Friday, April 19, 2024

A student at a South African prep school performs as Augustus Gloop in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — the very image of reckless, clumsy greed and a good stand-in for U.S. banks rushing to foreclose on homes. (Photo: Tim van Rooyen)

Cambridge Day is part of a project called Voices of MainStreet — a weekly, nationwide Q&A in which editors at the money and lifestyle site ask questions and bloggers answer them. For this entry, we were given free rein and chose to look again at the nation’s current financial insanity.

Foreclosures have gotten so common that processes are clogging courts — New York is the worst, with a 62-year backlog — plaguing banks and credit unions with responsibility for upkeep and fruitless sales attempts and darkening institutional reputations that had long ago faded to black.

Foreclosures, in fact, are so common that Bank of America and others are literally bulldozing or giving away homes to charity rather than keep them on the books.

So you’d think those banks and credit unions would stop racing toward foreclosure like one of the demented brats from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” fatally eager, nakedly selfish and simply too clumsy for their own good. If that were the case, though, Clackamas Community Federal Credit Union in Oregon City, Ore., wouldn’t have hired movers to clear out a former homeowner’s stuff five days before the move-out deadline while she was away with her daughters. Much of Myra Epping’s stuff was trashed, reports, while a lawyer for Clackamas Community “denied moving any items” and “said she’d look into it.”

And those banks and credit unions wouldn’t be trying to take Saji Mathews’ gas station in St. Petersburg, Fla., after he sent his mortgage payment a day late, as reports.

And they sure wouldn’t be trying to take homes in Golden Gate, Fla., they don’t even own.

And if a bank did and of course lost in court, if there was a court order to pay the legal costs of the homeowners — who paid cash for the house two years ago, meaning they never even had a mortgage, much less fell behind in paying it off — that bank would do it, right? Especially when the Bank of America branch that tried to take the home owed only $2,534?

No, the bank would not pay.

It would be, as they say, delinquent on that debt.

The couple, retired police Sgt. Warren Nyerges and his wife Maureen, had to arrive at their local bank branch with a moving van, court order, sheriff’s escort and lawyer to tell the manager, “I’m leaving the building with either cash, a check or a whole lot of furniture,” according to

We know Bank of America is hurting. Thanks to an $8.5 billion settlement with investors, it reported a loss of $9.1 billion in the second quarter. But since that settlement was based on selling investors on bad mortgage bonds, you’d think its executives would show a little sense in not trying to make it up by stiffing the Nyergeses. Especially since Wells Fargo (where second-quarter profit was up 30% on $3.7 billion in net income) just went through this with a Philadelphia man who pushed the bank’s unpaid debt of a mere $1,078 in unpaid court costs all the way to an auction of its stuff inside the culpable branch. That guy, a hero on the Consumerist website named Patrick Rodgers, has been in USA Today and appeared on ABC and “The Colbert Report.”

Meanwhile, as the Clackamas Community Federal Credit Union lawyer looks into whether its movers might have jumped the gun a little, its customer’s story is on the Consumerist website, which gets 1.2 million pageviews per day, as a follow-up to the local, which on its own gets 190,000. And Clackamas Community can count on pretty much all of those coming from what might be, or might have been, customers.

Financial institutions so hell-bent on getting at that foreclosure would do well to remember that Augustus Gloop might be more memorable than Charlie Bucket, but mainly because he was written as having “fat bulging from every fold, with two greedy eyes peering out of his doughball of a head” and sung about as “Eating as much as an elephant eats.”

“What are you at, getting terribly fat?” was how the Oompa-Loompas eulogized the bank, uh, sorry, the boy. “What do you think will come of that?”