised her mortgage payments from $2,100 to $3,200 a month. And when she calls them up to ask, "Why have you suddenly raised my payments that I’ve been making now regularly since I did my temporary modification?" the bank says, "Oh, don’t worry about that; we’re selling your house at auction on May 24th." And it was the first notice she had gotten that her house was already being put up for auction.
But luckily, she was able to get her church members together, various community groups, and, of course, the Service Employees International Union, which is in a campaign against Bank of America, and they had one picket at the Fordham Road branch of the bank, and then yesterday they took their pickets to the headquarters of Bank of America, the Bank of America Tower in Manhattan. And suddenly, just as they’re getting ready to organize the protest, the bank offers her lawyer a settlement, a permanent settlement, with the same payment that she was making previously.
And, of course, my question is, there’s hundreds of people who weren’t able to put together that kind of a protest; why should they have to go through all of this trouble just to be able to get a modification? Bank of America actually has over half-a-million people who are eligible for the refinancing under the Obama administration plan, but only about 19 percent of those customers have so far been offered that chance by Bank of America. So, it shouldn’t have to take scores of people protesting in front of a bank just to get somebody to have their mortgage reorganized and modified so that they can stay in their home.
AMY GOODMAN: And it shows what a difference is made when you just see a face on a foreclosure or a possible foreclosure.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes.