As Washington prepares to pump $730 billion into rescuing banks, consumer advocates are reminding the public of the ways in which the beneficiaries already have their hands in taxpayers' pockets without government protection.
Today, Americans for Fairness in Lending brings forth former employees of credit card issuer MBNA, now owned by Bank of America, to tell how they were forced to use aggressive and deceptive practices with customers to push them into taking cash advances and max out their credit cards.
"Every customer who calls in is a mark," according to one phone operative who estimated that she sold almost a quarter of a billion dollars in the four years she worked for MBNA before it was bought in 2005 by Bank of America, She tells of a supervisor, listening in, pushing her to sell more to a man in his 90s who had a $100,000 limit.
"I was hired to sell money," she told reporters on a conference call organized by the advocacy group. "We had a goal of selling $25,000 an hour, $4 million per month. And I was one employee among hundreds, just at this one site."
Even those of us old enough to pay as we go can testify to the greed of our friendly local banks. Deposit a check, and you can't draw against it for five business days, even though the bank gets your money overnight by electronic clearance and uses it at no charge, a "float" of untold millions of dollars daily.
They stopped giving away toasters a long time ago to get hard-working customers to part with their money, but banks are still putting the heat on customers every day.
The advocacy groups have a laundry list of reforms that are needed and now that the government is in partnership with the banking industry, Congress should start working on them.