However, I am somewhat sympathetic to Bank of America on this one. Given the number of foreclosures that are happening right now, and the possibility of human error, and the fact that BofA has to use whatever contractors it can hire locally to take possession of repossessed homes, it seems inevitable that errors will be made. Nobody's perfect, right? But what does piss me off about this kind of story is the way BofA handles it when an error of this kind does occur. When it's just a wronged homeowner versus Bank of America, BofA's attitude is basically fuck-you-shut-up-already. This has been documented in at least three individual cases. BofA does not see itself as responsible for repairing the damages and restoring the wronged homeowner to their original condition after their contractors accidentally foreclose on the wrong home. Homeowners are told that they can drive 80 miles to pick up their pets that were taken from the home, and any cut power and water lines are repaired at the homeowners expense. Food that spoils due to the shut-off power, and furniture and carpeting that's damaged or taken by contractors? All the problem of the homeowner. Homeowners are told to stop calling BofA, and to call the police if they're really that pissed off. That is, until national media attention is brought to the situation, and lawsuits are filed. Then it's a complete reversal on the part of BofA. Then they're doing everything they can to right the wrongs. Then they suddenly have "zero tolerance" for this kind of stuff. Because now it's a PR issue.
And the attorney of one client who was wrongfully evicted sums it up best
If you or I had done to Bank of America what Bank of America did to my client we’d be in prison for 10 years.This is the truest thing I've heard all week. I remember being amazed when I read in the paper that a man who had broken into a local restaurant and did $10,000 of damage faced a possible sentence of 10 years while my molesting, child-raping, predatory uncle had just gotten sentenced to 4 years that same week. Four. Four years in prison after sexually assaulting several of his nieces, members of the church youth group he was allowed to lead in spite of his known predatory history, and his own daughter, for YEARS and YEARS. Ten years for smashing some light fixtures, overturning some tables, and leaving several beer taps running until they were empty. Four years for sexually assaulting multiple victims.
Beyond the infuriating fact that crimes against property are often disproportionately punished in our country as compared to crimes against persons, crimes against corporate property are taken especially seriously. I remember listening to news coverage during the battle in Seattle, and marveling at the way the media just could not get over the fact that the big window of "the Starbucks" (as if there is only one Starbucks in downtown Seattle, haha) had been smashed by protesters (of course they didn't mention that this was a small anarchist group acting independently of the rest of the protest), while the hundreds of peaceful protesters who were physically assaulted by police in a confrontation that was started by the police weren't even mentioned. Broken noses and ribs, bruises from rubber bullets, and pepper-sprayed eyes? No biggie. A broken business window? ZOMG!!! I get that to people who don't live in Seattle, Starbucks is kind of iconic and symbolizes the city in the popular imagination. I understand that the media focused on it because of this sort of symbolic significance. But it's still the case that a pane of glass on a business is not more valuable than a person's body. Any person. Any window. Any business. Not equal in value or worth. Ever.
So this case is particularly interesting. As our legal system moves deeper and deeper into the stance that corporations are legal persons with legal rights, these kinds of glaring inconsistencies become more and more relevant. If you broke into a bank and did thousands of dollars of damage, confiscated belongings, and padlocked the door, you would be in prison for years. But there is no prison sentence applicable to the legal person that is Bank of America. You can bring a civil case against them and perhaps recover some of your damages. But BofA will not spend a single day in prison or experience all the negative consequences of having a criminal record for the rest of their life, in spite of the fact that they trampled your dignity, damaged or discarded your belongings, shattered your peace of mind within your own home, and destroyed your reputation in your community. Many ethical theories hold that rights always carry reciprocal responsibilities. But in our legal system, corporate persons have many rights bestowed on them for which there are no reciprocal responsibilities, or penalties for a failure to uphold those responsibilities. And this is a prime example of corporate entitlement and essentially risk-free fucked-up behavior. Yay for corporatocracy! Unbridled capitalism FTW!