Huge raucous crowds converged outside bank employees' houses on Sunday afternoon to demand banks stop lobbying against Wall Street reform.
"Bank of America: bad for America!" shouted community leaders outside the house of Bank of America deputy general counsel Gregory Baer.
The Chicago-based grassroots organization National People's Action, in coordination with the SEIU, bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Baer's neighborhood, one of the wealthiest corners of Washington. The action kicks off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists' role in financial reform.
Baer himself went unnoticed until a neighbor outed him. The mob booed loudly as he walked into his house. "I don't have time for you," he said, according to Trenda Kennedy of Springfield, Ill. who used a bullhorn to tell the crowd about her trouble getting a mortgage modification from Baer's bank.
Kennedy told HuffPost she'd been making reduced monthly payments thanks to a trial modification via the Home Affordable Modification Program. She said that when the bank turned her down for a permanent mod, she was told she still owed all the money she'd been paying during the trial. She said she's been notified of several sheriff's sale dates but has somehow managed to keep her home.
"Every time I'm inches away from losing my house, by some miracle it's been pushed off," said Kennedy, who is a member of Illinois People's Action.
Passersby and dogwalkers smiled at the sight of people gathered all over Baer's lawn and blocking the road. Baer's neighbor from across the street won little sympathy when he angrily yelled at protesters for waking up his two-year-old daughter. Kennedy was one of several people who used a bullhorn to tell personal bank horror stories.
Baer, formerly a senior official at the Treasury department, is a lawyer for the bank's regulator and public policy legal group. Bank of America declined to comment.
"Bank of America came to the homes of everyday Americans when you spread predatory loans in neighborhoods across, the country, when you financed payday-lending storefronts, when your reckless behavior sent the economy to the brink of disaster, and when your bank-owned properties littered neighborhoods from coast to coast," said a letter the group asked Baer to deliver to CEO Brian Moynihan. "You've created a historic mess and have been unreceptive to very polite, very formal and very consistent requests to fix the problems you helped create."
The group also protested outside the house of Peter Scher, a lobbyist for JPMorgan Chase. Nobody answered the door.
UPDATE 5/17/10: Bank of America says Baer didn't say "I don't have time for you."
"He did not make that comment to the crowd," said a spokeswoman in an email. "Actually, Mr. Baer was away from his home and he returned home after his teenage son called him. Mr. Baer did say as he was walking up to his home that he needed to get inside his home to be with his son who was frightened and upset over what was going on outside."
The bank also disputes the groups' characterization of its lobbying and its efforts to help the economic recovery. "Bank of America supports financial regulatory reform, and has noted this publicly many times. We are committed to supporting and stimulating the economic recovery in our communities," the spokeswoman wrote. "We are also vigorously modifying home loans and credit card balances for consumer and business customers in addition to eliminating debit card overdraft fees -- steps that are necessary to help customers overcome financial challenges and succeed in this economy. Please visit [this page] for more information."