Since its inception in the early twentieth century, International Women’s Day has been rooted in the struggle for economic justice, growing out of local demonstrations by women workers demanding shorter hours, better pay, voting rights, and an end to discrimination.
This International Women’s Day, we call on people across the globe to rise up and confront the big banks that are at the root of the current economic crisis. In the United States, Women Occupy will join in the collective effort of the Occupy movement to hold Bank of America accountable for predatory and irresponsible economic policies that are destroying our families and communities.
Why Target Bank of America?
- As of June 2010, Bank of America had $88 billion worth of foreclosed homes in its portfolio — more than any other mortgage servicer in the country. In order to please investors they even started kicking people out of homes faster than other banks, instead of working with them to refinance or restructure their mortgages. Despite having higher average credit scores than men, women are more likely to receive subprime mortgages that leave them vulnerable to home foreclosure.
- Over the past 2 years, Bank of America has invested over $4.3 billion (more than any other bank) in the coal industry, one of the biggest threats to public health and climate stability.
- Bank of America had a hand in the worst of the subprime lending excesses, providing financing to four of the five largest subprime lenders during the years prior to the crash. Together, these firms issued over $320 billion in subprime loans from 2005 through 2007, a disproportionate number of which went to women who would have qualified for traditional loans with far lower costs.
- Bank of America subsidiary Countrywide Financial was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, and multiple state attorneys general in 2008 for predatory lending and securities fraud. BoA was eventually forced to pay $355 million to settle charges that Countrywide assessed higher fees and interest rates to African American and Hispanic borrowers.
- Bank of America announced up to 69,000 job cuts between 2004 and 2008. In early September 2011, Bank of America announced plans to eliminate another 30,000 jobs, more than 10 percent of its current workforce.
- Over the last ten years, the top 5 execs at BoA have been awarded $518.8 million in bonuses and compensation. CEO Brian Moynihan received a $9.05 million bonus in 2010. For his role driving the country’s economic recession, former CEO Ken Lewis awarded himself a $63 million retirement plan when he stepped down in September 2009, in addition to the $63 million he scored during the three years before his departure.
- In 2012, despite massive public outrage, Bank of America began charging a $5 debit usage fee for customers with less than a $5,000 balance and no mortgage with the bank. B of A was the first large bank to confirm it would charge this fee, which is the highest in current discourse among the banks. Bank of America, who already had some of the highest fees among banks, was recently charged with colluding with the two major credit card companies, Visa and MasterCard, to keep ATM fees high. In a letter protesting the fee, which disproportionately impacts poorer clients, Consumers Union wrote: “Consumers should not be required to pay a costly fee that appears to be arbitrary and designed to generate income to make up for Bank of America’s bad business decisions rather than covering the costs of providing debit card services.” (This was stopped by the leadership of one young woman in action.)
Violating the First Amendment
- A local Bank of America branch refused to allow two Occupy Santa Cruz protesters to close their accounts, threatening to call the police if the women didn’t leave. Bank of America currently charges a fee for closing an account, which prompted Rep. Brad Miller (D-North Carolina), who resides in Bank of America’s headquarters state, to introduce a bill to protect customers from such fees.
Taking Advantage of the Military
- B of A is the official bank of the US military and has branches by or on many bases, which allows them to entice military personnel to take out loans at usurious rates. Personal loans made to soldiers for a few thousand dollars can actually keep them indebted for the rest of their lives. Last May, Bank of America paid $22 million to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on active-duty troops.
Too Big To Exist
- Bank of America is officially rated the biggest, scariest bank. It holds assets equal to roughly one-seventh of the country’s gross domestic product, making it too large and complex to manage or regulate properly. When the bank’s poor financial condition prompted a fall in stock causing huge fear among investors, Warren Buffett scooped up a $5 billion preferred stock deal, effectively betting that the government won’t let this big bank go bust.
Fraud Lawsuit Settlements
- Bank of America leads the big bank fraud lawsuit settlement tally. So far, it has racked up the largest settlement, $8.5 billion in June, to settle claims related to $100 billion worth of Countrywide-spun mortgage securities backed by faulty loans. B of A is also being sued by state and federal regulators for questionable foreclosure practices and a union benefits plan for hiding foreclosure problems that impacted its share price.
- To date, B of A has received over $1 trillion in federal assistance. In terms of overall federal subsidies received in the bailout (including TARP), Bank of America was second only to Citigroup ($230 billion compared to $415 billion).
- Despite being propped up by the government, B of A paid no federal taxes for 2010 or 2009 by making use of its posted pre-tax loss of $5.4 billion. Meanwhile, it actually cited a tax benefit of $1 billion.
We demand Bank of America:
- Break up into smaller, safer pieces that won’t take America down with them if they fail.
- Invest in the planet and stop funding coal projects that are polluting our communities and ruining the climate.
- Pay the statutorily required 35% corporate income tax instead of draining the government of revenue through off-shore tax shelters, loopholes, and scams.
- Stabilize the housing market and revitalize the economy: reduce principal for all underwater homeowners to current market value. This would end the foreclosure crisis, reset the housing market, pump billions of dollars back into the economy, and create 1 million jobs a year.
- Invest in small businesses, the main source of jobs in the U.S.