Saturday, January 19, 2013

A QUESTION FOR BOTH TAVIS SMILEY AND CORNEL WEST

Beneath the Spin*Eric L. Wattree

A QUESTION FOR BOTH TAVIS SMILEY AND CORNEL WEST
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Mr. Smiley, do you intend to return the Millions of dollars that you reportedly made from herding poor Black people and Hispanics into the Wells Fargo “Ghetto Loan” scam to the people who lost their money and homes? And Dr. West, in your learned opinion, what is the appropriate course of action for your friend and associate to take, in accordance with the "prophetic tradition," of course?
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A discrimination lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, and several articles, including one seeded on Newsvine entitle, “Tavis Smiley - "Ghetto Loan" Peddler for Wells Fargo,” closely associates PBS talk show host, Tavis Smiley, with the Wells Fargo Bank scam targeting poor and middle-class Black and Hispanic borrowers. The article quotes Kelvin Boston, host of "Moneywise, and Keith Corbett, of the Center for Responsible Lending, as calling Tavis Smiley “the big draw” of the Wells Fargo scam. Specifically, the article states the following:
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“Smiley was the keynote speaker, and the big draw, according to Boston [host of “Moneywise”] and Keith Corbett, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending, who attended two of the seminars. Smiley would charge up the audience — and rattle the Wells Fargo executives in attendance — by launching into a story about how he hated banks, and how they used to refuse to lend him money for his real estate projects in Compton, Calif., and elsewhere... But what appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth was actually just the opposite, according to a little-noticed explanation of the "Wealth Building" seminar strategy, contained in a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
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“Wells' plan for the seminars all along was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building, the suit charged. And the seminars were a part of the bank's overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.”
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Subsequent to the law suit, Richard Prince reported in The Washington Independent that Smiley issued a statement indicating that he would sever all ties with Wells Fargo until charges that the company steered minorities into higher-rate loans are resolved. The article went on to say,
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“Wells Fargo sponsored Smiley’s radio show on Public Radio International, and underwrote the annual C-Span-televised “State of the Black Union” conference that Smiley organizes. Smiley’s foundation also distributed Wells Fargo materials to young people at foundation events, he told Journal-isms.
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‘“I cut everything off with Wells Fargo,’ Smiley declared. He said the move cost ‘a lot of money’; he said he did not know how much.”
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On July 12, 2012 Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times that Wells Fargo Bank agreed to pay $175 million to settle the discrimination suit which, according to the Department of Justice, targeted over 30,000 Black and Hispanic borrowers for subprime loans with a higher interest rate than for similarly situated White borrowers between 2004 and 2009.
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What makes it particularly ironic that Tavis Smiley would be associated with this scheme to target poor and middle-class minorities is that Smiley is the primary promoter of what he calls “The Poverty Tour,” along with his friend and associate, former Princeton professor, Cornel West. During the tour, on their joint radio talk show, and on numerous media appearances, Smiley and West have gained a reputation for being President Obama’s harshest critics, indicating that the president is not sufficiently focused, and “accountable,” to the nation’s poor and minority community.
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In a statement by Wells Fargo put out after the bank agreed to a settlement of $175 Million, they said that while not admitting to any wrong doing, Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement of the law suit because the bank felt that it was the right thing to do.
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CNNMONEY quoted Mike Held, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, as saying, "Wells Fargo is settling this matter because we believe it is in the best interest of our team members, customers, communities and investors to avoid a long and costly legal fight, and to instead devote our resources to continuing to contribute to the country's housing recovery."
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The settlement includes Wells Fargo paying the Black and Hispanic victims of discrimination $125 million in compensation, and an additional $50 million in down-payment assistance to borrowers in the affected communities.
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So the question that remains is, if Wells Fargo Bank feels that paying compensating to the poor and middle-class victims of this scam is the right thing to do, shouldn’t Tavis Smiley, the most strident advocate of “accountability” and fervent crusader for the interest of the poor, feel obliged to do the same? Certainly, benefiting from the misery of the poor and minority community would run counter to Mr. Smiley's zeal for the need of the powerful to maintain accountability.
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We’d also like to put that question to Smiley’s friend and associate, Dr. Cornel West. What do you think your good friend and associate should do, Dr. West? What does the “prophetic tradition” dictate is the proper course of action?
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We’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.
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Eric L. Wattree
Http://wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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