As the Occupy Movement rolls on from city to city and port to port, one of its consistent focuses has been on the malfeasances of the "too big to fail banks."

Reconsider Ashland's use of Bank of America

As the Occupy Movement rolls on from city to city and port to port, one of its consistent focuses has been on the malfeasances of the "too big to fail banks." In this regard Bank of America deserves special attention. In addition to its refusal to stop its foreclosure practices, its robo-signing complicity and its obscene compensation to its CEO and corporate officers, Bank of America has a well-documented, long history of frauds and fines, most recently paying a $137 million "slap on the wrist" fine to the SEC for "having engaged in bid-rigging and other non-competitive behavior in their efforts to sell 'municipal bond derivatives to various state agencies, municipalities, school districts and nonprofits." Adding insult to injury, BOA made $4.4 billion in profits in fiscal year 2010, receiving a total bailout from the Federal Reserve of nearly one trillion and paying no taxes, instead being rewarded with a $1.9 billion tax refund (Sanders). Here in Southern Oregon we must reexamine our local banking practices in light of Bank of America's material and moral debt default.

On the material side of the balance sheet, Bank of America does not lend to small businesses. It made 98 small business loans in 2007, and only three as of Aug. 28, 2010. As of that date, it had in place only one billion dollars in commitments to Oregon small businesses.

One of the places B of A does lend is to a business called "Advance America." Advance America, which has an office just over the state line in Yreka, is a giant payday chain, a leader in the so-called "poverty industry." B of A provides them with a $265 million line of credit, allowing the chain to borrow money at three percent interest and loan it out at over 400% interest, in effect, supporting usury. Just last week, faced with increasing scrutiny by the media and the recent success of "Move Your Money," Bank of America, which has a "D" Weiss rating, surreptitiously moved its massive derivative positions from its Merrill Lynch investment arm into an FDIC account, shifting its risk of loss on these speculative derivative contracts to the FDIC and, subsequently, to the U.S. taxpayer, who will be left holding the bag. The notional value of these contracts — you can't wrap your brain around these numbers — is $75 trillion!

These so-called "business practices" are the inevitable outcome of B of A's morally bankrupt "leadership." Simply put, the directors of BOA have not kept faith with America. In their unwavering obsession with profit, they have driven unbridled capitalism over a cliff, ignoring any moral hazard and foregoing any fiduciary responsibility to the American people. They have, as the saying goes, "privatized their profit and socialized their costs." Maximizing their use of laws and loopholes and lobbyists, they have gained unfair competitive advantage and have blatantly betrayed the democratic ideals of our nation to which they deceitfully pledge allegiance. It is up to us, "we the people" to take back the reins. Locally, we can start by asking the City of Ashland to divest itself of any accounts it may have with B of A and to reinvest those funds in a community bank that is a true steward of American democracy. On Dec. 20, the Annual City of Ashland Investment Policies will be on the City Council agenda. Meanwhile, Occupy Ashland, Peace House, Oregon Action and Good Grief America are sponsoring "Move Ashland's Money" from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Peace House, 543 S. Mountain St. in Ashland.

Come and learn about actions we can take, discuss our push for an Oregon State Bank and sign our petition to the City of Ashland for Responsible Banking Resolution.

Andrew Seles

Ashland