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wells fargo protest

Harolyn Rhue, who recently lost her home in a foreclosure with Wells Fargo, speaks to demonstrators.

A Wells Fargo & Co. branch in Hollywood locked its doors on the afternoon of Saturday, June 22, when faced by a group of foreclosed homeowners and their supporters.

The homeowners wanted to close their accounts in an act of protest against the bank’s foreclosure practices. They took turns sharing their foreclosure stories while demanding bank employees grant their entrance.

“I was surprised when Wells Fargo started foreclosure proceedings,” said Laurel Greenstein. “It turns out my mortgage payments were not being counted as payments; they were being counted as ‘miscellaneous applied funds.’”

Greenstein, who owned her Woodland Hills home for 25 years, was first told the accounting change was a computer glitch and to ignore it. When she asked for this in writing, she said she was routinely referred to other bank employees to fulfill her request.

“Finally, one the people told me that what I was sending every month were ‘gifts to the bank,’” she said.

Greenstein accuses Wells Fargo’s attorneys of submitting false documents to the court saying that she had transferred ownership of her home.

“Move your money out of Wells Fargo; start today, do it now,” she said.

wells fargo protests

“Too big to fail; too big to prosecute,” shouts Artist Alex Schaefer to passersby while wearing his creation, “The Mad Bankster.”

In May, Wells Fargo spokesperson Gary Kishner told LA Activist that the bank’s foreclosure rate in California is minuscule, a little over one percent. He said foreclosures hurt banks too.

“Our primary goal is to work with our customers and keep them in their homes,” he said. “We don’t benefit from foreclosure. It costs the banks a lot of money to foreclose on a house.”

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However, when a bank is acting as a mortgage servicer, the situation changes. Often it is more profitable for a mortgage servicer to foreclose because of how mortgage-backed securities are structured.

The protest was organized by Occupy Fights Foreclosures, an Occupy Los Angelessubcommittee that has been assisting homeowners against what they say are fraudulent banking practices. Occupy Fights Foreclosures, or OFF, has been staging several protests at various banks since forming in late 2011. They have conducted several Occupy-style demonstrations where activists barricade foreclosed homes from police and mortgage servicers while homeowners try to save their homes through direct negotiations or through the court system.

wells fargo protest

Laurel Greenstein attempts to enter a Wells Fargo branch in Hollywood to close her account in protest of the bank’s foreclosure practices. Greenstein’s home was foreclosed upon by the bank.

Saturday’s action is part of a larger campaign to get customers to withdraw their money from Wells Fargo and into a community bank or credit union.

“Wells Fargo has been one of the most predatory lenders and abusers in this foreclosure crisis,” said Carlos Marroquin, an OFF organizer.

In May, New York state’s attorney general announced plans to sue Wells Fargo, as well as Bank of America, over allegedly violating the terms of last year’s mortgage settlement. The $25 billion-dollar settlement involved five of the nation’s major banks over fraudulent foreclosure practices.

On the federal level, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo in October 2012. The suit alleges the bank received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal Housing Administration for insurance claims on foreclosures based on false certifications.

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“They claim that they have spent billions of dollars in helping homeowners stay in their homes, which is to the contrary,” said Marroquin. “We know that Wells Fargo is not helping people.”

Dan Bluemel
L.A. Activist

Photos: Dan Bluemel

Tuesday, 25 June 2013