Crossing the Corporate Moat – RW Fights Unfair Foreclosures

By Responsible Wealth Intern, Adriana Hernandez

Since last fall, Responsible Wealth (RW) members and our allies have been working on a shareholder resolution and strategies to shed light on how banks and mortgage servicing institutions are handling foreclosures.

Through this work, RW developed partnerships with, among others, New York’s Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP) and the PICO National Network. Together, we drafted resolutions on foreclosure mitigation practices, and consolidated our resolutions into one that targeted the use of robo-signing throughout the foreclosure process.

Thanks to the support of RW members, this resolution was filed at Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo in November. Unfortunately, our resolution was beat out by less than 48 hours by similar resolutions filed by the AFL-CIO and the Comptroller of the City of New York. As a result, our resolutions were not on the ballots (as those that preceded were substantially similar), but that didn’t mean our fight was over.

When the annual meetings rolled around, RW members were enlisted to provide access to twenty-six people for the meetings at JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Despite fortress-like security at the JP Morgan Chase meeting, our allies were able to traverse the castle moat (literally!) to join the meeting. The proxies provided by RW members allowed advocates a platform to directly address CEO Jamie Dimon, asking him if he would stop foreclosures. They also demanded to know what Dimon planned to do to help those whose homes had been wrongly foreclosed—including families with a parent serving in the military overseas.

Ultimately, though not to our surprise, the resolution with JP Morgan Chase did not pass. Although, Dimon's response, "Maybe," was quoted in several news accounts of the meeting.

At the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting, our allies brought with them a group of protesters so large that their chants from the ground floor were delivered loud and clear to the enclosed meeting room on the 15th floor!

In the meeting, our members and allies called on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to impose a moratorium on foreclosures until more comprehensive and ethical foreclosure policies could be developed to provide families the opportunity to save their homes.

For several minutes, our allies' voices dominated the meeting. As expected, Stumpf would not relent, and, as our allies persisted, Wells Fargo resorted to having some arrested.

While neither resolution made it through the corporate gauntlet, they were effective in raising both shareholders' and the media's awareness of the questionable foreclosure practices of these financial giants. And it is on that enhanced awareness that we can build stronger cross-class relationships and a louder collective voice for corporate accountability.

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