Anti-foreclosure and bank-accountability organizations on the left say they launched an Internet advertising campaign Thursday to pressure President Obama to hold Wall Street accountable for the foreclosure crisis and require big banks to pay back underwater homeowners through large-scale principal reduction.
The campaign includes $20,000 in Google and Facebook ads in six swing states key to Obama’s re-election in November: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The ads drive viewers to post a message on the Facebook pages of state Obama campaign offices that says: “President Obama: I am a voter. I want Wall Street criminals held accountable and I want the big banks to pay us back. Do what’s right for Americans!”
The groups, the Campaign for a Fair Settlement (CFS) and the New Bottom Line (NBL), contend that the settlement the Obama administration reached with banks earlier this year lets those banks off too easily for fraudulent foreclosure activities.
The settlement came in response to “robo-signing” and other fraudulent practices undertaken by some of the nation’s largest lenders which led to wrongful foreclosures and other financial hardships suffered by hundreds of thousands of U.S. homeowners.
“It was the manipulative, fraudulent and just plain criminal activities of the banks that directly created the trillions in negative equity that keep our economy from fully bouncing back. To date, no one has gone to jail for their crimes. Millions of homeowners, family-run businesses, investors and many more want to see justice served,” says Nish Suvarnakar, campaign manager for Campaign for a Fair Settlement.
CFS cites a recent poll conducted on its behalf by Public Policy Polling in five swing states show that independent voters overwhelmingly want the president to take more aggressive action to hold banks accountable for financial crimes. Across all states polled, only one in three independent voters approve of Obama’s handing of the housing and mortgage crisis. Nearly six in 10 agreed that Obama “has not done enough to hold the banks accountable for their role in the housing collapse,” CFS says.
“Almost 16 million homeowners — almost one-third of all borrowers — owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. That’s 16 million votes that President Obama could win by showing leadership on the housing crisis. It’s time for the President to demonstrate his commitment to all of us and push Wall Street to reset mortgages to fair market value to stabilize the housing market and to jumpstart our economy,” says Tracy Van Slyke, co-director of The New Bottom Line.
Four months ago, Obama announced the formation of the Mortgage Fraud Task Force, but there has been little to no significant progress to date, the organizations behind the new Web ads contend. Bank accountability groups such as Campaign for a Fair Settlement and New Bottom Line have kept the heat on the Administration through protests and direct actions over the past several weeks.
They want the president to order an aggressive investigation into Wall Street’s mortgage fraud, prosecute bankers’ criminal activity, and require the banks to write down at least $300 billion in mortgage principal for underwater homeowners.
On May 20, 1,000 families facing foreclosure and activists with National People’s Action, a member of NBL, visited Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s home to demand that he stop undermining Wall Street accountability. The next day, the 1,000-person group flooded the Federal Housing Finance Administration and delivered an oversized pink slip to fire Acting Director Ed DeMarco. DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, has obstructed principal reduction on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, which represent 40 percent of underwater mortgages. On May 9, dozens of protesters with Campaign for a Fair Settlement stood outside Obama’s fundraiser at actor George Clooney’s mansion to urge the president to do more to help underwater homeowners.