By Sue Misao
Calling it a “corporate crime scene” and shouting “Stand up, fight back!” a group of about a dozen protesters, organized by SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction) staged a protest, followed by a press conference, at the Wells Fargo Tower on Third and Marion in downtown Seattle on April 28. The purpose of the protest was to “expose the fraudulent and predatory behavior of Wells Fargo towards its customers, Xiuhong Mair and Marilyn Takamaru,” said SAFE organizer Zarna Joshi. The protest was part of a national day of action against Wells Fargo, organized by the Home Defenders League, with similar events staged across the country targeting the financial institution.
Both Mair and Takamaru say they are being threatened with foreclosure, despite their efforts to negotiate with Wells Fargo.
One of the women, Xiuhong Mair, also known as Jane Mair, was a journalist in China who reported on the 1989 demonstrations and killings in Tiananmen Square. She and her family came to America, and eventually bought a home. When she lost her job after being hit by a motorcycle and suffering a traumatic brain injury, she attempted to receive a loan modification, but says Wells Fargo refused to mediate with her.
“Even though I did everything the bank asked me to and I trusted them to treat me fairly,” said Mair, “they haven’t been fair to me and they haven’t corrected their wrongs. America can do better than this.”
Marilyn Takamaru, a single mother of a disabled son, works full-time to pay for her son’s medical bills. She was unable to attend the protest because she was at work. Takamaru claims Wells Fargo “gave her predatory loans” when she refinanced her home, leading to her home being worth far less than her loan amount. When the housing market crashed in 2008, she sought and was granted a loan modification, but it did not reduce her principal, and her payments are set to increase dramatically in 2015.
“I desperately need principal reduction so that I can afford to pay to stay in my home that I’ve owned for three decades,” Takamaru said. “Wells Fargo must negotiate with me because I refuse to tolerate their predatory banking anymore.”
In response, Wells Fargo spokesperson Lara Underhill said Wells Fargo’s goal is to “exhaust all efforts” to keep borrowers in their homes with foreclosure being the last option.
“Ms. Mair’s situation is an unfortunate one,” said Underhill. “Regrettably, despite our numerous outreach efforts beginning in 2009 and continuing through this year, we were not successful in finding an option that would allow her to retain the property or avoid foreclosure. Modifications have certain guidelines that must be followed, including certain housing and debt ratios. While we were unable to reach an affordable payment on Ms. Mair’s loan during past reviews, we would be glad to review her loan again should her situation change.”
According to SAFE, one-third of Seattle mortgages are underwater, many of them minorities.
“It’s pretty obvious what the banks are doing,” said Joshi, “and who they’re doing it to.” (end)