I throw the word “neoliberal” around quite a bit. Generally speaking, I’m referring to people who consider themselves to be of the leftist variety—socially, in some ways fiscally, they may even own Birkenstocks—but who believe society’s woes can be cured by the same goons who regularly screw us. Take, for example, every single hospital and do-gooder group that shamelessly gorges on Koch money.
The media is full of neolibs. That’s why companies who fueled the mortgage crisis are treated with kid gloves. Which was my immediate thought this week when the entire local press neglected to mention the irony of Boston’s new mentoring program being in-part run by an executive from the most odious corporation of all. From the press release:
BOSTON — Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined President and Chief Executive Officer of Mass Mentoring Partnership, Marty Martinez, and Massachusetts President of Bank of America, Bob Gallery in launching the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement. In partnership with Mass Mentoring, Mayor Walsh and the Office of Health and Human Services will recruit more than 1,000 new mentors over the next two years to empower young people in Boston.
“Boston is filled with great mentors who can change the lives of young people in positive and meaningful ways,” said Mayor Walsh.
“The business community must play a major role if we are to meet Mayor Walsh’s challenge to increase mentoring partnerships in Boston,” said Bob Gallery, Massachusetts president, Bank of America. “We all have a vested interest in making sure the next generation is ready to lead the city forward.”
I could go on and on about why this is both sick and sad, but instead let’s look at some reasons why Bank of America executives should not be allowed within 100 feet of young people. From a 2013 Salon piece about how the company manipulated programs intended to help the very people they’d already fucked:
Employees, many of whom allege they were given no basic training on how to even use [Home Affordable Modification Program], were instructed to tell borrowers that documents were incomplete or missing when they were not, or that the file was “under review” when it hadn’t been accessed in months. Former loan-level representative Simone Gordon says flat-out in her affidavit that “we were told to lie to customers” about the receipt of documents and trial payments. She added that the bank would hold financial documents borrowers submitted for review for at least 30 days. “Once thirty days passed, Bank of America would consider many of these documents to be ‘stale’ and the homeowner would have to re-apply for a modification,” Gordon writes. Theresa Terrelonge, another ex-employee, said that the company would consistently tell homeowners to resubmit information, restarting the clock on the HAMP process.
Worse than this, Bank of America would simply throw out documents on a consistent basis. Former case management supervisor William Wilson alleged that, during bimonthly sessions called the “blitz,” case managers and underwriters would simply deny any file with financial documents that were more than 60 days old. “During a blitz, a single team would decline between 600 and 1,500 modification files at a time,” Wilson wrote. “I personally reviewed hundreds of files in which the computer systems showed that the homeowner had fulfilled a Trial Period Plan and was entitled to a permanent loan modification, but was nevertheless declined for a permanent modification during a blitz.”
Those are our mentors. Greedy execs and the willing underlings who march to their orders. Let’s also not forget the settlement obtained by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2012. From the AG’s office:
BOSTON – A $25 billion nationwide state-federal settlement over unlawful foreclosures, including robo-signing of documents, will bring an estimated $318 million dollars in assistance to Massachusetts borrowers, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Attorneys General from 49 states have agreed to join the settlement announced today in Washington, D.C. Those claims include initiating foreclosures without holding the actual mortgages … five major lenders are expected to provide approximately $14.6 million in cash payments to Massachusetts borrowers, $257 million worth of mortgage relief, and a direct payment of approximately $45 million to the Commonwealth that will be used to assist homeowners. The agreement settles allegations of widespread use of fraudulent documents by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and GMAC … Massachusetts’ estimated total share of the settlement is $317,915,272.
We sent the following questions to Mayor Walsh:
- Is Mayor Walsh aware that in 2012, AG Martha Coakley secured $318 million in assistance for Massachusetts residents who were misled by institutions including Bank of America? Does he know that Bank of America participated in the initiation of foreclosures without holding actual mortgages, and of “allegedly corrupting the land recording system”?
- Does the mayor feel it is appropriate for an executive from a company responsible for so much misery, including here in Boston, to be affiliated with a mentoring program for young people in this city?
- Is the mayor also encouraging car thieves to join the mentoring program? Or only people who have been a part of stealing homes? How about petty criminals? Those caught stealing stereo equipment and lower-priced items?
The response from Walsh’s communications team: “The Mayor appreciates Bank of America’s support of his mentoring movement and looks forward to working with businesses throughout Boston to reach our goal of 1,000 mentors for our young people.”
To put things in final perspective, I reached out to the fair housing crusaders at City Life/Vida Urbana in Jamaica Plain. In the past I’ve both covered and consulted the organization, which has gone to the mat with a number of lenders including Bank of America. Their thoughts:
“How can you mentor youth that you purposely work to displace for profit?” said Antonio Ennis, who led a demonstration on Gallery’s Beacon Hill doorstep in 2011. “It’s like a slap in the face to youth that need mentoring from someone that understands their housing situation, their living arrangements, drug problems, lack of education, job issues, etc.”
Added Steve Meacham of City Life: “I feel particularly appalled. On the other hand, we know that examples of capitalist greatness are constantly trotted forward as role models. [Bank of America] was constantly charged with illegal deeds to the point that they made successive settlements with the Attorneys General. So [Gallery] was part of all that. How is that a role model?”
Meacham continued: “Why are we always choosing people from the 0.1% as role models? Especially those very rich whose institutions that were arguably part of tanking the economy.”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.