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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Hero


For most of my life I never had the comfort of having a personal hero. Someone to look up to, someone to idealize, someone who could provide an example of morality and behaviour that would guide me through a troubled life. This morning, that changed.
Say hello to the Nyerges couple of Naples, Florida. Yes, my new hero is an American couple. On the surface they may seem like average, everyday people, but inside they are possessed of mythical courage and Herculean strength. For fans of the Daily Show, what they have accomplished will be old news. For the rest, read on, and shudder in awe.
Warren and Maureen Nyerges bought their house in 2009 from Bank of America. They paid cash. Earlier this year they received a notice of foreclosure from good ol’ Bank of America, which is a little baffling, as a home paid for in cash generally, gee, I don’t know, HAS NO MORTGAGE. Warren started placing phone calls to the bank, confused at first, then slowly becoming outraged. He sent a certified letter explaining the situation. After two months, the bank had not backed down from their position, so they hired a lawyer, Todd Allen. This guy was not some high priced killer; he was a rookie, and the only one they could find to take their case (it was very “Philadelphia,” really, only no one was gay, so far as I know).
Since Todd was pretty new to the whole “lawyer” business, he might have been forgiven for having the chutzpah to take on the largest bank in the States. Two months later, the foreclosure was quietly dropped.
Here’s where the story gets awesome. The Nyerges wanted their expenses (ie, lawyer fees) covered by Bank of A. Would can blame them? I mean, honestly, in the States, they should have sued for “emotional trauma” and they’d have probably gotten ten million. Instead they just asked for, and received, a judgment compelling B of A to repay 2500 bucks in lawyer fees.

Which the bank promptly refused to do. Just to put this into perspective, B of A made more than $3 BILLION in 2010. That means the Nyerges were asking for 0.00000083% of what the bank had made last year. That’s the same as earning $100 grand a year and then refusing to pay a bill that totaled one penny. “Jerks,” I think, is a mild version of what that would make them.
So what can be done? Most would say “nothing.” Maybe sue them again? Instead, these people obtained a court order of foreclosure and two sheriffs, brought along a moving van and repo men, and presented the local branch of Bank of America with an ultimatum: give us the money, or we’re taking your stuff.
And the bank finally gave up what it legally owed, handing over a cheque right there. (I would have held out for cash in a snazzy briefcase, myself.) Score one for the little guy. When was the last time you gave one back to your bank? This victory must be even more sweet for an American after the umpteen homes that banks have snatched back in the last years. A nice, clear-cut hero wins out over a greedy villain.
After my natural high at hearing this tale faded, I got to thinking. What was it they said at the very start? The couple had paid cash for their home, buying it outright from Bank of America. That meant the house must have been foreclosed on at some point in the past. Which meant that the Nyerges had only been able to buy their house at all because of someone else’s misfortune. That they lurked around, vulture-like, until their Dream Home was lost by some poor fool so they could swoop in and claim it. And they paid cash. Cash! A lot of families can’t pay for groceries cash, much less a house. So this isn’t a tale of “poor guy beats rich guy.” Instead, it’s “rich guy beats richer corporation.” Sure, Todd Allen showed some serious stones by trying to foreclose on a bank branch, but the fact that all the parties in this story have fat bank accounts taints the whole thing.

Damn. So much for heroes. I guess I’m still on the look-out. (Still a pretty cool story though.)

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