By Bridget Duncan
A small group of MoveOn.org members protested Jan. 19 in front of the Van Nuys State Building against immunity for big banks from federal investigation. “They’re going to get away with a slap on the wrist,” said Paul, who wished to keep his last name anonymous as he stood across the street from five waiving American flags alongside the Volkswagen Van Nuys dealership. A Northridge resident and parent, Paul added he is concerned for his children’s future, his friends caught in layoffs in a collapsed job market and people close to foreclosure, while a passerby yelled at the protester, “A**holes, a**holes.” Susan Fuchs, a San Fernando Valley native, mother of two, hypnotherapist and wife of an attorney carried her handmade red, white and blue sign reading, “President Obama Investigate My Bank” next to a man pushing his grocery cart full of stuffed-black trash bags.
Fuchs, who has been an activist since she protested against The Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar in 1986, said she had received her second appraisal and was not in a good mood the day she contacted MoveOn.org but was told they have a mission statement, which was important to Fuchs before joining and protesting with its members. According to Fuchs, she has spent many hours since May working with her bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. to get a lower interest rate on her home loan, but she keeps getting low appraisals on her home and Chase continues to pass her paperwork from one person to the next. Among the occasional honking horns of support for the protesters, Fuchs adds, “A lower interest rate and $400 to $600 in my pocket – wouldn’t that help the economy?”
The event organized by MoveOn.org member Dan McCrory titled “Yes He Can?” comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s controversial recess appointment at the beginning of January of former Ohio attorney general, Richard Cordray, as director of a consumer protection agency. The agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with Cordray in place, allows “the agency the standing to move ahead with new resolution of varied financial entities, authority it has lacked in the absence of a director since its creation in July 2010,” according to The New York Times. At the same time, President Obama appointed three additional members to the five seat National Labor Relations Board to ensure it continues to move forward; Sharon Block, a deputy assistant Labor Secretary for Congressional affairs who worked for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat Richard Griffin, general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers and Terence Flynn, a lawyer for the only Republican on the board, Brian Hayes.
McCrory, a member of MoveOn.org for two years, recording secretary for the National Writers Union as well as a candidate in the race for the 41st Assembly District against incumbent Julia Brownley, said his biggest concern is the “lack of accessibility that the 99 percent has to make things work.” After yelling through his blow horn to cars passing by, acquiring new signatures and assisting recruits trying to call the White House to encourage President Obama to oppose a “sweetheart” deal for the banks and Wall Street after their involvement in the foreclosure crisis, McCrory in his blue jeans and white sneakers added a priority is the “Contract For The American Dream” which in 16 short paragraphs outlines a progressive economic vision of 125,000 Americans.
Meanwhile, President Obama in the State of the Union address Wednesday said, “And tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorney general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.” The special unit, or group, now consists of Eric Holder Jr., the Unites States attorney general, Co-chairman Eric Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, Lanny Breuer, the leader of the Justice Department’s criminal division and four other officials from the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.
The group known as the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group is part of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, an interagency outfit created by President Obama in 2009 to prosecute financial crimes, according to The New York Times. As The Times reported, Schneiderman has refused to support a foreclosure settlement of $20 billion with big banks, federal agencies and some state attorneys general even though it would reduce the principal on homeowner’s loans but would release legal claims not yet investigated fully including those related to potential tax, trust and securities violations in mortgage loans. As of Friday, the group had issued 11 civil subpoenas to financial companies for information related to their actions in the market for residential mortgage-backed securities, Attorney General Holder said. Back on the street corner, across from the smoky smell of the Ranch House B.B.Q. Grill and the out of business High Noon Foods marred with graffiti, protester Sharon Washington worries about her granddaughter’s future. “I’m saving my retirement to send my granddaughter away,” and adds “seriously” if it gets that bad. “We want the banks to be fair and you (the passerby) call us “A**holes.”