J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) backed down amid a public-relations disaster last week, saying it would allow Helen Bailey, 78, of northern Nashville, to stay in her home for the duration of her life. Smack in the middle of their Black History Month campaign, Chase almost kicked the former civil-rights activist out of her house because she fell behind on her mortgage.
Occupy Nashville takes credit for the success, citing over 80,000 signatures on their Change.org petition and press coverage from MSNBC, Huffington Post and others. However, credit is due as well to the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, which handled the case pro bono, and Steven Fifield, who was the lead attorney.
They reached a settlement on Friday, but kept the terms of the agreement confidential. Mr. Fifield said the paperwork for Ms. Bailey’s reverse mortgage filing will be completed by mid-March, and the threat of foreclosure has ended.
This story confirms the tremendous power of the people and online activism in fighting big banks since Bank of America’s proposed $5 debit card fee was beat down. Bailey attempted to refinance when she fell behind on her payments with a company that would have allowed her to remain in the home until she died, but she claims Chase would not reduce her principle by $9,000, according to the Huffington Post.
With such a poetic case like Ms. Bailey’s, the press had a field day contrasting Chase’s message with their actions. While the bank was foreclosing on a woman who marched during the civil rights era, the bank ran advertisements all over their site about how they are fulfilling the vision of Martin Luther King Jr.
People who need people
Not everyone can win the attention of the Occupy movement and the press. But not everyone needs to.
Consider the story of Noah Lamaide, a twelve-year-old boy from Wisconsin. Noah appealed online to family and friends and raised over $10,000 in donations to save his grandmother’s home from foreclosure.
The power of online activism is such that it’s possible to work magic with just your relatives, buddies and an Internet connection.