Occupy Wall Street and Debt Jubilee

This article was originally written only about the Occupy Wall Street when that was a “thing.” For an instant in time, it looked like people might look up and notice the huge shift in wealth from the poor and working classes to the rich. And from the young generation (Millennials as they’re now called) to the Baby Boomers That moment has passed but the issues remain, and a large-scale disruption seems inevitable. The student loan picture has grown much worse, and combined with health care and retirement issues, might well bring on an inter-generational conflict of massive proportions.

I think it will likely take the form of a “debt jubilee.” And this, along with other economic policies, will have consequences.

Occupy Wall Street – The Beginnings of a Serious Movement

As always, I’m a little cautious when I bring an “outside” issue into the discussion of defending yourself from a lawsuit brought by a debt collector. But there are links: there is increasing resistance to the status quo of banks and debt collectors using the legal system to take things away from people without a lot of money. So far, this resistance hasn’t accomplished much (if anything) on the broader political scene, but it is beginning to create an energy that may affect what litigants and judges will do. It may also radically change the whole debt legal landscape.

And that brings the discussion within the legitimate scope of my analysis.

Here’s what I wrote about Occupy Wall Street, and then there’s a link to an article about debt jubilees.

Occupy Wall Street Is Just Getting Started

I am very happy to see the demonstrations. As I have mentioned before, there is certainly a “class war” going on, but that war is not in the words of the fringe politicians. It is in the actions of the political decision-makers, who have transferred trillions of dollars to the wealthiest people (by and large, these are the people who own the banks) through the bailouts and other policies. It is the working and middle class people who are and have been under fire. They pay the price of the bailouts to the rich, and they are the ones being sued for debt more than anybody else, who are losing their homes and groaning under big credit card balances with outrageous rates of interest.

They should be mad. Occupy Wall Street has started, like so many other social movements, among the young, but it is showing some signs of attracting the working and middle classes. There’s smoke. Will there be fire? I think that possibility certainly exists, and the persistence of the “occupation” has been impressive.

The Occupiers’ Message

It isn’t that I think the demands of Occupy Wall Street are coherent at this point. I haven’t been able to make out any sort of specific, consistent message from the things they have written, or that have been written about them. But that said, I do believe that they have a point. They know they’ve been screwed –they just don’t know how. Yet.

“Green Tea Party”

Last year I called for a “Green Tea Party.” Although the name was a little tongue-in-cheek, the thoughts behind it were quite serious. The Tea Party, with its calls for “smaller government” (but apparently without wanting to reduce American military adventurism around the globe or subsidies for corporations and other traditionally right wing interests) captures the imaginations and hopes of a lot of people who feel disenchanted by politicians. Occupy Wall Street, with their opposition to bailouts for the wealthy and other corporate “help” (but apparently with some faith in the trustworthiness and goodness of government), really are a sort of mirror image of the Tea Party.

There is a lot of antagonism between the two groups right now, but they both, actually, seem to want the same thing. Both groups want a world where people have a chance to survive and get ahead in life. Each identifies one side of the coin as the problem. And the coin is that we have a ruling class that uses government as a tool -to take money from the lower and middle classes and give it to the rich, and to expand their reach and power through the world.

A Combined Populist Movement

What would happen if Occupy Wall Street came, as many progressive organizations did during the Great Depression, to view big government as the problem rather than the solution? What would happen if the Tea Party, as Ron Paul clearly does, came to see the assertion of U.S. military power around the world as a form of big government opposed to personal freedom? or corporate bailouts as contrary to free market enterprise?

Then the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street might come together with some real populist power. It would never be called the “Green Tea Party,” of course, but it might be called “The New America” movement or something like that. Something that might capture the urgent need for our country to move back towards real democracy, away from the on-going siphoning of resources to the wealthy, and away from the constantly expanding government that makes that possible.

Public Response

The response to both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street has been “instructive.” It’s actually very similar to the initial response to “Arab Spring,” the movement which has toppled dictators in the Middle East and continues to reshape politics over there. The financial press ignored Occupy Wall Street as long as possible, and since then have been, almost uniformly, contemptuous or patronizing. Politicians have either ignored the group or tried to co-opt them. And the police response has mirrored what we saw in the Middle East out of the dictators: brutal and arrogant.

Meanwhile, more and more people are gravitating towards the marchers.

There has been criticism of the Tea Party that they were, in fact, co-opted by the Republican Party, and I think that is partially true. It has been a platform for the anti-intellectual side of the party, no doubt. But this co-optation is certainly not complete, as the Tea Party candidates have shown that they do have their own agenda that is not always under the control of the rest of the party. If the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street could somehow see beyond their differences and develop the broad common ground they share, the resulting movement would, I believe, be beyond the power of either political party to co-opt.

Now a new phase of this movement is beginning – a call for “debt jubilee,” where student loans will simply be wiped off the books. How will this happen and what will it do? Click here for article on Debt Jubilee. The movement will dramatically affect everything in the U.S., from schooling to Social Security and beyond. And there will be consequences.

 

The Most Dangerous Myth for Consumers in Debt

The Most Dangerous Myth for Consumers in Debt

For a free copy of this article in PDF format, click here: the Most Dangerous Myth

Consumers who owe money – debtors – often believe a lot of myths that are bad for them. Debtors can be desperate and will look for what seems the easiest, fastest way out of trouble. That makes sense – if you’re being sued you do need immediate action. But you must be on guard for myths that will hurt you by luring you into the wrong action, or no action.

And the worst myth being played to people being sued is the idea that somehow someone else will take care of them. It shows up in many ways and is always bad news. It isn’t necessarily your fault if you have believed this destructive myth – there are a lot of people peddling it. But your chances to beat the debt collectors and protect your money depend on your taking charge.

The Myth – where does it show up and how does it do so much damage?

Let’s look at some of the biggest examples of the myth that someone ELSE will take care of you.

People Think the Debt Collectors will Try to be Fair

Everybody KNOWS this: Debt collectors make very little effort to be fair once a lawsuit is filed – and they don’t try much before that, either.

Once you’re in a debt collector’s sights, the only thing they really care about is getting your money.  At the “harassment stage,” the debt collectors are paid depending on how much they can get you to pay, and not many people think they trust them to tell the truth. And yet so many people tell me they have offered information or money to the debt collectors or asked them to give them a break in some way. They SAY they don’t trust them, but then they depend on them to make a fair or helpful offer. And when they’re talking to them about “how much they owe,” they believe the debt collector instead of demanding proof.

You’ve learned to tell the truth, so you trust and believe the debt collector on the phone will tell you the truth. And you do that even while you, yourself, might feel free to lie to them at any given point.

The debt collectors know all that, and you can’t trust a word they say. You must take care of yourself, and with debt collectors, that means checking every fact they claim and making them write down every promise they make. Anything short of those things is trusting someone you don’t know, who doesn’t care about you, and has strong financial incentive to rip you off, to do the right thing. That’s naïve and foolish – and it happens all the time.

People Think the Lawyers Will be Fair

I know, you’ve probably heard the joke: “How do you know if a lawyer is lying?” – “His lips are moving.” It’s fashionable to say bad things about lawyers, and everybody knows, in the abstract, not to trust them. But there are two major forces going against you in a debt case. First, lawyers are not all untrustworthy, and most of them don’t sound like they are. They make their living by getting people to believe and trust them, after all. The second reason is more insidious: it is power. Lawyers in debt cases have the power to make your life very difficult. They can embarrass you, put you to enormous stress and expense, and they often treat you like dirt. In addition to that, they represent large, rich companies, while you are a financially stressed individual.

Faced with such a difficult situation, it’s easy to hope for the best. And if you can hope it, you can believe it, right?

Legal Ethics

The lawyers are supposed to be careful, at least, before filing suit. They have an ethical obligation not to bring meritless suits.

Do you believe they make that effort when suing debtors?  Probably not – and you would be right. The courts wink at the collection process, allowing lawyers to “rely” on the statements of the creditors that you owe the money. In the case of debt buyers, ironically, the very agreements by which they buy debt say that the records cannot be trusted and are not guaranteed. But the lawyers forge ahead usually without the slightest idea of what’s in the case, let alone whether it’s right or not.

And the courts let them.

On a more fundamental level, a lawyer’s main and almost exclusive duty is to the advantage of his or her client. It isn’t ethical for a lawyer to “cut you a break” at the expense of his or her client. They won’t ever do it.

And yet debtors share information and throw themselves on the mercy of these sharks by the thousands per DAY. That’s trusting the myth.

Trusting the Courts

Most people trust the courts. They know that a lot of judges are bozos in black gowns, and they know that most judges come from the plaintiff’s side of the law. They know the legal system is skewed in favor of the rich even as the laws are skewed in favor of the rich. They know, theoretically, that trusting judges to take care of them is a big mistake.

And yet you would not believe how many people tell me the judge should have seen through something or not allowed the debt collector to do something – often without even having asked the judge for what they wanted.

Know this: it is not the courts’s job to take care of you. They give only the briefest look, if any at all, at the outcomes of debt cases – they don’t have time, they don’t care, and they aren’t even supposed to care. The legal system is designed as an “adversary” system. That is, it is a fight, and in any fight people could use various strategies. The court will let you use almost any strategy you choose, and if that causes you to lose it isn’t their fault or concern.

The courts will not require the debt collectors to put on admissible evidence. If they did, most debt collectors would never win their cases. Instead, it is up to you to object to evidence you don’t like and make the court keep it out. If you don’t do that, the court lets it in.

And yet people expect the court to try to make the outcome of cases fair. They do not. Believing they will is believing the myth that someone else will take care of you.

In daily life, people do look out for each other quite a bit. In legal life, NEVER.

You wouldn’t believe how many people do not even show up in court “because they don’t owe the money.” They somehow trust someone to see that and care, but this is just foolish.

The Myth, outside of Court

People in debt frequently look to other people for help in the belief that those people will, in fact, help them. On the internet, there are people earnestly telling you that no one owes anybody anything (the “Accept for Value” idea), yet they’d be outraged if you didn’t pay them – just as you would be outraged if you went to work and your boss told you that. To believe the A4V theory is to believe that someone is taking care of you. More than that, to believe the people hawking that, or any other program, is also to believe the myth.

Even Me

Everything I’m saying here applies to me, too.  You might be surprised how often I get emails or messages asking me what they should do and presenting pages of facts or laws. They want me to take care of them – they are trusting me to take care of them.

Representing yourself pro se means developing your OWN judgment. It requires carefully weighing facts and motivations and coming to your own conclusions. It means figuring out the facts and how to get them.

It takes work, and it takes time.

When debt collectors sue you for debt, you have a very good chance to win. But it is up to you to make that happen. Our materials and memberships exist to help you know what you need to do and to help you do it. We want to teach you how to defend yourself. Once you learn that, it changes your whole view of the world. It frees you from the myth that someone else will do it for you and lets you soar on your own wings.

Your Legal Leg Up

Your Legal Leg Up is dedicated to helping people defend themselves from debt lawsuits without having to hire a lawyer. Lawsuits have a number of points where specific action is called or, and we have products to help you deal with most of these situations. We also have memberships that give you access to more materials and better training, and also provide a regular opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real-time. You can use this time to find out what the debt collectors are trying to do and what you might do in response, and you can get guidance on the issues that matter and how to think about and address them.

In addition to that, our website is a resource for all. Many of the articles and materials are reserved for members, but many others are available to everyone. Every page has a site search button in both the header and footer. Put in a key word – a word you think relates to what you’re looking for – and enter. You will get a page of results.

Products Related to this Article

Because this is a general article, there are not any products specifically related to this post. I do suggest asserting your rights early and often, and you might find our Take Control of your Life product helpful in that. I also suggest great care in researching and analyzing facts and law. You might find our Guide to Legal Research and Analysis product helpful for that.

Beyond that, if you are facing significant debt problems, I’d suggest our memberships.

Memberships

Members get discounts on all products as well as unlimited opportunities to join our regularly scheduled teleconferences. This gives invaluable real-time assistance, answers to questions, help with strategies, and encouragement. You also get the Litigation Manual and the Three Weaknesses Report for free with membership. Find out about memberships by clicking the “About Memberships” link in the menu at the top of the page.

Sign Up for Free Information

You can sign up to receive information from us by clicking on this link and following the instructions: https://yourlegallegup.com/blog/sign-up-for-free-information/

What you’ll receive if you sign up is a series of several videos and articles spread out over several days, and then you will occasionally hear from us as we add information to the site. We don’t always announce that information, though.

What you will not receive is any marketing from other people – or much from us, either. Our goal is to make the site more useful to members and visitors, not to swamp anyone with sales materials. The information we send will have links to information or products that we think may be helpful.

 

 

Ending the Debt Nightmare Pt 3

This was originally part of a promotional series. In that series we discuss the way people often run into debt trouble. It starts with some difficulty – often medical bills or a lost job (or both, obviously). Then is spirals out of control because the bills don’t stop coming even if you’re having trouble paying them.

The banks are often only too willing to lend to people having trouble paying debts. In fact, they target people like that because one of their main sources of income is the exorbitant fees they charge for anything that goes wrong.

And then the debt collectors get involved…

Ending the Debt Nightmare Part 3

Barbarians at the Gates

Are “Strategic Defaulters” Barbarians at the Gates of Rome?

Are people who are “strategically” defaulting on their home mortgages akin to barbarians looting Rome? Does the fact that more people are defaulting result in a weakening of the rule of law in our society? Justice Litle writes convincingly that the rise of strategic defaults means our country is on the road to ruin. But I would argue that it is not the strategic defaulters who are greasing our descent into hell. They’re just minor bit players in an overall drama.

This Happened because of Accounting Regulations

The changes to the accounting regulations governing how banks and other financial institutions report the value of their speculative holdings have done the real damage to our economy. Strategic defaults are merely an inevitable consequence of that change. Specifically, before March of 2009, banks were required to mark their investments to market. “Marking to market” means that a company holding assets must periodically reassign values to its assets for book-keeping purposes.

An example of that would be a stock market account. Every night-and actually at all times during the day-you can look at your stock market account and get an up to the minute idea of the value of the stocks you hold. That is easy for stocks, which are priced by the market on a continual basis, but much harder for more complicated assets. Marking to the market means that the company must attempt to determine the current market value of its assets at certain intervals. And in the case of the banks, the values of these assets can determine whether the bank is insolvent or running afoul of reserve requirements.

When mortgage backed securities (mbses) became “troubled” banks and investment firms were being forced to show large losses of capital, losses which in fact revealed that years of wild speculation had left the banks in a precarious position. Rather than allow the market to sort things out and deep-six some of the largest banks in existence, several bail-outs were instituted.

The most important of the bail-outs was perhaps least publicized: the dropping of the mark to market requirement. Under the new FASB regulations, banks are permitted to assign “historical” values to their investments. If they paid a dollar for mbses, they could carry the mbses as assets worth a dollar even though they had become worthless. This equally applies to home mortgages themselves. Many people call this “mark to make-believe.” Notice that the banks balance sheets then lost any relationship to reality, and any investor relying on the supposed strength of the underlying business was defrauded.

With a stroke of that pen, the banks became “solvent” again, the banking crisis was over, and the 2009 “bull market” began. Well. It sounded good, anyway. But the changes actually were an early abandonment of the “transparency” Obama claimed to want to restore to government and a wholesale adoption of fraudulent accounting within the very heart of our economy. The “bull market” that followed, and all the claims of “economic recovery,” have rested on the deception permitted by that regulatory change. And the rosy condition of the largest banks is a deception. Despite the regulatory changes, banks have been shut down at historic rates this year, and many of them are holding mbses which they have valued for their book-keeping purposes as 100% or more in excess of their actual value.

Banks with their Hands Tied

Of critical importance to the strategic home mortgage defaulters, however, is the fact that the banks are maintaining mortgages at their “historic” rather than (much smaller) actual value. Foreclosing is a historical event that would force a revaluation of the assets under the regulations.

That means the banks cannot foreclose on mortgages without revealing their actual financial condition, and since their actual condition is insolvency, their hands are tied. Accordingly, the banks have adopted a policy of “extend and pretend.” They are extending the loans and pretending they were not in default. But this has left observant, savvy people free to stop paying their mortgages but still remain in their houses, and naturally more of them are doing so as they see others doing it.

Bothered by Debt Collectors

Debt – both a personal problem and a social issue

We know that if you are facing any kind of debt problems – and most definitely if you are being sued or threatened with suit – you have a situation facing you, personally, that is extremely important. We take that very seriously, and most of our efforts are designed to help you solve the problem on a personal basis. If you’re being sued, for example, that means we want you to win – and then to repair your credit report so that it doesn’t hurt you anymore.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors or have a negative credit report already, we want to help you fix those things at the personal level. Thus we are strong and committed advocates for you. We’re on your side all the way.

There’s also a social justice issue here which is worth keeping in mind. You will not always find the courts sympathetic to you or willing to listen – or to do their job at all, frankly. We believe that this reflects a larger issue where the powers that be seem to think it is perfectly fine to rob from the poor and give to the rich. In this area, we think that the more people who represent themselves in cases like this, and the stronger and better you are at standing up for yourself… the better everybody else will be. And the more who do it, the better for everyone. So we are also strong social advocates.

In other words, sometimes the courts may seem unwilling to listen to you or actually hostile. If you persist, though, you will still have an excellent chance to win.

Stand up for yourself in every way. Don’t let the debt collectors rip you off – which they will certainly do if you give them the chance. Fight back! Even if you used the credit card or borrowed the money, you have to defend yourself to make sure they don’t get any more than they should and don’t do any more harm than they’re entitled to. And in reality, you have a really great chance to win. Completely.

The law is an adversary system, and the up-side to the fact that if you don’t take care of yourself the debt collectors will rip you off is that if you do take care of yourself you will probably be in better shape than you can even imagine possible right now.

Vehicle Repossession and Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Vehicle repossession is not “debt law” in the sense we mean it at our site.

If you’ve read many of our materials, you know that we consider debt law as good as it gets for self-representation. That is because debt buyers buy vast quantities of debt and essentially take a “factory” approach to bill collecting and lawsuits. You can expect pretty much every case brought by a debt buyer to follow a similar approach – the petitions are almost always virtually identical, and the whole process is usually shoddy. Typically, the debt collectors don’t have what they would need to win a contested fight – and they don’t want to get what they would need to win because they are designed to catch the 80 – 90% of the people who do not fight.

And debt cases are “document-intensive,” meaning that the debt collector’s whole case will usually depend on getting some documents into evidence.  There is very little testimony and no expert witnesses. So that means a pro se litigant can focus on a few simple evidentiary questions and not worry too much about arranging testimony or other trial tactics.

But our materials do not apply to vehicle repossessions and the surrounding issues. Those cases present a different set of issues and opportunities.

What is a “Vehicle Repossession?”

When you buy a car on credit, you will typically sign a contract agreeing to pay a certain amount per month (plus a variety of other terms, obviously). And these contracts and their terms are, in general, a terrible, terrible deal for the customer. One of these terms is a lien and right to repossession, and there is a whole body of somewhat specialized law on all of the repossession process.

If you fail to make payments, the company may have installed tracking and disabling devices in the car – so the car may stop working. And then the repo guys come and get the car. And then the REAL scam begins.

When dealers repossess a vehicle, they are not “collecting a debt.” They are, in legalistic terms, exercising their liens and cutting off your right to a security. It looks like a collection, and it is one, but the law of most jurisdictions does not see it that way.

Still, the idea is for them to get their money back, and what they plan to do is sell the vehicle at an auction.Early in the process, then – before they get your car – you can talk to them and negotiate terms more effectively than later.

Once they get your car, they will want to sell it. If they do this in a “commercially reasonable” way, you will be on the hook for whatever amount of your car note remains. And inevitably, this is a shocking amount. For various reasons (some good and some bad) the courts are extremely lenient as to what constitutes “commercially reasonable.”

But the fact is that the dealers get almost nothing for the cars they repo. They sell them to each other, at auction, so this is one of the all-time scams – and the courts wink at it. In any event, repossession law focuses extensively on this question of “commercially reasonable” and on certain notice provisions. State laws in this area are complex for most people, and the court decisions are not easy to understand.

And the car dealerships have stacked the deck in most cases. Their lawyers specialize in this law, know the facts of the cases they bring (much more than debt collectors, anyway), and will almost always have the contract you signed. They’ll have people who can swear to them, too, because most car dealerships are built around the repossession process.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance to win. It just means that this isn’t the best kind of law to go pro se. Fortunately, if you are broke, most of the legal service organizations that help people without money are good at this. It’s a problem a lot of people with money problems have. We suggest you find one of these places – many law schools have clinics that do this, too – and see if you can get help.

If you can’t do that, it still makes sense to fight, and on a simple dollar basis, joining us to help you do that will probably be worth your money. Your chances of winning aren’t great, but they do use a factory approach, and some of our tools will apply to that. And by fighting you can reduce some of the damage they will do to you.

Repossession and Suit to Collect the Difference Happen Fast

Unfortunately, vehicle repossession cases can happen very quickly. Our advice is to make every effort to find help. Filing an answer by yourself could very well hurt your case. If you must do it by yourself, our membership can give you SOME help – and in that case you simply must join and talk to us before answering the suit. Trying to represent yourself without any help is just not a good idea.

Our Case Evaluation Service

One of the services we provide to members and non-members alike is a “case evaluation.” It’s a great deal for people being sued by debt collectors who would like some guidance about their case. We do not recommend this service for people facing vehicle repossession, though. If you send us one, we will have to spend the time to figure things out (so we will keep your money for the time we must spend) – and then we’ll almost certainly give you pretty much what we say here. Save your money and your time and look for a lawyer who can handle this case for you.

Copy of the FDCPA

If you have any kind of debt problems or just want to understand the laws that apply to debt collection, you should start with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

For most purposes, who the FDCPA covers and what it requires and allows are easily found just by googling the act. But sometimes you need the actual statute. And here it is free to download fdcpatext.

How Debt Troubles Start

Life History of a Debt

This continues the series of videos for people being harassed or sued for debt, and in this video we’ll look at the way debts evolve – from bills you can pay without problem, to bills you do have problems paying (or don’t want to pay), through the “charge-off” and sale of the debt to the debt collector.

Tomorrow we’ll lok at the “moral” duty to pay debts, and then we’ll move on to possible solutions to debt troubles.

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Talking with Debt Collectors

If you have debt troubles at all, you’re probably going to be getting calls from debt collectors. Should you answer them and speak to the debt collectors? If so, what should you say? Usually you should not say anything at all, but if you have something you need to say, say it and then hang up.

Most of the Time, Silence Is Golden

Most of the time you should not be talking to debt collectors unless you have a specific, well-defined reason to do so. Otherwise, you can end up making their life a lot easier – and yours a lot harder.

There is almost no reason to talk to a debt collector. If you HAVE all the money they want, and you want to pay it, then it would make sense to negotiate. If you think you have enough to make a deal, you might also negotiate, but you should remember not to admit anything. YOU CAN ALWAYS NEGOTIATE A SETTLEMENT WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT YOU OWE THE MONEY.  People ask me that all the time – and yet everybody knows that companies settle lawsuits all the time without admitting they did anything wrong. You can do it because the assertion of a claim, or the threat (or existence) of a lawsuit is a threat. You settle to make that threat go away.

If you don’t have enough money to make a deal for at least 70% of the debt, it’s usually a bad idea to attempt to negotiate beyond a very preliminary stage. The person you’re talking to doesn’t have authority to make such a deal. So you can say you might pay 10% of the debt, but it would make no sense in attempting to negotiate beyond that. You will need to talk to someone higher in authority. You could ask to speak to that person.

Beyond that, anything you say will likely just be wasting your energy and time and may lead to other trouble. Remember that your dispute, in order to force verification, needs to be in writing, so you can tell the debt collector you dispute the debt but don’t forget the dispute letter.

Should you Pay a Debt Collector?

Should You Ever Give a Debt Collector Money? And What If You Have?

Should you ever give a debt collector money? You could be asking for big trouble if you do.

Giving the debt collectors money can have many bad legal results. It can revive a debt, starting the statute of limitations all over again. And the debt collectors will argue that you admitted the debt if you make a payment. So should you ever make a payment? Rarely. And you should make a part-payment even far less often than that.

Instead, you could make a payment if you have a written agreement AND HAVE IN YOUR POSSESSION at that very moment all the money you agree to pay. If it’s an old debt, agreeing to terms to pay over time is a recipe for disaster.