No further words needed… She finally succumbed to the big “C” but never relented in her struggle with Bank of America. Susan’s fighting spirit — and her grace — will be her legacy; something Bank of America will never take away from her.
A Comeuppance for Bank of America? Original Publication Date: October 5th, 2017, Huffington Post
In the wake of 2008’s sub-prime chaos homeowners across the country were squeezed out of home and hearth and left out to dry. Count some seventeen million victims. Bereft of cash and without inclination to challenge Big Boy Bankers in a rigged court system (think Florida’s infamous “rocket dockets”: a foreclosure conveyor belt designed to move homeowners out with alacrity). For those with a touch of amnesia let me offer up 99 Homes, the absolutely brilliant 2015 flic, starring Andrew Garfield, that detailed the human tragedy wrought in one of the epicenters of the housing crisis: Florida
Florida is also where Susan Richardson calls home and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Dennis — followed by the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — Florida’s real estate took a nose-dive and wiped away any hope that Susan could use the equity in her home to purchase a smaller house for cash. The next best option was cutting her monthly mortgage nut; a request she made to the bank in 2010. The powers-that-be told her she’d have to be at least three months in arrears to qualify for a government sponsored HAMP modification. Uncomfortable with this arrangement she made another inquiry to Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, and was instructed by his office to pay a reduced monthly amount and submit HAMP applications (some forty pages in length). After enduring sixteen months of Kafkaesque insanity her check was refused. She was also denied a modification.
Welcome to Foreclosure Land…
What’s most disconcerting about tip toeing through this rough terrain is that when you’ve got stage 4 lung cancer — forced to take sips of oxygen when stressed out, which, for Susan, is often — the fight becomes Sisyphean in nature. Susan despite her illness remained driven. Part of her strategy was to write long imploring letters to the aforementioned Brian Moynihan hoping he’d cast a sympathetic eye on her predicament and fix the disconnects.
Nice try but the letters fell on very deaf ears.
Folks going through foreclosure don’t understand the mind-set of those that put them there.
In short: they simply don’t care. The dirty work of dispensing with homeowners like Susan are left to the law firms they hire and these lawyers care even less.
For them the raison d’etre boils down to billable hours.
Susan asked me if I might publish an Open Letter she recently penned hoping it might reach some of the politicians and regulators who claim to be after Wall Street’s hide.
It goes like this:
On November 20, 1965, one week after my twentieth birthday, I arrived at Idlewild Airport from London. I was a brand new immigrant in the land of opportunity and no free lunch. I was excited and ready to pursue my American dream.
Between then and now I have mostly pursued entrepreneurial endeavors. This, by nature of entrepreneurship, involved some successes and some losses, and many lessons. I have matched my Social Security payments, and matched countless employees Social Security payments, over the years.
I remember the Sunday section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where the young people killed in Vietnam were memorialized with a small portrait. Dozens; every week. I remember 1968 when we lost Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, followed by 1969 when we successfully landed men on the moon. I remember looking through the boards at the big hole in the lower Manhattan bedrock, that was to be the foundation of the World Trade Center. I stood there again in 2002 and cried.
I watched the biggest parade in Atlanta history when the Braves lost the World Series to the Twins. I watched again when they won against the Indians in 1995.
I love this country. I loved it’s promise. However the last 9 years of hell have given me an education I truly wish I didn’t need. Nothing prepared me for the fraud wrought on Americans by the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks. 20 million foreclosures. 20 million families destroyed.
Suicides, cancer, PTSD, heart attacks, broken families, homelessness. Life savings decimated.
Even more stunning is the total failure of regulators to stop the fraud. Regulators and elected officials are, by oath, sworn to protect us. Unfortunately, this is not the case. OCC, FBI, SIGTARP, DOJ, CFPB have all, with intent or not, aided and abetted the TBTF banks. Thieves are everywhere, but in no other country do they achieve the positions of power and influence as they do here. Let’s be more intolerant.
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“So, I must remind you of the Founder’s promise: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”.
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9 years of the end of my life stolen. My life savings stolen. My equity stolen. My credit rating destroyed. My health destroyed. I am not an anomaly. I am not a mistake. I know hundreds in the same position.
This should go everywhere. Every regulator. Every elected official in the House Finance Committee. Stop the fraud. Bring back Glass Steagall. Jail the banksters. This is the America the Founders feared.
In January, 2009, the New York Times published an opinion piece — Where is our Ferdinand Pecora? — detailing the unflagging work of this Sicilian-American lawyer who held Wall Street’s feet to the fire following the great crash of 1929. He gave no quarter to the lying banksters (a phrase he coined) and it’s the work of the Commission he headed that led to Glass-Steagall.
Now, Glass-Steagall is a fond memory.
Wall Street is back doing its slippery smoke-and-mirrors shuffle. The gaggle of White Male CEO’s sitting before Auntie Maxine during the recent House Financial Services Committee hearings are no more contrite than their counterparts that faced Ferdinand Pecora decades ago.
And, why should they be?
They profited by the 2008 subprime meltdown and they continue to profit in its aftermath (yes, their financial cups runneth over) leaving millions of foreclosure victims like Susan Richardson to still dream of a comeuppance.
So where is our Ferdinand Pecora?
Joel Sucher is a co-founder of Pacific Street Films (together with Steven Fischler) and has written for a number of platforms including American Banker, In These Times, Huffington Post and Observer.com. Currently, Pacific Street Films is working with other Big-Bank-Busters to enshrine Susan’s memory as an inspiration for all those who continue her struggle.