Forty Minneapolis residents with Occupy Homes MN and the Home Defenders League marched on JPMorgan Chase in downtown Minneapolis this afternoon, demanding they negotiate a fair deal for south Minneapolis homeowner Sergio Ceballos and pay out the $13 billion settlement they agreed to last fall with the Department of Justice to help struggling homeowners.
“Last year, the Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase announced that the bank would get off the hook for widespread criminal conduct in exchange for helping struggling homeowners,” said Kevin Whelan, National Campaign Director at the Home Defenders League, speaking at the Minneapolis event. “Across the country and here in Minneapolis, we are still waiting for this relief to arrive. If this is the template for future settlements, we need something better.”
Protesters marched into a downtown JPMorgan Chase office, where they released a banner carried by balloons that read “Sergio’s House: Show Me the Money!” before heading back to the streets to block traffic in front of the bank with a large banner. They headed next to the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Minnesota to deliver a letter to the Department of Justice demanding strict enforcement of this settlement and any that follow.
The Minneapolis march came as part of a national day of action in ten cities around the country to hold JPMorgan Chase accountable to their settlement. As the Department of Justice negotiates similar settlements with Bank of America and Citigroup, a total of $44 billion that could be used for loan modifications to keep homeowners in their homes is at play. So long as the settlements are actually enforced, that is.
To date, JPMorgan Chase has not spent any of the $13 billion to help homeowners, although that was a major component of their agreement with the Department of Justice. Years into the foreclosure crisis, many homeowners who suffered now well-documented abuses at the hands of major banks have lost their homes to foreclosure. The Chase settlement contained provisions that allowed the bank to get credit toward the settlement amount by helping such families through donating or selling properties at a discount and financing new mortgages for homeowners who had lost their homes. That simply has not happened.
The Minneapolis group, like others across the country, delivered a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to the local U.S. Attorney office. The letter requests that Holder personally intervene to ensure that the terms of previous mortgage settlements are fully implemented and that future settlements provide greater relief to the consumers harmed by the foreclosure crisis in the first place.“During the past year since the $13 million JPMorgan Chase settlement was announced, struggling homeowners and community advocates representing them have been waiting for the help that was promised,” the letter to Holder states. “It has yet to arrive and the bank has not announced any new relief programs. Nor have there been any new modifications. Instead, Chase and their competitors are often transferring servicing rights to newer mortgage companies not covered by recent or future settlements.”
For Sergio Ceballos, whose south Minneapolis home was foreclosed by JPMorgan Chase in 2012, relief can't come soon enough. Sergio was dual tracked by JPMorgan Chase, meaning the bank foreclosed on him even as they were negotiating with him, a practice which is now illegal in Minnesota. But JPMorgan Chase has refused to offer Sergio a fair deal on a new mortgage for his home - even though they earmarked money for exactly this purpose under the settlement. In the face of weak federal action, local groups have pushed the city of Minneapolis to explore solutions to enact principal reduction for homeowners, hold the banks accountable, and restore stolen wealth to communities.
"Chase promised to negotiate with me just like they promised this settlement with the rest of the country," said Sergio Ceballos. "All we want is fair modifications so we can continue to pay for our homes. But no one will hold them accountable unless the people do."