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2011’s Hero

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerWith an economy going sideways, CEOs ladling on lavish pay packages and far too many still unemployed, it’s rare that a smile just explodes across my face these days from something I hear in the news.

That is until I heard of Warren Nyerges. He’s a former sheriff’s deputy who had tussled when Bank of America had tried for foreclose on his Florida home. There was only one small problem, Nyerges had paid cash for the home and owned it outright.

After two months of harassment, Nyerges was dragged into court by BoA. When the judged heard about his ordeal, he ordered BoA to pay him $2,500.

After five months the bank hadn’t paid, so Nyerges turned the tables on the bank. One morning deputies entered the building and gave a familiar spiel, pay the money you owe or prepare to lose your possessions, according to the Naples Daily News. There was a delicious irony, the person who was being ordered to pay up or lose the furniture was the bank’s branch manager.

I told you this was good stuff.

This was all witnessed by local media, Nyerges attorney, deputies, a moving company and the court’s permission to seize bank assets. Todd Allen, Nyerges’ attorney summed it all up, “I’m either leaving the building with a whole bunch of furniture or a check.”

Don’t get me wrong, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to BoA. Nyerges had talked to company officials and had even sent a certified letter to the President of the Bank. All to no avail.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Florida State Attorney General’s Office opened an inquiry into the bank’s foreclosure practices. But here is the icing on the cake, the bank blamed its local counsel that it had hired.

For his panache and cojones, I salute Warren Nyerges. Not only did he get BoA off his back, but he let them feel what it was like to be on the other side of such reprehensible behavior. If only they’d been able to realize it, something good could have actually come out of this for the community at large.

But Nyerges isn’t done yet. He wants the bank to pay his attorney’s fees. He said he’d be back with the moving truck. Stay tuned…

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

When Your Hat is Gray, Not Black or White

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerThe arbiter of all things popular, Google, last Saturday said that Internet search was dominated by three topics: the suicide death of ponzi scam king Bernie Madoff’s son, the 2010 Army Navy football game and Santacon 2010 in New York City.

Okay, I probably weakened my point about Mark Madoff by bringing up the football game and Santacon, but how do you ever pass on a Santacon reference? I certainly couldn’t.

Mark Madoff’s life is simultaneously, something that very few people can relate to and also an amazing prism for everyone trying to navigate to choppy waters of today’s workplace. Before I explain, let me give a quick refresher course.

Madoff’s dad created a sink hole that eventually swallowed relatives, friends and some top charities. The more you think about what happened, the more you think that Bernie could be nominated as the top sociopath of this century. Okay, it’s early in the century, but you don’t see evil like that very often.

But remember, it was Mark who turned in his dad to authorities. Okay, some could argue that he saw it all coming and called the cops earlier, but at least he finally put an end to any additional financial bleeding.

The narrative immediately after Mark’s suicide is that it was timed with the second anniversary of the scam being discovered and by the inclusion of Mark’s kids in the lawsuits to recovery money from people who profited from Bernie’s evil finally pushed him over the edge.

Unemployable, disgraced and facing the prospect of years of litigation for everyone who shared his family name and friends you can understand the desperation. But the goal of this blog isn’t to make you feel sorry for Mark. It’s to make you aware of the ever present law of unintended consequences.

Sure, Mark knowingly or unknowingly profited from his father’s business ventures for years. He held high positions in the company. And yes, some can argue that there were actually legitimate, money making components of the Madoff business, in addition to the ponzi scam.

But once the enterprise started to crumble, the guilty, the innocent and everyone in between got painted by the same broad brush of shame and retribution.

I actually applaud the attempts to recover money for the people who lost everything. And I understand the scorn that people feel who never had anything to lose but who were asked to feel sorry for these rich people who are crying over their loss of stature and sustenance.

What’s the point for the rest of us? The importance of avoiding questionable financial dealings whenever you see them. From Enron to Lehman, the rule of too good to be true still applies.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

I Get America, It’s Americans That Confuse Me

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerI understand the home-of-the-free-and-land-of-the-brave. I get bring-me-your-tired-huddled-masses-yearning-to-breathe-free. I can even relate to hot dogs-apple pie-and-baseball.

What I don’t understand is how passive Americans have been in the face of the economic challenges brought on by the recession. I thought we were a feisty country, tough and ready to stand up for what’s right.

Case in point this week. Three banks, Bank of America, JP Morgan and GMAC announced that they’ve frozen foreclosure cases in 23 states because of sloppy practices, officials who signed documents without reviewing them or having a notary present. Am I the only person who finds it ironic that the very banks that we loaned money to keep afloat are now screwing over homeowners with flawed, and illegal, foreclosure policies?

We also had Senators decrying continuing unemployment benefits for people unable to find work because of budgetary concerns. But these same legislators have no difficulty in pushing for more tax breaks for the people who have made out like bandits for the past decade. The rich will continue to get richer because of their investments. Isn’t that good enough, why do they have to continue to pile on the profits at our expense?

People are losing jobs, losing houses and losing hope. Yet we haven’t demanded changes to our current system of capitalism for poor people and socialism for the rich.

In Europe there are protests in the streets in many countries at efforts to cut the budget, but not here. Not even close.

Domestic Goddess Roseanne Barr once said that she knew when her husband was home because the “couch was snoring.” Sound familiar?

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Top 10 SEIU Blog Stories of 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Image: Kate ThomasA little over a year after its launch, more than 1,400 posts have appeared on the SEIU Blog. As the end of 2009 drew closer in sight, we decided to look through our records to find the 10 most popular stories on the blog this year.

Although I was definitely surprised at one or two that made the top 10, I think the list does a relatively decent job of capturing many of the interests of the political-minded activists that have grown into regular readers of the SEIU Blog: fighting for quality, affordable health care and public services for all Americans, ending corporate greed, holding elected leaders accountable and standing up for working people.

Here are the top-read SEIU Blog posts of 2009:

1. Domestic violence is a “pre-existing condition”

20090911feature-denied-1.jpgBack in September, we began a month-long campaign publicizing the fact that in eight states and Washington, DC, insurance companies could deny coverage to a victim of domestic violence, citing it as a “pre-existing condition.” Everyone from feminist bloggers to the first lady weighed in on the issue, throwing their weight behind eliminating this despicable practice and demanding gender equity in healthcare reform. SEIU launched a multi-channel campaign using blogging, online petitions, Facebook & Twitter to raise awareness and urge members of Congress to demand health care reform that did not discriminate against women.

2. Stop the violence at health care town halls

Things turned ugly at healthcare town halls in August, as events designed to serve as open, safe environments to ask questions of elected officials about health reform degenerated into violent shouting matches and false accusations.

3. Joe Lieberman will hate this

20091028inset-adopt-a-state.jpgWhat do Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have in common? Well, they all caucus with the Democrats–and in November, they alone were threats to whether or not the Senate was going to get to vote on health care reform. In response, we launched an an “Adopt-a-State” campaign to reach out to constituents of Senators who may not support a cloture vote.

4. Time to Go: Bank of America must fire CEO Ken Lewis

bofa-badforamerica_promoSM2.jpgThrough a grassroots and online-driven campaign, over 100 events were held across the nation against Bank of America and more than 90,000 taxpayer proxy cards were collected & delivered at BofA’s annual shareholder meeting, calling for the firing of Ken Lewis for his corporate greed, corruption and anti-worker company policies. Along with helping to get Lewis fired, it was our most successful online list building campaign to date.

5. Letter from President Andy Stern to SEIU members: Where do we go from here?

HCANCincy_sm.jpgFollowing a meeting of the SEIU leadership in mid-December, President Andy Stern sent a letter to SEIU’s 2.2 million nurses, doctors, home healthcare workers, janitors, security guards, and child care workers laying out his concerns with and expectations for healthcare reform legislation currently moving through Congress.

6. Your Guide to Corporate Astroturfing: Lobbyist-Run Groups Orchestrating…

Astroturf.jpgThis post was written during the height of the buzz over disruptions of health care town hall meetings by right-wing opponents bent on blocking any reform legislation. At the same time these groups were disrupting serious and civil discourse about healthcare reform with discredited myths about reform, they were also engaging in Astroturf [read: fake grassroots] activism. We profiled some of conservative lobbyist-run groups who were leading the way orchestrating town hall mobs.

7. Republican Senators Vetoed Insurance Protection for Domestic Violence Victims

Senatorsvotedagainst-domesticviolence9_sm.jpgIn 2006, an amendment was introduced to the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2006 that would have forced insurance companies to stop ignoring state laws that provided protection for victims of domestic violence, specifically when it came to denying them insurance coverage. Ten Republican Senators voted against it.

8. Warning: This story is going to make you angry

ProtectWomensHealth_sm220px.jpgFrom not covering maternity care to calling domestic violence a pre-existing condition, insurance companies seem to have written the book on how to turn a buck at the expense of millions of women in America. As awareness of this common practice has grown, an increasing string of horrifying stories of individual women and their families who’ve been denied insurance because of their wombs has contributed to the dialogue. Among the most recent examples is Chris Turner, a health insurance agent from Tampa Florida who is a rape survivor.

9. SEIU’s Andy Stern Named in Top Ten Most Powerful People in Healthcare

AndyStern_podium.jpgThis year marked the fifth year in a row SEIU President Andy Stern was named to Modern Healthcare‘s annual listing of the ‘Top 100’ most influential “movers and shakers in healthcare”. SEIU will fight in Conference Committee in the coming weeks to make care more affordable by not taxing American families who pay “Cadillac costs” for mediocre benefits; increase tax credits to make healthcare more affordable for working families; strengthen employer responsibility; and press for more health insurance reforms.”

10. Hard-fought wins in new contract for for 95,000 California state workers

SEIULocal1000_rally_CABudgetcuts_Schwarzenegger.jpgIn a state with skyrocketing home foreclosures and levels of joblessness that exceed 10 percent, California’s budget woes sometimes seem endless. Right around the time Gov. Schwarzenegger announced the elimination of up to 20,000 state jobs, we brought you news of the tentative contract agreement SEIU Local 1000 secured, covering and protecting the jobs of 95,000 California state workers.

One last note regarding this ‘top 10’ list: Three of the top 10 posts center on our incredibly successful “domestic violence is not a pre-existing condition” campaign, which helped draw quite a lot of much-needed attention to women’s health issues and how insurance companies routinely take advantage of women. (Check out online actions here, here, here and here). And the efforts paid off–the health insurance reform legislation before Congress will make practices like “gender rating” and “pre-existing conditions” illegal, once for all.

Subscribe to SEIU’s Blog RSS feed here, and look for many more great posts from us in 2010!

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on December 30, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

When The Revolution Comes, Your 401(k) Will Be First Against The Wall

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Everybody’s favorite vampire squid, Goldman Sachs, has practiced a form of virtual class warfare for a long time now.

But Bloomberg reports today that top execs there are now arming themselves for the real thing:

“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names…

Talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall-Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

I’m not sure what kind of Mad Max future these people are envisioning, exactly. But it is kind of funny to imagine an investment banking nerd thinking that dropping $500 on a Glock 19 will turn him into the Road Warrior.

UPDATE (4:00PM): More reactions…

SEIU:

They just don’t get it. The thousands of people that showed up outside their door in Chicago and DC aren’t part of some violent mob; we’re taxpayers who’ve been taken for a ride by Wall Street and want to get off at the next stop. Our message has been clear and simple every time: stop using our money on lobbying and bonuses.

LOLFed:

Goldman employees…think about this for a moment. You work for one of the nation’s most hated institutions. You’re pretty unpopular already. But one of the few things Goldman has not yet been accused of is actually killing someone. Do you really want to be the one to break that long and storied tradition of not killing someone? That’s a guaranteed way to get your bonus chopped down to five figures, mister.

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on December 1, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

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