The banking industry showed its callous disregard for working families when J.P. Morgan Chase foreclosed on and overcharged thousands of troops on active duty.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law, explicitly forbids excessive fees and foreclosures.
Over 4000 families were affected.
“We failed to comply with aspects of the law,” said Stephanie Mudick, a vice president of the bank at a recent hearing, offering an apology to the troops.
However some lawmakers were not satisfied writes the Wall Street Journal, “California Rep. Bob Filner, the top Democrat on the panel, made it clear he doesn’t think an apology is enough.
“You broke the law. How are we going to hold you accountable?” said Filner. “Everything is impersonal. Nobody is ever responsible and yet these people’s lives are turned upside down. You can’t just apologize…and then, this is over.”
Congress is considering strengthening the law to include jail time.
The J.P. Morgan Chase case, however, appears to be the tip of the iceberg, with over 20,000 military families foreclosed on by other banks, reports UsaToday. “The rate of foreclosure filings in 2010 among 163 Zip codes located near military bases increased 32 percent over 2008, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure research firm.”
A coalition of labor and community groups last week in protests nationwide demanded that Chase put in place a one-year moratorium on foreclosures. Brandes Rees of the AFL-CIO said, “What we’ve called on JP Morgan Chase to do is to institute a one-year moratorium, in fact to hold that moratorium until a group of independent community leaders can meet with the bank, review their foreclosure process and make sure that JP Morgan Chase is not violating the rights of homeowners.”
Chase alone holds over $19 billion in foreclosures.
The protests were held at over 200 Chase branches across the country. At a demonstration in Detroit, the Rev. Charles Williams, an anti-foreclosure coalition leader with People Before Banks said, “Foreclosures are a plague on families and communities.” Read more here.
Banks foreclosed on over one million homes in 2010 and the number is expected to go even higher this year.
Unemployment is the leading cause of foreclosures.
Republicans in Congress are trying to get rid of the Home Affordable Modification Program put in place by national lawmakers to assist financially strapped homeowners in danger of defaulting on their loans.