Bad Math: Oregon’s Sour Banking Deals

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This is a guest post by our friends at Economic Fairness Oregon, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring a more secure economic future for all Oregonians.

While Oregon’s families are making sacrifices and elected officials across the state are struggling to balance budgets in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, the country’s largest banks are costing Oregon millions each year.

Economic Fairness Oregon, along with SEIU, have compiled the disastrous results of letting Wall Street run rampant in a new report, “Bad Math: Oregon’s Sour Banking Deals.” The report will be released in three parts, the first of which is available now at http://www.faireconomyoregon.org.  A different segment of the report will be highlighted each week for the next three weeks.

The report begins with an analysis of how much bad bank contracts are costing taxpayers and the state at a time Oregon can least afford it. This week, we uncover the $17.9 million that interest rate swap deals cost Oregon taxpayers last fiscal year, as well as the huge toll U.S. Bank’s ReliaCard contract is taking on unemployed Oregonians.

Oregon ReliaCard user details high U.S. Bank fees from Economic Fairness Oregon on Vimeo.

The ReliaCard is used to access child support payments and also unemployment benefits, which are deposited once a week. But because of the bank’s contract with the state, Oregonians are charged a penalty for making more than two withdrawals in a month. In essence, U.S. Bank is taking unemployment benefits straight from the hands of struggling Oregonians who are relying on every penny to make it through this economic crisis. See the video below for more about how the ReliaCard is affecting struggling Oregonians.

To protest U.S. Bank taking advantage of thousands of out of work Oregonians, St. Helens resident Kim Stichler will be traveling to the bank’s annual shareholder meeting, which takes place today in St. Louis. In addition to making a speech on the floor of the meeting, Kim will be delivering a huge stack of petitions from Oregonians who oppose U.S. Bank’s swindling of the unemployed. You can find out more about her trip, including what she said to U.S. Bank’s chief at the meeting, here.  The site also features interviews with other Oregonians who share their stories about the downfalls of the ReliaCard.

Stay tuned to FairEconomyOregon.org as the other segments of the reports are highlighted in the coming weeks. Next week features an examination of Oregon’s ongoing foreclosure crisis and what MERS–the industry-invented work around to the centuries old land recording system–has cost local cash-strapped governments. The report ends with research of the small business lending drought and the battle over swipe fee reform.

Please take a look at the site and the research, and share it with your co-workers, friends and family. Oregon’s current financial problems clearly have their roots in a series of imbalanced agreements and products peddled by Wall Street. Banks don’t want the public to know what’s really going on behind the scenes, because that information gives us the power to change it.

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