Last month, JP Morgan Chase — the largest bank in the United States — launched a project to digitize the documents of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, making them available on the internet. “It’s important for JPMorgan Chase to support Dr. King’s legacy because of the important values he committed his life to promoting, such as equality, equal opportunity, and quality education for all. People like Dr. Martin Luther King are what made America what it is today. The values he espoused are the values that JPMorgan Chase also tries to stand for around the world,” said JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
But at the same time, as Change.org has noted, the bank is on the verge of foreclosing on a 78 year-old former civil rights activist:
Helen Bailey is a 78-year-old grandmother who participated in the civil rights movement, worked as a childcare provider for autistic children, and was a community volunteer. She has paid her mortgage since 1999, but now she can’t keep up the payments. All she wants is to stay in her home until she dies, in the neighborhood where she feels safe and has lived for nearly quarter of a century. She could have refinanced with a company willing to let her live in the house for free until her death, but Chase Bank would not reduce her principal by $9,000. She’s been paying 7% interest, well above most rates, so Chase could have decided they had made enough. Instead, they have started foreclosure…While Chase tries to tie itself to the incredible legacy of Martin Luther King, who really did believe in communities, Chase tries to throw a grandmother who marched for civil rights out onto the street.
“JP Morgan Chase must practice what it preaches,” said Gary Flowers, Executive Director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc. “On one hand, the bank cannot earnestly invoke the values of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., while devaluing the very principles for which he lived and died.”
This is not the only mortgage-related issue JP Morgan has brought upon itself recently. Last year, JP Morgan found itself in hot water for overcharging members of the military on their mortgages, eventually agreeing to a $56 million settlement. The bank even sold off the home of a military member on the very day that he returned from Iraq.
One former JP Morgan banker told Reuters, “I don’t say this lightly, but the consumer is simply an income stream and exploiting that is the purpose of the banking organization.” And evidently that exploitation extends to touting the bank’s commitment to civil rights with one hand while foreclosing on a former civil rights activist with the other.