Tag Archives: eminent domain

Turning the Tables on Banks

forclosuresSome interesting stories have been coming out recently about how citizens and municipalities are trying to flip the script on banks and financial institutions, and I thought I’d share.

First, a Russian man who wrote his own credit card rules is now in the middle of suing the bank that signed off on his altered terms.

Second, and perhaps more interesting: this story about how a California town is using eminent domain as a way of helping residents who are in danger of losing their homes.

These stories break the mold of the financial industries/private citizen narrative; the California situation goes a step further and shows how the government can use regulations to help its citizens in times of need.

Will other municipalities take the opportunity to examine their relationships to banks? Will citizens of Richmond and other Californian towns have this reading of a law that’s generally used to kick peopleĀ out of their homes as a resource going forward? I don’t really understand how the vaguely-termed “Wall Street” – the banks, I would assume? — can sue the government for exercising its right to eminent domain – after all, corporations are people, aren’t they? Are individuals allowed to sue when the government takes over their home to build a highway?

These two cases show individuals dissatisfied with the status quo fighting back on their own terms. In the case of the Russian man and the credit card terms, he used the inflexibility of the corporate system against them: he knew that nobody was actually going to read the terms he altered and sent back (and I don’t get why the bank in question thinks he’s guilty of fraud; it’s not as if he tried to hide what he was doing), and now it appears he may stand to make a profit from his strategy.

In Richmond’s case, the idea that a municipality can use eminent domain for the public good in ways that alleviate stress on an entire community is a very attractive one. What if cities took the approach that a stable neighborhood with homes owned by individuals was better for the community than one where homeowners were drowning under debt, and what if they acted on that notion?

It’s worth keeping these cases on your radar while they’re debated and decided; depending on how they’re resolved, there could be some extremely interesting repercussions in the future.