THREE PORTLAND PROTESTS this past week singled out Bank of America as at least one cause of our city's economic ills.
On Friday, October 28, a group of Bank of America customers closed their accounts at the downtown location while someone dressed as the Grim Reaper read a list of local foreclosed homes. Saturday, October 29, brought an Occupy Portland rally outside a Bank of America "homeowner outreach" event at the Oregon Convention Center. And Monday, October 31, saw Portland police arrest a "zombie" on suspicion of vandalism after a group of costumed protesters stuck fake money and red corn syrup to the glass windows of a downtown Bank of America. What's going on here?
Several different groups.
Activists are putting on a full-court press against the bank in advance of the national Bank Transfer Day this Saturday, November 5, when customers of major banks across the country are encouraged to close their accounts and move their money to local banks or credit unions.
The loosely knit Occupy protest has made anti-bank sentiments one of its strongest rallying cries. On Halloween, well-known muckraker Michael Moore paid a visit to the Occupy Portland camp and noted its proximity to the Wells Fargo offices.
"Someone from the media asked me, 'Who organized this?'" said Moore, over a megaphone to a large crowd. "And I said, 'Well, there's the Wells Fargo center, they organized this.'"
Other groups have been campaigning against Bank of America long before Occupy got rolling, though. Union-organized group We Are Oregon hosted Friday's protest and has been canvassing North Portland and holding community meetings for several months to talk about foreclosure issues. We Are Oregon is pushing for Bank of America to halt all foreclosures.
Why Pick on Bank of America?
Bank of America is the second largest bank in the state, with 88 branches in Oregon. But it's the national issues that protesters point to with the bank.
BIG PROBLEMS: Activists are upset that after accepting $45 billion in federal bailout money, Bank of America has foreclosed on thousands of homeowners. Bank of America halted foreclosures briefly in 2010 after a "robo-signing" scandal revealed that mortgage servicers in as many as 102,000 foreclosures had approved the cases without having them go before a judge. As of September 2011, the bank was back up to speed, foreclosing on 200 percent more homes than in August, reported CNBC.
This week, federal regulators launched a complaint hotline for homeowners who may have been mistakenly foreclosed on by Bank of America and other national banks.
LITTLE PROBLEMS: Bank of America has become a symbol of the willful screwing over of customers with its defense of overdraft charges and recently announced a monthly $5 fee for using a debit card. On Tuesday, November 1, Bank of America announced it would back off the fee— citing consumer protest.