How do you know when your bank is standing in the way of economic recovery? Well, take the following quiz. Your bank took $45 billion in bailout funds and:
a) Blew it on an overseas bank investment, DC lobbyists, corporate jets, executive bonuses, and a lavish Super Bowl party worth $10 million alone.
b) Announced it would lay off 35,000 workers while refusing to provide adequate health care for the rest of its 212,000 employees.
c) Asked participants on a conference call to donate large sums of money to vulnerable anti-union Senatorial candidates in order to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act.
d) Blamed the financial crisis on dead mothers.
e) All of the above.
Sadly, for Bank of America, the answer is "e" as in "egregious." TPMMuckraker had a story Friday about Theresa Hatt, a Bank of America customer who died of cancer last month at 52. When her son, Paul Kelleher, called Bank of America to let them know, an estates representative asked if Kelleher intended to pay off the balance of his mother's credit card. When he said he wasn't obligated to, the representative said, "I know that if it were my mother, I'd pay it. That's why we're in the banking crisis we're in: banks having to write off defaulted loans."
Apparently, Bank of America instructs representatives from its collections unit to deceive customers intentionally, both about the legality of paying off balances and obviously about the morality of it as well. Not only that, but the bank also rewards its reps who do bring in "collectible money" with fat bonuses of upwards of $5,000 a month. This is a business practice so sickening it ought to have every Bank of America customer shredding their ATM cards in disgust.
If anything, Bank of America ought to be just that: a bank of America. Considering we gave the bank $45 billion in taxpayer money, it ought to be beholden to each and every taxpayer, not shamelessly guilting people into paying off the balances on their deceased mothers' credit cards. The SEIU wants Bank of America to fire its CEO Ken Lewis, and that's a good place to start demanding accountability. They want the nation's largest bank to begin using its bailout billions to resuscitate the economy, which is what that money was intended for all along. But the window of opportunity seems to be closing, as Bank of America's corporate practices become more contemptible by the day.
Follow ZP Heller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zpheller