Rally kicks off boycott of lender

October 19, 2007
By

DAVID TABER


Gazette Photo by John Swan
Members of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), based in JP, picket the Countrywide Home Loans JP office on Centre Street during a surprise visit Oct. 11 as part of a nationwide boycott effort. NACA Executive Director Bruce Marks criticized Countrywide’s lending practices that he said have resulted in many unnecessary and painful foreclosures.

JP CENTER-Over 150 activists with the JP-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) and the Massachusetts Coalition to Stop Predatory Lenders descended on Countrywide Financial’s Centre Street offices Thursday to declare a boycott against the national lender.

Over 50 of the activists entered the 708 Centre St. office, where NACA Executive Director Bruce Marks announced the boycott through a bullhorn.

“You should not be out there giving predatory loans to working people,” Marks told the Countrywide staff.

Addressing the crowd, Marks said, “We are here to shut them down, and look, there are no customers. Obviously, the word is starting to get out.”

After leaving JP, the protestors visited two other Countrywide offices.

In_ a statement forwarded to the Gazette from its public relations department, Countrywide denied engaging in predatory lending practices.

NACA public relations director Darren Duarte said no Countrywide customers from JP have contacted NACA for debt counseling to date.

In a Gazette interview, Marks described Countrywide as “the biggest and the worst predatory lender in the country.”

The company services 9 million loans across the US and is the “most aggressive in terms of putting people into mortgages that are unaffordable over the long term,” Marks said.

Countrywide’s standard operating procedure is to start borrowers off with around a 6 percent interest rate, and, over the course of three or four years, to raise the rate to around 12 percent, Marks said.

Countrywide has a 20 percent default rate for their sub-prime loans, Marks said.

City Councilor Chuck Turner, who represents Egleston Square and attended the rally, said it is clear that Countrywide’s mortgage’s are “designed to fail,” and since the government has not undertaken significant action the boycott is necessary to “force them to restructure their loans in a way that is affordable.”

In a statement, Countrywide denied that its loans are structured to fail. “No one benefits from foreclosure,” the statement reads. “Countrywide has extensive home preservation efforts to assist borrowers who find themselves unable to make their mortgage payment. Countrywide currently employs 2,700 home retention specialists [who have] helped more than 40,000 mortgagors this year.”

This year Countrywide has restructured 17,000 loans, the statement says.

According to the text of her testimony at an Oct. 15 hearing of the US House Committee on Financial Services in Roxbury, Attorney General Martha Coakley said “there have been almost 1,000 home foreclosures in the past 180 days in Boston alone, and these foreclosures have clustered in low-income and minority neighborhoods, particularly in Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roxbury.”

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