“Making Us Sick:” Occupy Groups Target Wells Fargo Board Member Over Foreclosures

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Published on March 16, 2012 with No Comments

Angry over bank foreclosures and evictions, a group of demonstrators held a protest Wednesday targeting Lloyd Dean, President of Dignity Health, who also sits on the Wells Fargo board of directors. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Carol Harvey, guest contributor.

March 16, 2012

Under umbrellas in a driving rain, activists from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Occupy Bernal sponsored a foreclosure protest Wednesday targeting Dignity Health CEO and president, Lloyd Dean, who also sits on the Wells Fargo board of directors and chairs the bank’s Corporate Responsibility Committee.

An ACCE and Occupy Bernal letter of demand addressed to Dean and hand-delivered to his Dignity Health office in San Francisco, demands he stop Wells Fargo, the nations largest mortgage provider, from foreclosing homes on San Francisco residents, particularly those homeowners in hard-hit areas in the Bayview, Excelsior, and Bernal Heights neighborhoods.

Following presentations from speakers led by Occupy Bernal’s Julien Ball and fellow foreclosure fighter, Vivian Richardson, the protesters handed their letter of demand to an unidentified man apparently sent by Dean.

"Foreclosures make us sick," said Vivian Richards. "Foreclosures are undermining our communities."

A Dignity Health representative reads the letter of demand.

Housing activists attempted in January to gain the attention of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, occupying the roof of a Wells Fargo branch at 16th and Mission streets and delivering a letter seeking negotiation talks with Stumpf in an effort to stem the tide of foreclosures and homeowner evictions.

Failing this, ACCE and Occupy Bernal took the protest directly to John Stumpf’s luxury condo in February. During the demonstration, protestors symbolically auctioned off the two-floor unit that enjoys views of the Bay including the former high-security penitentiary located on the Island of Alcatraz.

A Catholic Daily article subtitled, “Catholic Healthcare West Cuts Ties With the Church,” quoted Dean saying Catholic Health Care West changed its name to Dignity Health because the health corporation’s church ties are “crimping its expansion.”

“Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, acknowledged that the conglomerate’s Catholic identity had ‘hampered some potential deals,'” the article states.

ACCE’s Grace Martinez spelled out Dean’s move: “He is CEO of a Catholic network of hospitals. There’s no humanitarian aspect to this. This is all about money,” she said.

“None of these board members care,” Martinez continued. “If their mother, their sister, their brother, their children were put in this situation, things would be changed. They are not affected by it. They make money off of it. They do things without thinking about how it’s going to effect other people. You can easily just blanket deny a lot of people (their) modifications, and it’s okay somehow.”

Martinez reported, “Wells Fargo just decided to increase their dividends to their shareholders from 12 cents to 22 cents. They have enough money to increase shareholder dividends. They just don’t have enough money to keep people in their homes. This is not a game. People are losing their homes and they are getting sick.”

ACCE’s press release acknowledged Lloyd Dean’s bottom line focus: “He has a direct financial stake in throwing our neighbors out of their homes– he made $333,789 simply by sitting on the Wells Fargo Bank Board” while the bank continued to “destroy our communities.” Despite this, activists felt their only choice was to go over Stumpf’s head to Board member Dean, his boss.

ACCE and Occupy Bernal’s letter demands redress for seven homeowners – Monica Kenney, Maria Villareal, Dexter Cato, Victor Granada, Ernesto Viscarpa and Alberto Del Rio – each fighting against foreclosure and the threat of eviction and homelessness.  They are demanding Wells Fargo work with the homeowners to renegotiate their loans and interest rates.

Like the other foreclosure fighters sickened by the loss of their “American Dream,” Villareal wore a hospital gown and held a thermometer because, she said,  the stress of  “Ills Fargo’s” threat to foreclose has sent her and her husband into a spiral of depression for which they are seeking medical attention.

“Sometimes I try and send the paper to the bank,” Villareal stated. “I stay in the hospital. I told the hospital, ‘I’m very sick. I have short breathing,’ and I say, ‘ I’m having a short sale!'”

Maria Villareal (right).

Dexter Cato added, “I’ve lived in the Bayview for the last 40 years, and I’m being forced out of my home on Wednesday with a notice on my door… with four kids. I just lost my wife during some other medical issues. I did everything I was supposed to do that the banks asked me to do in regards to modification. No response! I’m out of my house on Wednesday.”

Dexter Cato.

ACCE and Occupy Bernal are also campaigning for Wells Fargo to return Monica Kenney’s home, honoring the forbearance agreement offered to her in June 2011.

Letting this writer occupy her umbrella, Kennedy said, “I am here in support of a moratorium of all foreclosure sale dates and eviction proceedings against the citizens of San Francisco and California. I would not have been able to do this without ACCE being in support of myself and other folks who are going through the same issue. I was foreclosed upon illegally. That foreclosure sale has since been rescinded with help of ACCE and my friends and neighbors.”

“I knew all along that it was illegal and needed to be stopped,” Kenny added. “But without the help of ACCE coming behind me, surrounding me, and moving in front of me, I probably would not have the strength to be here today.”

Living in limbo is stressful, Kenny said. “I have not won yet. The foreclosure sale has been rescinded, and I heard a rumor through Nancy Pelosi’s office – a man called Alex Lazar – that they were going to offer me a six-month forbearance agreement. However, I have not heard anything from Wells Fargo myself. So, I’m not out of the woods until they actually agree to offer what they offered me in writing last year,” Kenny stated.

As Archbishop of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, homeowner and foreclosure fighter,  Franzo King, sees things spiritually.  King said he feels he has been assaulted by Wells Fargo who inveigled him into a fraudulent ‘Pick-A-Payment’ mortgage loan.

An activist and a spiritual leader, King said foreclosures are an assault on an entire community on whose behalf he acts.

King recalled that in the 1940s and ’50s, for people of color who migrated from the South, San Francisco became an epicenter and magnet for opportunity. African Americans wanted to achieve the American Dream,“Living by principles they brought from the South: Trust in God, live clean, do right, and work hard,” he said.  Many of those  who migrated here worked in the shipyards, helping to build a vibrant community for people of color.

“At one time, Bayview-Hunters Point had more home owners than any other community in the City,” King said.

Archbishop Franzo King.

“It’s time to stop not just Stumpfing on the poor, but stomping on truth, and stomping on peoples’ hearts,” King said during the Stumpf protest in January.  And in union jobs, “they’re not just cutting peoples’ pay; they’re really cutting peoples’ throats. I think some radical language has to be used. The french word ‘Mortgage’ means ‘death contract.’ I don’t know how many of us realize what a grave situation we were led into.”

King’s pun was intended. This is, “a death march to a grave where we would bury our hopes, our dreams, our children’s’ inheritance, the wealth of this community,” he said.

King believes people must stop feeling they did something wrong. “It is time for us to shake off the cloak of shame and realize you fell victim to a game where people play with peoples’ lives. They must put on the whole armor of God, stand up and fight the good fight.”

After speaking, marching and chanting, the protesters handed their Letter of Demand to a Dignity Health representative who identified himself as “Dennis.”

It said, “We have come to your office on behalf of millions of homeowners in California and across the country. We represent the hardest hit communities where families are facing the loss of their homes and their livelihoods because of the outrageous practices of big Wall Street banks, including Wells Fargo. A combination of risky, predatory lending and tough economic times,” put more than eleven million homeowners nationwide under water, with mortgage debt higher than their homes are worth.

It noted the major drag of the continuing housing crisis on economic recovery is causing pain to California families and homeowners nationwide.

It calls for  “significantly broader relief efforts”, resetting mortgages to their fair market value and stabilizing the housing market.

It cites Wells Fargo’s “unique responsibility” as “one of the banks that initiated and perpetrated widespread illegal and predatory practices against homeowners, to lead efforts to fix the housing crisis, rebuild the economy and restore American’s greatly diminished trust of the banking industry.”

To that end, the letter demands that “Wells Fargo initiate a widespread principal and interest rate reduction program,” fixing all underwater mortgages, offering families sustainable monthly payments.

It demands Wells Fargo “stop all foreclosure and eviction proceedings for nine months while the Attorneys General multi-state mortgage settlement is completed and relief reaches California homeowners.”

After delivering their letter of demand, Monica Kenney and her fellow foreclosure fighters chanted, “Lloyd Dean, for shame. Our life is not a game. We will be back.”

"Wells Fargo: Mortgage modification is good medicine. Stop evictions/foreclosures."