COMMENTARY | Once in a while, man bites dog, and you just can’t help but feel like the dog deserved it. In many neighborhoods, apartment blocks and planned communities, homeowners are obligated to pay homeowners’ fees or monthly assessments, which are then used for common expenses and upkeep.
And when banks foreclose homes, they apparently don’t always pay those fees.
According to Raw Story, these associations are taking a page out of the books of bankers, and putting liens against the properties. In one case, the association actually foreclosed.
It is a replaying of the same issue with the banks, reflected in ever-smaller mirrors. It’s almost as though they attempt to make it as difficult as possible to collect the fees they owe. Imagine the consequences of that stance if it was an individual and not a bank.
I’ll admit to a little dollop of glee at the thought of a bank or mortgage holder getting a sharp knock at the door with a curt announcement from the sheriff that it’s been evicted. Somewhere around the moment they were given the get-out-of-jail-free designation of “too big to fail,” financial institutions got a prosecution-proof coating, and nothing seems to stick.
Take, for example, the astounding revelation that British bank HSBC reportedly laundered nearly a billion dollars in drug money for cartels. While HBSC agreed to pay $1.9 billion in fines and forfeiture, no one involved in the money laundering will be criminally prosecuted by the U.S.
In 2010, a woman was given a 12-year prison sentence for selling $31 worth of marijuana to an undercover officer in Oklahoma. The mom of four spent two years in prison before she was released.
Maybe her problem was one of scale. If she scooted that decimal point over a few places, and made that a good $310 million, perhaps she, too, would have gotten a fine and a stern “Don’t do that again.”
From the local, like the nonpayment of homeowners’ fees, which can cripple the associations that depend on those funds for basic services, to the global, like making drug money shiny clean, banks do as they please when they please with very little consequence.
Corporations as people aside, entities themselves do not make decisions to pay fees or not pay fees. They don’t severely understaff compliance departments, the finger HSBC points. They don’t set up policies that open up raging rivers of drug revenue.
Human beings do that.
And when human beings take those actions outside of the magical protection of Corporate Personhood, those human beings lose their houses and have their credit destroyed. Those human beings involved in drug trafficking go to jail. Even if it’s $31 worth of marijuana.
So I will enjoy my image of the foreclosed bank, its possessions strewn across the front lawn. Unless the government starts holding the humans responsible for these decisions accountable, man-bites-dog is the best I’ve got.