They were an unlikely pair for an impromptu, but long-awaited, meeting. He, Richard Davis, is the wealthy CEO of US Bank, among the largest banks in the nation. She, Monique White, is a North Minneapolis homeowner and single mother who works two jobs (one, a night shift at a liquor store) while she tries to avoid being evicted from the foreclosed home that her late father helped her purchase. That could come as soon as May 5.
White’s mortgage is currently in the hands of lender Freddie Mac, but US Bank originally serviced the mortgage, and Occupy Homes activists who came to her defense last November (and slept on her floor and pitched tents outside for weeks) have targeted US Bank as the actor that, they believe, could renegotiate the terms of White’s mortgage and keep her in the home. Occupy Homes activists twice marched to Richard Davis’ house in Minneapolis and staged rallies outside.
Then on April 17 (Tax Day 2012) — with White’s final court date less than three weeks away — Occupy and other activist groups focused on economic justice successfully infiltrated US Bank’s shareholder’s meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center. During a shareholder question and answer session, White peppered Davis with questions about why US Bank hasn’t done more to help keep her in her home, and why the bank has taken part in perpetrating the foreclosure crisis even after it was bailed out by the federal government. “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” is a common rally cry of the Occupy Homes movement. Listen to audio of White’s shareholder questions to Davis here. Her questions begin at the 4:20 mark.
White invited Davis to visit her house in North Minneapolis, and added that the house across the street from her’s, which also went through foreclosure, was sold for just $9,000. “I’m not asking for a handout, I’m just asking you to meet me halfway and re-negotiate my loan to make it affordable for me at the income that I’m making right now, or stretch my mortgage out longer,” White recalled asking Davis.
Richard Davis’ reply to Monique White, in front of hundreds of US Bank shareholders, was reportedly curt and unwavering. He accused her of failing to pay her mortgage, which she denied. But he did offer to meet personally with White. “When?” she asked. “As soon as the shareholders meeting ends,” he promised. Shortly after the meeting, White and two organizers with Minnesotans United for a Fair Economy approached Davis and got their face time with the Goliath figure.
As White told The UpTake later that day, her team told Davis they knew that he had helped a personal employee of his avoid foreclosure, so why couldn’t he help her too. Davis appeared stunned at the insider knowledge. “That expression on his face when we threw that out there was like ‘how in the hell do these people know this information?’,” recalled White.
White mentioned that she thought she fit the criteria of an Obama administration mortgage renegotiation program to help people who had lost their jobs.
Davis promised he’d look into White’s foreclosure information and offered to help her. He gave White his business card and called over Bill Parker, Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of US Bank, and asked him to help White. White exchanged contact information with Parker and received a phone call from him later that afternoon, informing her that he was personally looking into her case and would hear back from him soon.
“I’m just fighting the fight, and hopefully next year around this time, I’ll be saying ‘I’ve defeated and I’ve won, and I’m still in my home’.”