Update: Nine housing justice activists staged a “magical, transformational intervention” of the San Francisco Employee Retirement System (SFERS) Retirement Board meeting on June 12, 2013, in which masked players impersonated the Retirement Board Commissioners and explained why they had a change of heart, then passed two motions to engage banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase on their illegal, predatory, and discriminatory lending practices according to the long-standing SFERS social investment policy.
The nonviolent protest took place at the time that has been reserved for public comment for the past 20 years until the public comment period was moved to the end at the last SFERS Retirement Board meeting in May, requiring those wanting to make public comment to wait through three to four hours of deliberations before getting a chance to speak. SFERS Executive Director Jay Huish had also canceled, for no other reason than his “discretion”, a May 29th Special Meeting to discuss the motions on discriminatory bank lending requested by SFERS Commissioner Malia Cohen, who also serves on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
The San Francisco Employee Retirement System (SFERS) Retirement Board is refusing to debate two motions regarding investments in banks engaged in discriminatory lending. For the sixth month, Foreclosure and Eviction Fighters and their supporters from the vast majority of SFERS current and retired employee organizations will demand that the Retirement Board consider these motions to urge the banks to halt their predatory lending practices and to stop evicting our neighbors from their homes and make it right for those who have already been evicted.
What: SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on Predatory Bank Investments
When: 1:30pm on Wednesday, June 12 (go immediately to sign in and stand in line at the door to get a seat — no protest in front of the building this time)
Where: 30 Van Ness Avenue, 3rd floor, near Market Street, San Francisco
SFERS Commissioner Herb Meiberger introduced the motions at the April 10, 2013, SFERS Retirement Board meeting with overwhelming support from current and retired city employees served by the retirement system (read Commissioner Meiberger’s remarks about the meeting here).
Current and retired city employees, Foreclosure and Eviction Fighters, and supporters from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Occupy Bernal, Occupy Noe, and the Occupy the Auctions and Evictions Campaign provided important testimony about the illegal, predatory, and discriminatory practices of banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America at meeting of the San Francisco Employee Retirement System Retirement Board on January 9, February 13, March 13, April 10, and May 8, 2013.
At each meeting, the group asked the Retirement Board to uphold its fiduciary responsibility to investigate the illegal, predatory, and discriminatory practices of the banks, to request that the banks stop these practices, to sponsor shareholder resolutions if they don’t stop, and some asked the banks to divest from the banks’ stocks if the shareholder resolutions do not succeed. Some of the Commissioners responded favorably to the public comment testimony.
A number of organizations have declared their support of the motions including organizations representing most of the members of the SFERS retirement system:
- Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021
- Retired Employees of the City and County of San Francisco (RECCSF)
- San Francisco Labor Council
- Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
- Chinese Progressive Association
- Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco
- Jobs With Justice San Francisco
- Occupy the Auctions and Evictions Campaign
- Occupy Bernal
- Occupy Noe
- San Francisco Tenants Union
- Tenants Together
- Unitarian Universalists for Peace – San Francisco
The San Francisco Employee Retirement Systems (SFERS) handles investments for pension funds for current and retired San Francisco city employees. SFERS has policies that include “Social Investment Procedures” adopted at the SFERS Retirement Board meeting of September 27, 1988, which requires the SFERS Retirement Board when making investments in stocks, mutual funds, and so on, to consider:
“Community Relations: the relationship of the corporation to the communities in which it operates shall be maintained as a good corporate citizen through observing proper environmental standards, supporting the local economic, social and cultural climate, conducting acquisitions and reorganizations to minimize adverse effects and not discriminate in making loans or writing insurance.” (emphasis added by Occupy the Auctions)
A record number of San Francisco City and County employees, as well as others residents of San Francisco and beyond, are facing mortgage loan defaults, foreclosures, and evictions (an estimated 12,000 foreclosures in San Francisco between 2008 and 2011). Many have already lost their homes.
Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America are the market leaders in foreclosures and related evictions here in San Francisco and statewide. These banks engaged in illegal, predatory, and discriminatory practices by putting African-American and Latino borrowers into higher-cost, subprime loans than white borrowers. In fact, in July 2012, Wells Fargo agreed to pay what ended up as $234.3 million to settle a United States Department of Justice lawsuit for its discriminatory mortgage lending practices affecting more than 30,000 borrowers, including those banking at the Bayview Wells Fargo branch.
Billions of dollars in mortgage lender settlements with government agencies and other parties have to date not managed to solve the mortgage lending crisis, making mortgage lenders and servicers a potential medium-term and long-term investment risk. Illegal, predatory, and discriminatory foreclosures harm all homeowners, erode the property tax base, and cost local governments, hurting the standard of living of retirees and all working people.
Wells Fargo is #1 in San Francisco foreclosures. San Francisco’s Mayor and Board of Supervisors have unanimously requested a halt to foreclosures and related evictions, especially since San Francisco Assessor-Recorder’s report showing that 84% of foreclosures have at least one legal violation and due to Wells’ $234.3 million settlement with the United States Department of Justice paid in response to allegations of racial discrimination in providing mortgage loans in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point and other neighborhoods.
Wells Fargo’s “waterfall” model, along with similar policies from other lenders, ensures that the bank can squeeze the most money possible from homeowners struggling to make payments while finally discarding them like trash if the bank can’t make a profit on every single loan. Running a mortgage loan business means assuming risks, especially after receiving billions in bailout funds from the taxpayers, many of whom are Wells’ mortgage loan borrowers.
Wells Fargo is putting 32 families at risk of losing their homes due to foreclosure and related evictions. Wells Fargo is foreclosing on and evicting veterans and disabled and senior homeowners and families with children, as well as targeting homeowners with life-threatening illnesses. Wells Fargo has engaged in predatory, fraudulent, and racist lending practices and has contributed to a rash of foreclosure deaths.
Statement Read by ACCE/Occupy Organizers at May 8, 2013, SFERS Retirement Board Meeting Petition Supporting SFERS Motions SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on April 10, 2013 Agenda for SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on April 10, 2013 Staff Memo for SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on April 10, 2013 SFERS Social Investment Policy Members of SFERS Retirement Board SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on March 13, 2013 SFERS Retirement Board Meeting on January 9, 2013 San Francisco Business Times KCBS (including audio segment) Wells Pays $234.3 Million to Resolve Allegations of Racial Discrimination in Providing Mortgage Loans Occupy Our Homes Wells Fargo Bayview Branch Action Occupy Wells Fargo Noe Branch Occupy Wells Fargo HQ Occupy Senior and Veteran Evictions and Foreclosures (Occupy Anniversary)
For updates: http://occupytheauctions.org/wordpress/?p=9983