Opinion » Ted Rall

Lose a House, Get $300

Why aren't rioters burning down the banks?


One in 10 Americans takes antidepressants. Maybe that's why we're so passive.

We must be too drugged to feel, much less express, rage. How else to explain why furious mobs haven't burned the banks to the ground?

Last week the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve were cutting the first checks to former homeowners in a multi-billion dollar settlement between the Obama administration and the big banks over the illegal foreclosure scandal.

Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other home mortgage lenders foreclosed upon and evicted millions of homeowners between 2007 and 2011.

The banks had no legal right to evict these people. In many cases, they didn't have basic paperwork. In others, people could have kept their homes if they'd been allowed to refinance, but the banks illegally refused. Soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, protected from foreclosure under U.S. law, came home to find their homes resold at auction. In other cases, banks even repossessed homes where the homeowner had never missed a payment.

Promising justice and compensation for the victims, President Barack Obama's Justice Department joined lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of several states.

Last year, Obama announced that the government had concluded a "landmark settlement" with the banks that would "deliver some measure of justice for those families that have been victims of their abusive practices."

The $26 billion deal sounds impressive, right? How much will the banks have to pay?

• Even though they qualified for loan modifications, banks seized 1.1 million homes, making 1.1 million families homeless. Since the average foreclosed home was worth $191,000, the banks stole $210 billion in homes. Under the "landmark settlement," these wrongfully evicted Americans will receive $300 or $500 each.

• 900,000 borrowers entitled under Obama's Make Home Affordable program to refinancing were denied help and lost their homes. They get $300 or $600.

• 420,000 homeowners who lost their homes while the banks intentionally dithered and "lost" their paperwork get $400 or $800.

• 28,000 families entitled to protection against foreclosure under federal bankruptcy law, but got thrown out of their homes anyway, get $3,750 to $62,500.

• 1,100 soldiers entitled to protection against foreclosure because of their military status get $125,000.

• 53 families who weren't late on their mortgages, never missed a payment, but got thrown out anyway, get $125,000.

Why aren't those 5 million people stringing up bank execs? But what really gets me is the 53 families getting $125,000 payouts for losing homes they were up to date on.

Some perspective: Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit received $260 million in pay between 2007 and 2012. In 2011, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was given $23 million. In 2012, the company's board of directors "punished" him for a $6 billion loss in derivatives trading by paying him "merely" $18.7 million.

Not bad for criminals. That's how things work in the United States: The criminals get the big payouts. The people whose lives they destroy get $300.