Protestors to MBA Convention: "Where is your moral compass?"

Mortgage & Real Estate

Hundreds of demonstrators picketed outside the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention in Chicago Monday afternoon and despite stepped up security, two made it into the convention’s second general session, where they personally voiced their disapproval of lenders and how they are handling the mortgage crisis.

One protestor, who later identified himself to National Mortgage News as P.L. Damon, took the microphone during a question and answer session, asking Michael Held, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage,  “How can you show your face in this city?” and what he will do “to fix the colossal damage done to Chicago families?”

Then, an unidentified women asked Held, “Where is your moral compass?” and “How do you sleep at night?”

“I wish I had an answer to all of the market’s woes. All we can do is keep trying,” the Wells Fargo executive responded calmly to the first antagonist. Answering the second protester, he said that judging from the emotion in her voice, her question was a fair one. “We’ve made mistakes,” he went on. “Clearly we have a responsibility, and we are doing an awful lot to help.”

Convention goers in the room applauded both answers. But Damon, who told NMN that he “paid to get in just like everyone else,” was “not at all satisfied with Held’s response.

The two protestors who aired their grievances were said to be part of a team of five planted inside the conference.

About an hour later, a crowd unofficially estimated at 300 by the police, gathered in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel where the convention was being held. Though their numbers were far short of the 1,500 that were expected, the protestors made plenty of noise.

The march was organized in part by National People’s Action and several local organizations in an effort “to take back the jobs, homes and schools stolen from us by the greed of big banks and big business.” The chanting protestors carried signs that said, among other things, “They get rich. We get foreclosed.”

The initiative, according to the organizers, was part of the “Take Back Chicago” rally in which five separate feeder marches converged on Michigan Avenue, the main drag through the city’s downtown. “We want relief for homeowners and everyday people damaged and destroyed by a crisis that was caused by big banks,” said Tracey Van Slyke, co-director of New Bottom Line, one of the march’s organizers.

“I don’t know what they get out of it,” said Beatrice Lumpkin, a retired steel worker, about lenders who foreclose on borrowers whose houses are worth less than what they paid. “What’s the point?” asked the elderly sign carrier. “They’re not going to get any more money back.”

Among the protectors was Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “I’m here to say what needs to be said,” she told NMN. “Ordinary people are seeing the American dream slip through their fingers and Wall Street is taking their money, our money. This is a Wall Street-made crisis. Banks we bailed out are not helping these people whatsoever. We want to see mortgage bankers take some responsibility.”

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