Chase Backlash: 1,000 Homeowners Protest at Bank's Manhattan HQ

An estimated 1,000 representatives of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) paid a visit on Monday morning to JPMorganChase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon. Carrying signs reading "Chase Get On the Bus," "Chase Say Yes," and "Don't CHASE Us Out of Our Homes," the protesters briefly occupied the lobby of 1 Chase Plaza, in New York's financial district, where the company has offices.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%

NACA, aBoston-based nonprofit advocacy group that helps troubled borrowers renegotiate their home mortgages, has gained national attention for its high-profile public protests. The group, which has a stated goal of building "strong, healthy neighborhoods in urban and rural areas nationwide through affordable homeownership," works with lower-income homeowners to purchase homes or refinance so-called "predatory" mortgages.

NACA has signed agreements with Chase, Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C), whereby the four lenders have consented to work with borrowers to lower mortgage payments and enroll them in long-term fixed-rate mortgages. But Chase, Monday's protesters claim, has reneged on its agreement.

A Broken Promise?

A brief altercation at the headquarters occurred when Chase employees tried to lock the building's revolving doors, effectively barring the protesters from the building, says Bruce Marks, CEO of NACA. Approximately 700 NACA representatives gathered in the building's lobby, Marks says, while as many as 400 more waited outside, until New York Police Department officers arrived and asked the protesters to leave. (One protester noted the officers' politeness: "I live in Brooklyn. The police are a lot nicer in Manhattan.")

Chase disagrees with NACA's assessment that it has broken a promise. The bank claims that it has modified 568,000 troubled mortgages this year, 199,000 of them through the Obama administration's mortgage-assistance program, the Home Affordable Modification Program. But the Treasury Department reports that JPMorganChase had only enrolled 143,027 households in HAMF through November. And HAMF only offers a three-month modification, not a permanent solution; the entire HAMF program has only led to 31,382 permanent mortgage modifications.

Saving the Dream

Part of the problem may be a matter of definition: Chase's claim that it has modified mortgages to help keep customers in their homes may be absolutely true. But by NACA's definition, the lender's activities may not be sufficient to guarantee the long-term security of its borrowers.

NACA had planned Monday's sit-in for two or three days, says Marks, who notes that many members were already in New York for the Save the Dream Tour, a mortgage-assistance event, at Manhattan's Javits Convention Center. Citing President Obama's recent statements about the "fat cats" in the banking industry, Marks says that NACA's protest "in the belly of the beast" was meant to augment Obama's words.
Read Full Story