On Wednesday, August 29, just beyond a row of glossy black SUVs parked outside the Four Seasons hotel, a small but lively collection of demonstrators from the Jamaica Plain–based activist group City Life held a protest rally, demanding that financial powerhouse Deutsche Bank reverse its stance on mortgage foreclosures. According to a flier handed out by the group, the German bank is one of the largest owners of foreclosed property in Boston.
That was outside. Inside, Deutsche Bank executives and their guests were rubbing elbows with some of the world’s finest golfers. One has to wonder if the angry cries from the sidewalk could be heard above the chatter at the kickoff dinner for the annual Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament, held this past Labor Day weekend at the TPC Boston course in Norton.
This was City Life’s second attempt to put a human face on the ordeal of home foreclosures, and it may have paid off. The first, which took place August 6 outside Deutsche Bank’s Beacon Street offices, featured a group of demonstrators — including Boston City Councilors Chuck Turner, Charles Yancey, Felix Arroyo, and Sam Yoon — calling for the bank to stop all “no-fault” evictions (i.e., evicting “faultless” tenants when a building’s landlord defaults on mortgage payments) and to agree to negotiate with City Life representatives.
But Deutsche Bank contends it doesn’t have the authority to stop such evictions because it serves only as those mortgages’ trustee — an administrative role that involves keeping records and warehousing documents. According to the bank, it’s the “servicers” — the institutions responsible for collecting payments and otherwise managing mortgages — that have direct control over foreclosures.
Regardless, according to Deutsche Bank flack John Gallagher, the bank has been eager to sit down with City Life. Gallagher says that, on August 21, the bank agreed to draft a letter to the servicing companies urging them to look for other options and to consider whether evictions are in the best interest of the community and property values.
In a statement released this past Thursday, Deutsche Bank announced that it is “pleased to have reached an agreement with City Life regarding this issue. While DB National Trust Company is not involved in the foreclosure process and has no control over foreclosure proceedings, we are happy to work with the City of Boston and community groups to assist in maintaining healthy, vibrant communities and strong real estate markets.”
“Since we heard that [City Life] is happy with the final draft of the letter,” says Gallagher, “we’ve gone ahead and sent it out to servicers already.”
City Life is pleased with Deutsche Bank’s overture, but tenant organizer Cheryl Lawrence warns that if the no-fault ousters continue, the group’s supporters will stage “eviction blockades,” physically interfering with individual evictions.