There are probably tens of thousands of stories, if not more, about Wells Fargo's corporate abuse and how those policies hurt the communities of the 99%.
This is one of those stories, from Reverend Gloria Del Castillo. Reverend Del Castillo will be sharing her story at Wells Fargo's shareholder meeting tomorrow in San Francisco.
I am the Reverend Gloria Del Castillo, the Vicar of La Iglesia Episcopal del Buen Samaritano in San Francisco's Mission District. After many years of working hard and saving money -- and of being a loyal customer of Wells Fargo Bank -- I am about to lose my home. This is my story.
I came to this country from Peru 33 years ago, and for many years I was a teacher in the Richmond Unified School District. I worked with small children and their parents in Head Start programs. Then, 13 years ago, I became a priest working in the Latino communities here in the Bay Area.
Whether I was advising the parents of the children I cared for, or preparing young couples for marriage, I have always given them the same financial advice my father gave me: Never spend what you have not earned, and always save a little each month for a rainy day. Because I have followed my father's financial advice, and have always paid all of my bills on time, I am proud that I have always had a perfect credit score.
Eight years ago, as I was approaching retirement, I bought a home. I wanted to acquire some equity in a home where I could live in my golden years. My home has also been a place for my parishioners and their families to gather for fellowship and for classes. As a single woman, I was so proud to become a home owner, able to take full responsibility for my own financial future and to provide a welcome place to the people I love and care for. I was so happy.
At first, the mortgage for my new home was held jointly by Wells Fargo and one other bank. The initial monthly payments were well within my means. What no one told me was that after two years, my monthly mortgage payments would jump by 50%.
As soon as I learned that this huge increase was about to occur, I immediately went to Wells Fargo to ask for re-financing. I explained to them that I had been a loyal Wells Fargo customer from the day I had arrived in this country 33 years before, that I had always paid all my bills on time. I pleaded with them to check my record and see for themselves. They said they would not help me, and they gave no reason why. A few months later, my mortgage was taken over by another bank and, a few months after that, my monthly mortgage payment jumped from $2400 to $3500. This meant that almost all of my monthly paycheck would now have to go to make my mortgage payment.
But still I made all of my payments. I am lucky that I have not needed a lot of material things to make me happy. I was able to cut back all of my expenses, including food, to successfully make every single mortgage payment. Eventually I went to Wells Fargo to ask them again to refinance my mortgage. By then, the interest rates had gone down a lot, so I asked if they could help me reduce the monthly payment. They said that my house had gone underwater and that they would not help me. The bank that now held my mortgage, told me that they could not refinance my mortgage because my house was underwater and had no equity. Then I received some bad news: Because of the recession, my job at the church was being cut back to a part-time position. My monthly income was cut to less than half. Now I would have only enough money to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, with little left over for food and other necessities. I would not be able to make my monthly mortgage payments and survive. For the first time in my life I would not be able to pay all of my bills in full and on time.
I went back to Wells Fargo again. I reminded them that I had been a loyal and perfect customer of theirs from the day I had arrived in this country 33 years before. Because they again refused to help me, I decided to remove my money to a bank that helps my community.
Now, each month I am receiving several letters from the bank that holds my mortgage. My credit record is ruined. The bank says that I have fallen into arrears and that, if I do not pay up, they will take my house away. I am sad to say that over the next six to 12 months it looks like I will be forced out of my home.
This is my story, but it is not mine alone. Millions of my fellow hard-working, tax-paying citizens have put our trust in institutions like Wells Fargo. We bailed them out in their hour of need. On this day of repentance, we ask ourselves why they continue to be so unwilling to help us keep our homes.
I have to add one thing: As a Latina immigrant, I am outraged that Wells Fargo, while denying affordable loans to people like me, nevertheless gives very affordable loans to build detention centers to house hard-working, law-abiding immigrants who are being deported, often for no reason. Wells Fargo even lobbied in favor of Arizona's hateful anti-immigrant bill, SB1070. Their hardness of heart toward the immigrant community in these difficult times breaks my heart.