Residents, churches protest banks by withdrawing cash

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Community members lined up at a news conference to send their message to big banks.

"Today, I stand here with my community and end my 9-year relationship with Bank of America," one community member said.

Another said they were moving $150,000 out of Wells Fargo and into a credit union.

The community group PACT is launching the divestment strategy as a way to pressure banks into reducing foreclosures and increasing loan modifications.

Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose is closing its two accounts with Bank of America and moving $3 million in annual account activity to a credit union.

"We have 5,000 or more families in the parish," said Father Eddie Samaniego. "The word will spread, and I hope it will make a difference."

ABC7 issued the following statement to Bank of America:

"We are both sorry and surprised to hear that the church is unhappy, as they have not raised any concerns with our banking center.

"Because they cite foreclosure matters as the reason for closing their account, they may not be aware of all the efforts Bank of America has made to help keep people in their homes. This includes having made more HAMP modifications than any other lender, and modifying more than 193,000 mortgages in California since the housing crisis began in 2008.

"Bank of America this year received the first ever 'Housing Champion" award from the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County for our efforts to create and preserve housing for working families and support of local homelessness prevention programs. We continue to work with housing nonprofits and groups like NACA on foreclosure prevention, and have opened nearly 50 Customer Assistance Centers in the hardest hit markets nationwide, including 10 in California and a new one soon in the Bay Area.

"We are happy to meet with church officials personally to discuss their concerns. Should they or any customer wish to close their account, we will work with them to do so."

Wells Fargo also issued a statement to ABC7:

"Wells Fargo recognizes that Americans are demanding more from their financial institutions during these difficult economic times. We are committed to serving the financial needs of individuals and businesses, keeping credit flowing, and working to help those facing financial hardships find solutions.

"In addition to repaying the U.S. government $25 billion for the TARP funds in December 2009, Wells Fargo paid an additional $1.4 billion in dividends to the US Treasury as well; that was a strong return on investment for the government.

"Since 2009, we have conducted more than 700,000 active trial or completed mortgage modifications. In the past year, less than 1.5% of homeowner-occupied loans in our servicing portfolio have proceeded to foreclosure sale.

"Wells Fargo is also lending to help small businesses grow and create jobs . For the first half of 2011, Wells Fargo made more than 67,000 loans totaling $7.5 billion in new loan commitments to small businesses nationwide – a 13% increase in dollars lent from the prior year."

As the 'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrations gain momentum, PACT is convinced closing accounts is a specific economic strategy that can have an impact on changing policy.

"I just felt like they were using my money to give big corporate bonuses and foreclosing on people," PACT member Mercy Martinez said. "I did not want them to do that with my money."

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