Senka Huskic is mad, very mad and wants you to share that anger.
Every notable historical battle that's pitted the outraged against the outrageous actions of an oppressor has had its Senka. In France, during the revolution you had Marianne -- that symbol of reason and liberty -- immortalized in Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People." During the Spanish Civil War you had Federica Montseny, the Anarcho-Syndicalist, mobilizing supporters against the fascist assault of Franco and in this country you've had a long history of union maids like Norma Rae spearheading labor's cause.
So, what's Senka angry about? The foreclosure mess for one thing and the fact that almost everybody associated with this outrage has made out like a bandit, literally, except those who've been robbed of their homes. Even the much touted OCC consent agreements of April 2011 which forced a bunch of major bank servicers to hire auditors to examine the legitimacy of their 2009/2010 foreclosures has now bit the biscuit. The only ones walking away from this fiasco a lot richer are the auditing firms hired by their banking pals who've now been told their services are no longer needed, thank you very much, pick up your checks and deposit your conclusions (or lack thereof) in the nearest cross-cut paper shredder (a scenario now under Congressional scrutiny). To add insult to grievous injury the OCC, believe it or not, announced recently that it will allow the banks to investigate their own foreclosures.
So, what's an aggrieved homeowner to do? Freshen up the Valium supply? Purchase an assortment of controlled substances? Perhaps buy a dartboard with Jamie Dimon's puss as bulls-eye central?
You could, but I'd suggest checking out Senka Huskic instead.
Senka is one of those 24/7 Facebook types whose life seems to revolve around posting, sharing and commenting and not about cute kitties or hot vacation destinations; Senka is all about foreclosure and how people are getting screwed but also about how people are fighting back. There's a backstory to Senka's anger. She was angry when her family was driven from their home in Bosnia in 1992, at the start of that awful war. And she was angry eighteen years later when she ran up against Bank of America as she tried, unsuccessfully, to get a loan modification. Since that time she's remained in foreclosure limbo. But as any therapist will tell you anger turned inwards morphs into depression and Senka isn't about to fall prey to that. This 40-something Peabody, Mass., mother has taken her anger and turned it into a veritable atomic cannon of sorts, lobbing shells at the mega banking crowd that now seems content to bloviate about how the U.S. economy has turned the corner; how the bad old days are behind us and shouldn't we all just be happy and move on.
"I don't understand why more people are not furious about what's going on," she's quick to note, and with a passion started blogging as a way to express her rage.
The target audience for her musings? Try seven million people already evicted from their homes since 2007 and add another four million plus, a "silent majority" of homeowners still hunkered down in their homes living under a Sword of Damocles trying to keep up some semblance of normality. They may be your next-door neighbors, the friends you socialize with on a regular basis or perhaps they have kids that play with your children. But what you don't know -- and what keeps them up in cold sweats and Xanax -- is that they haven't paid their mortgages in months, maybe years. Some struggle to stay current on mortgages often emptying bank accounts at the expense of food, utilities and medical care. Behind closed doors they live in a constant state of fear: ducking calls from banking and servicing representatives, opening certified letters with shaking hands, and simply waiting for the foreclosure ball to drop.
While a sizable chunk of foreclosures are currently stuck in the pipeline -- the legacy of the 2010 robo-signing revelations -- banks continue to "extend-and-pretend" that they'll work in good faith with homeowners while on the flip side they're preparing to use the recent OCC settlement as a laxative to open up the constipated foreclosure pipeline. If you think this is somewhat of an exaggeration take a gander at the press release issued by Fitch Ratings on Jan. 14, 2013, following the settlement announcement: "Fitch further believes that the industry as a whole has addressed foreclosure documentation and process changes that resulted from regulation and policy changes. However, we see a backlog of foreclosures remaining to be processed."
The roundabout topsy-turvy message to homeowners still dreaming of a loan mod: Watch your front door for the arrival of the process server or local sheriff delivering an invitation to get lost, the bank owns your home and you're no longer welcome.
Senka isn't about to let that happen, at least not without a fight and she's not alone. Others like Lisa Epstein at Foreclosure Hamlet and Damian Figueroa founder of 4closurefraud have manned the battlements for some time. Their weapon of choice: education and digging, relentless digging into the very complicated web of foreclosure deceit that's been spun with intricate purpose by the predatory mortgage banking cartel and while it may seem that going up against this financial services monolith reeks of The 300 Spartans, the dogged work of these foreclosure activists is more Seven Samurai than anything else. They firmly believe that providing insights into the foreclosure scandal and suggestions for fighting back is empowering and like the outcome in this classic samurai movie will eventually result in victory over the marauding banking bandits.
Senka's own blog offered compelling insights into the corruption at the heart of the foreclosure scandal until, mysteriously, it was suspended on Jan. 15, 2013 for "violation of Blog.com's Terms of Service." No further explanation offered and when Senka requested clarification the silence was deafening. What egregious violation did Senka commit? One can only leave that to the imagination but in the meantime she's also taken to the airways with a weekly blogtalkradio program -- Foreclosure Fraud and Its Survivors -- which she started in October of 2012. Featured guests run the gamut from foreclosed homeowners to lawyers, real estate experts and forensic mortgage auditors. It's a channel by and for those going through a mortgage/foreclosure fight -- a place to share stories with one another and realize that they are not alone in this battle.
Props to Matt Taibbi for shouting loud enough about Bankers Behaving Badly to get most people's attention but it's Senka and her colleagues -- many of whom have experienced the sting of foreclosure firsthand -- who deserve some real credit for keeping the issue alive, quietly organizing, educating and advocating for the homeowner. Hopefully, some politicians and prosecutors might start listening.
Joel Sucher, a filmmaker with Pacific Street Films in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. is working on Foreclosure Diaries, a documentary about the financial crisis and has blogged on foreclosure related issues for both American Banker and Huffington Post. A version of this blog post appeared in the April 24, 2012 edition of American Banker.