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As reported on the main NC Policy Watch site last week (It’s baaaack: Troubled Alabama bank tries to sneak payday lending back into North Carolina) at least one bank (Regions Bank out of Alabama) is trying to bring payday lending back into North Carolina after state lawmakers, regulators and advocates chased the practice away more than a decade ago.  

Mark Binker over at WRAL had more on the story over the holiday weekend, including the fact that a much larger and more respectable  institution, SunTrust Bank, may be considering doing its own shark impression as well. Let’s hope that SunTrust and others come to their senses and realize that payday lending is bad news for the state’s consumers and bank reputations.    

 

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There is a helpful website for folks converging on Charlotte this weekend to demonstrate against Bank of America — it’s called www.ncagainstcorporatepower.org.

 This is from the site:

“On May 6-9 people from across the country and world will be converging in Charlotte, NC, home of Bank of America’s Headquarters and their annual Shareholder meeting, to demand an end to their practices that are bankrupting our economy and wrecking our climate. Read More

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Hooray for Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen. Yesterday, this rather obscure public official had the guts to file a lawsuit against a goodly part of the American banking industry.  Here’s a link to the press release (also reproduced below) and other relevant documents.

Guilford County Sues To Clean Up Banks’ “Mess” at the Register of Deeds

Guilford County, ex rel. Jeff L. Thigpen, Guilford County Register of Deeds, filed suit today against LPS/DocX, MERSCORP, MERS, Inc., and numerous banks, loan servicers, and foreclosure specialists seeking to clean up the “mess” Defendants created in the County’s property records registry.   

“Our office uncovered an abundance of falsified, forged, and fraudulently executed mortgage documents,” said Thigpen.  “But our investigation only found the tip of the iceberg.  We need the banks to clean up their mess.”    Read More

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In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by Joe Nocera last Friday that exposed the seemy underside of the foreclosure mill industry.

It turns out that employees at one of New York’s biggest foreclosure mills had a big Halloween party in which many people dressed up in costumes and created props that were designed to make fun of the “deadbeats” whose homes their firm has been doing its best to take away. Six amazingly tasteless photos of the shindig are posted in the article.

This morning, Mike Konczal at New Deal 2.0 has a good follow-up post on the matter. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Though the Halloween pictures are disgusting, they are a symptom of a larger view of the way the law should work that is even worse — one in which debtor’s protections are mocked, the rule of law is ignored, and shantytowns proudly display their creditor’s name over them. This is the way many elites view the rules when it comes to debt. Thankfully, there is more and more mass opposition to this perversion of the law.”

 

 

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This week’s argument in the North Carolina Supreme Court over the scandalously lax practices of major banks when it comes to foreclosing on people’s houses provides a powerful reminder of this simple truth:

The “genius” of the market frequently amounts to human beings acting greedily, lazily and immorally (and getting rewarded for it). Obviously, this can occur in government and nonprofit settings too.

This is not to say that market capitalism can’t accomplish amazing things; it’s a remarkably powerful (and frequently positive) force for the creation of wealth. But, utlimately, it is just that — a tool that human society should harness and use — not, as the market fundamentalists contend,  some kind of divine creation to which we should all bow down.

Strong consumer protection laws are one important way to make market forces work for the many. Let’s hope, as the Charlotte Observer editorial board argues this morning, that this case and others like it spur Congress to act accordingly.