Class Warfare in America

There’s a myth in America that people can move up in life more here than anywhere else. It is also widely believed that because of this social mobility there isn’t a conflict between the classes.

In recent times, those myths are coming a little bit under fire. Partly we can thank the Democratic Socialists for this – AOC has done a lot to highlight the vast differences in income between the poor and the rich, and she, and other politicians, are beginning to suggest various things that might be done to address those differences. This, of course, has alarmed the right wing and the wealthy, and they are talking a lot about class warfare, too, but the only thing they’re worried about, of course, is the possibility that they will be targeted for special taxation.

We take a different view and sometimes discuss what we believe are the true causes of the wealth inequality in America and what should be done about it. Our point in the video below, however, is just that there has been a class war going on for a long time – and it’s being waged by the rich against the poor.

And the poor are losing big time.

Two of the “trenches” of the current class war are in debt litigation and foreclosure law. Over the past few years, foreclosure has been a little less frequent, but we believe it will soon accelerate. Debt litigation has not slowed down as far as we can tell. The supposed boom in employment has not led to higher wages in real terms or in greater opportunities for the working classes – they’re falling further behind.

Class Warfare in America

The Banks have you in their sights – Fight Back!

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Econ 101 or What Happens when the Bills Come Due

I believe it is a fundamental, unchanging law: there are no free lunches in life or nature. What gets bought must be paid for, eventually, by someone.Members at Your Legal Leg Up know very well that that law applies to daily personal purchasing decisions, and many have paid very steep prices indeed. But it also applies at the national and international level, and politicians who have long ignored the fact are soon going to be reminded of it.

As one economist puts it, in order for one person to get something for nothing, someone else must get nothing for something. So what happens to our current government debt of 21 trillion dollars (more or less, and growing rapidly) in a world of debt jubilee? Eventually it must be paid, right?

This is part of a series of articles on Occupy Wall Street, Debt Jubilee, and our future. Click on the links for the previous articles, but this article should stand on its own, also.

Debts Used to be Paid in Gold

Up until the 1930s, debts all the world round were settled, ultimately, in gold. A “dollar” was a fixed amount of gold, and for over a hundred years there had been essentially NO inflation. There had been occasional “runs” on banks that got overextended, and banks (and people with savings in them) got wiped out from time to time, and there had been occasional booms and busts. The Federal Reserve was put in to deal with those problems, and so it did. Thirteen years after its founding in 1914 the Great Depression began, and we’ve been on a boom and bust cycle ever since then.

But I digress.

Private Debts were Paid in Gold until the 1930s

The point is that Gold was first removed from actual circulation within the United State by Franklin Roosevelt and made illegal for persons to own. At the same time, the dollar was devalued (against gold on an international basis) by about thirty percent. International debts were still settled in gold until 1971.

So what does “settled in gold” even mean? When a businessperson in the U.S. buys a Japanese widget, he pays either dollars or yen. That is, either he sells dollars to buy yen, or the Japanese business ultimately does so. In any event, some dollars are transferred to Japan. Of course this happens in a gazillion ways and times throughout any given year, but in the final analysis one side is holding more of the other side’s currency. Mostly, that is allowed to persist, but at some point the side holding more of the other side’s currency may want to settle up in something else. Until 1971 foreigners could trade dollars for gold.

Dollar Window is Closed

Then there was the Vietnam war along with various U.S. policies that cost more than the government was taking in. That caused the dollar’s actual value to go down, but the official dollar value in gold stayed the same. That meant that gold was too “cheap,” and the French (in particular) decided to trade large amounts of dollars for gold. In 1971, the U.S. dollar was cut free of any specific relationship to gold and the government stopped giving foreigners gold for dollars.

At that point, the U.S. deficit was a few billion dollars and causing a lot of anxiety. Since then it has grown to 21 trillion (and adding, at current rates, another trillion or more per year) and causing very little anxiety. People on Social Security are hoping to get paid, and yet there are fewer and fewer workers to support them, so they are being paid out of taxes (or, realistically, government debt). The deficit is going to grow, inevitably.

Still No Free Lunches

What happens when the law against free lunches kicks in, finally? What happens when those trillions have to be paid? And what happens if, along the way, a lot of student loan and other debts are also wiped out by legislative act?

Right now, the dollar’s value is established by the free market (which isn’t to say it isn’t extremely manipulated). It’s worth what people all over the world say it’s worth without reference to any fixed point (gold, historically). When the law against free lunches kicks in, people will decide they would rather have things than dollars. They’ll say the dollar is worth less as they try to recuperate some of the resources they’ve been sending over in exchange for U.S. debt, in other words. This process has happened many times to various other countries. It is happening right now to Venezuela, whose inflation rate was, unofficially, approximately 1 million percent in 2018. It’s happening in Turkey right now. It happened in Germany, where one U.S. dollar was ultimately worth 4 trillion German marks in 1921.

Current Deficit is 21 Trillion Dollars and Growing

You can buy a lot of stuff for $21,000,000,000,000.00. If people try to buy stuff with that much money it’s going to cause prices to zoom higher. Many factors have held that result in check for the time being, but it will not last. If history is any guide, the change will be sudden and happen with incredible, bewildering speed. When adding straws to camel backs, one never knows which one will be the one that is too much. All that is certain is that currently over a trillion straws are being added every year. I think the one too much will happen within the next decade or two.

The havoc caused by currency destruction is almost unbelievable. Historically, it has meant the destruction of the middle class and all economic security. It has devastated the poor and led to widespread starvation and disease, and it has led to oppressive government and foreign wars. Without going into further details, I hope that the millennials will try to prevent it from happening. That’s going to mean some very tough choices.

As an aside to the reader, although I think the value of the dollar may, at the point foreseen, be among the least of your problems, it would probably be smart to try to keep it from being a problem at all. You should consider buying things of actual value no with whatever money you can afford. Talking about gold, silver, land, food… I’m not saying hoard cans of food like a survivalist. I’m saying it makes sense to recognize what seems to be coming our way and take rational steps to prepare where possible. There seems to be no telling when things will hit the fan, but that they will hit the fan is guaranteed by the law against free lunches.

Is There a Moral Duty to Pay Debt Collectors

Debt and Moral Duty

Debt collectors and bankers, and their minions, like to talk about the “moral” duty to pay your debts. Is there one? And if so, does it extend to paying bankers and debt collectors? You’ll have to decide for yourself, of course, but I don’t think it’s the clear issue the debt collectors want you to think it is. Regarding paying a debt owned by a debt collector, I think there is no moral duty at all.

 

Debts and Morality

First let’s consider the broader question: is there a moral duty to pay your debts? Creditors like to say so, of course, but are they really impartial? Of course not. Their invoking a moral duty is highly self-serving.

Commercial Loans and Interest Rates

First let’s look at what a loan is, as it has come to be meant in modern times with credit cards. Credit cards in essence involve a loan – at an extremely high rate of interest: the issuing bank “lends” you the money to pay a merchant for some service. Interest payments on loans are supposed to cover two things: risk of nonpayment and the loss of the present use of the money. In other words, interest payments are designed to cover the fact that you’re giving the money back later (called “discounting” for time) and the risk that you won’t pay it back at all.

The way you discount for time is easy. You look at the inflation rate, taking a guess as to whether it will continue or not. The present inflation rate is somewhere between one and four percent, and the banks are, in any event, borrowing the money from the Federal Reserve for much less than one percent. That means that almost the entire interest rate either provides the banks an obscene rate of profit or pays for a risk of loss of approximately 30%. It also means that loans are business propositions which contemplate a very significant risk of loss (much higher than the actual loss would justify) – a risk that is paid for by the borrower on every loan that is repaid.

Any loss on a loan is more than adequately repaid by this premium on other loans to people with the same credit standing. I don’t see a moral duty to repay there, do you?

Non-Commercial Loans are Different

Notice that I am not addressing loans made for personal friendship, for example, where the risk is not compensated and offset by the interest rate. I see these as completely different and believe there is a moral duty to pay back someone who actually takes a risk on your integrity. But that is certainly not credit cards or other arrangements where you pay an interest rate higher than the rate of inflation.

Does the Law Imply a Moral Duty to Repay?

Is there a “moral” duty to repay a loan implied in the law? Really, not very much.

There are things that are considered legally “bad,” and these things are called “torts.” Assault, theft, and a variety of other things are torts, and the main thing they have in common (besides many of them actually being criminal offenses as well as “civil” torts) is that if you prove them, you are entitled to “punitive” damages or some sort of statutory “penalty.” That is, if someone commits a tort against you, the law lets you actually try to punish them (which is the point of punitive damages or statutory penalties).

For plain breach of contract cases (like not paying a bill), there are no punitive damages or penalties – only the money actually lost. In formulating this policy over the centuries, the courts have actually pointed to the beneficial effects of allowing breaches of contract. Not punishing breach of contract encourages people to act in more efficient ways, although to be fair avoiding payment may not be completely within this concept. There are some indications that the law recognizes a moral obligation to pay, although it has very little actual legal force.

Usury – Is THAT Immoral?

In ancient days throughout the Christian world, and even now in some Islamic law, charging interest on any loan was considered immoral. Most states – even now – have laws against “usury,” which is charging more than a certain amount of interest. It might interest you to know that the prevailing interest rates charged by credit card companies would violate those laws in most states. Ever wonder why credit cards always have their financial centers in just a few states? It is the way that they evade the usury laws. Because while states can control the interest rates local concerns charge, the courts have held that credit cards are “interstate commerce” and cannot be controled by the individual states. Only the laws of the state in which the credit card issuer is located can set that rate. Thus the interest rates charged by most credit cards, most of the time, could be considered immoral or illegal from some points of view.

That doesn’t seem to bother the banks or debt collectors one bit.

How about Business Bankruptcies?

What about when large businesses go “bankrupt?” For them it mostly means that they get to trash their commitments to workers and their pensions. Ever hear anybody howl about “moral” duties? No. The talking heads all line up to discuss how tough business is, or whatever, but there is never any real moral pressure brought to bear on these companies. Of course that would be pointless: it’s just business, right?

And of course in this day of bailouts, the banks don’t even have to go through the farce of bankruptcy. They get their money basically free from the federal reserve and use it to speculate or lend it to individuals at rates as high as 30% or more – and when that isn’t good enough to fund their bonuses, they get huge amounts of money in other ways from the government. You know who pays for that, right?

Is There a Moral Duty to Pay Debt Collectors?

As I have pointed out elsewhere, you might consider that you have a moral obligation to pay a business that extends you credit, although I do not believe that is a powerful obligation. What about to debt collectors? In their case, I do not believe there is any duty at all. Where does the duty towards a merchant that extends you credit arise? surely it is from the faith in you that the action of lending you money implies. The merchant extends credit to you as part of an overall relationship which in some cases is quite personal, but in every case is based on a mutual expectation that you will pay the money back. None of that is going on when debt collectors own the debt.

By the time the debt collector owns the debt, the original creditor has lost all the money it is going to lose – and you can believe that the debt collector bargained hard against it to pay as little as possible for it. If you pay the debt collector you do not improve the merchant’s situation at all – you simply give the debt collector a windfall profit. And the debt collector purchased the debt knowing you were struggling financially – their intention was never to help you at all or do you any good at all. Instead, a debt collector exists to squeeze, punish and ultimately sue you in an attempt to force you to pay. I see no moral duty to pay at all, although I emphasize that there is still a legal duty if they can prove it in court. My point is that nothing should hold you back from giving it your best not to pay.

Conclusion

I won’t say that morality is for suckers (although the bankers would), but what I do say is pay attention to your own needs and interests – and look carefully at anybody who criticizes you for taking care of yourself. The moral talk by debt collectors and their servants is simply a gimmick to get  you to pay.

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.

 

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.

Blaming Banks for the Problems they Caused

Has it occurred to you that all or most of your problems were caused by the very bank that is now suing you or that the debt collector purchased the debt from and is now suing you for? Some people argue that you could use that as a defense against their claims against you.

It will not.

Blaming the banks is a kind of “unclean hands” argument, and as far as I’m concerned, it is absolutely justified in a moral sense. The courts won’t see it that way, though.

Proximate Cause

The problem with arguing that “the banks” caused your problems is “proximate cause.” Proximate cause means the “specific problem” must be linked to specific actions by a specific entity. Viewed in that light, how can you argue that, say, Capital One, by extending credit cards and maintaining their policies, has really “caused” anything to happen in society? Many people may believe that the banks, collectively, caused big problems that resulted in raising taxes and sucking resources away from regular people, but how can you assign a specific role in that to Capital One?

Likewise, how do you prove that Capital One caused you problems that you could not have, and should not have, overcome? If we were truly in a capitalistic society the argument simply could not be made: the fact that you did not overcome the problem would be proof that you should not have done so. But we live in an age of bailouts and government interference, of course.

Tell that to the judge, a life-time public employee wielding far-reaching government power every day of his or her professional life.

And then the final zinger: how do you prove what specific action by your specific bank caused some specific injury to you?

Cigarette Litigation

This whole complex of proximate cause issues prevented anyone from winning cigarette litigation for decades. What finally allowed people to get through and win some of the cases was very strong evidence of conspiracy to hide specific facts that the companies knew and had a duty to disclose. There may be evidence of banking conspiracy – there is in some cases – but unlike a cigarette plaintiff who died of lung cancer, you will be hard pressed to show how your injury came from the banks’ action unless there are more specific grounds for applying the doctrine of unclean hands.

Cutting Edge Arguments and a Warning

As I say, I have my sympathies for the position that banks should not be permitted to profit from disasters they themselves caused. And many arguments that end up winning started out as sounding a little far-fetched. So you could consider it. On the other hand, the courts sometimes punish what they consider to be “frivolous” arguments and disputes. Arguments talking about banks and banking, like arguments claiming that our monetary system is completely corrupt live on the edge of “frivolousness” from the point of view of the courts. It would be possible that they could make you pay for taking that position.

 

FDCPA and Bankruptcy

There was an issue regarding whether the FDCPA would apply to bankruptcy proceedings. In particular, this was fueled by the fact that the debt buyers are flooding the bankruptcy proceedings with debts beyond the statute of limitations. They are uncollectible (if objected to) in bankruptcy, but is making such a frivolous claim a violation of the FDCPA?

I thought so and argued so in various materials. The Supreme Court found otherwise, signaling the current court’s hostility to real people and tendency to bootlick the powerful.

Debt Collection is a Social Justice Issue

When banks screw up, they get bail-outs and promotions. When you do, you get subjected to an elaborate rip-off system and called bad names by strangers. Stand up for your rights.


Anybody who has ever been to a court that handles debt cases has been impressed by what a travesty of justice the scene presents. People are herded in in large groups, and then there’s a cattle call. It goes like this:

Judge: “John Smith? … John Smith?”

Lawyer for debt collector: “Ask for default.”

Judge: “Granted. Joe Blow? Joe Blow?”

Lawyer for debt collector: “Ask for default.”

Judge: “Granted. Susie Q? Susie Q?”

etc.

And this goes on for possibly an hour. A few people will stand up and respond to the judge, and these are directed to “discuss matters” with the debt collection lawyer. These almost always end up as “give-up” settlements or judgments.

When the one in a hundred persons does appear and actually fight, the court is so startled, and yet so used to the giving up, that chances are good the person will have to work five times as hard to get a fair shake as you would in any other kind of case.

A glimpse at the people will tell you why: these are the working poor – or just the poor – being cycled through the system.

Class War and Debt Law

Class War – How it Applies to Debt Law

There is a class war going on, but is an “undeclared war,” where the wealthy and politically connected are being allowed to do anything they want andtake anything they want, and the poor and working classes are left to foot the bill. We at YourLegalLegUp believe that Debt Collection is a Social Justice Issue, both in who is targeted, and the methods used. If you are being targeted, you can and should defend yourself. Use our materials to start protecting what’s yours.

 

As we often say, around 90 percent of people being sued for debt do not defend themselves. Consider what that means: it means that it’s really more expensive for a debt collector to find out whether it has a good case against you – much less to build it and beat you in court if you fight  – than just to bring cases and dismiss them if things get tough. And that’s exactly what most debt collectors do. Therefore, rather than look for words to scare the debt collector away, it makes sense to build a tough defense that makes them work hard to try to beat you. That’s what the our materials help you do. No magic words or secret loopholes, just intelligent defense which makes the debt collectors think they’ll lose money by chasing you and gives you a chance to win even if they do.

You may know that the value of time worked has gone down quite a bit in the past forty years, while the value of things – stocks, bonds, collectibles, etc., has gone up. As has the cost of living. What that means in plain English is that the rich have gotten richer, and the poor have gotten poorer. This is not some sort of weird accident or fluke of nature. Rather, it is the result of deliberate policies by the government and banks.

Don’t let them rip you off in court.

 

Blaming the Victims

Blaming the Victims – Defending Banks by Ridiculing Consumers

Debt collectors often ridicule consumers who got in over their heads, but the banks themselves have set up their business models to encourage debt and debt troubles. Don’t fall for debt collector false morality – fight back.

 

 

Blaming the Banks for the Problems they Caused

Has it occurred to you that all or most of your problems were caused by the very bank that is now suing you or that the debt collector purchased the debt from and is now suing you for? Would that work as a defense against their claims?

My feeling about saying the banks caused all the problems with their various practices -either by lending to you when you were a bad credit risk or by crashing the economy in general – is that it will not work. It’s a kind of “unclean hands” argument, but I believe the concept of “proximate cause” will prevent the argument from working. The people who argue that this argument will work in court have my sympathy, and everybody knows that I do believe the banks caused many of the difficulties people have in paying their bills. The argument has or may have some effect as a social-movement type force, but legally… very iffy. In my opinion it should not work – which is not to say that it never will, of course, so you must make your own judgment.

Proximate Cause

The problem with arguing that “the banks” caused your problems is “proximate cause.” Proximate cause means the “specific problem” must be linked to specific actions by a specific entity. Viewed in that light, how can you argue that, say, Capital One, by extending credit cards and maintaining their policies, has really “caused” anything to happen in society? Many people may believe that the banks, collectively, caused big problems that resulted in raising taxes and sucking resources away from regular people, but how can you assign a specific role in that to Capital One?

Likewise, how do you prove that Capital One caused you problems that you could not have, and should not have, overcome? If we were truly in a capitalistic society the argument simply could not be made: the fact that you did not overcome the problem would be proof that you should not have done so. But we live in an age of bailouts and government interference, of course.

Tell that to the judge, a life-time public employee wielding far-reaching government power every day of his or her professional life.

And then the final zinger: how do you prove what specific action by your specific bank caused some specific injury to you?

Cigarette Litigation

This whole complex of proximate cause issues prevented anyone from winning cigarette litigation for decades. What finally allowed people to get through and win some of the cases was very strong evidence of conspiracy to hide specific facts that the companies knew and had a duty to disclose. There may be evidence of banking conspiracy – there is in some cases – but unlike a cigarette plaintiff who died of lung cancer, you will be hard pressed to show how your injury came from the banks’ action unless there are more specific grounds for applying the doctrine of unclean hands.

Cutting Edge Arguments and a Warning

As I say, I have my sympathies for the position that banks should not be permitted to profit from disasters they themselves caused. And many arguments that end up winning started out as sounding a little far-fetched. So you could consider it. On the other hand, the courts sometimes punish what they consider to be “frivolous” arguments and disputes. Arguments talking about banks and banking, like arguments claiming that our monetary system is completely corrupt live on the edge of “frivolousness” from the point of view of the courts. It would be possible that they could make you pay for taking that position.

Practical Defense

If you are actually defending yourself from a debt collector or defending against a foreclosure, there are weapons available for you to use against the banks, but you will probably not win by arguing the broader social issues or “justice.” You will need to take the practical steps you can.