A crowd of Northern Virginia residents and clergy members marched to General Electric's offices in Washington, D.C., today, demanding that the company's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, take responsibility for helping homeowners who received subprime loans from the company's now-closed mortgage arm, WMC Mortgage Corp.
WMC, was the subject of a Center for Public Integrity investigation, which found that after GE bought WMC in 2004 it continued to ignore complaints from compliance officers about suspicious loans supported by inflated incomes and falsified documents. After having pumped out roughly $110 billion in high-cost loans, the company’s finances began faltering and GE shuttered the unit in 2007
The FBI is now investigating WMC.
At today’s protest, Rev. Clyde Ellis, pastor at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Woodbridge, VA, led off a series of speakers with a call-and-response litany of Immelt and WMC’s ills. “They made loans that were structured to fail!” he said.
“Shame!” the knot of roughly 75 protesters shouted back into the building’s otherwise empty lobby and 10-story high atrium.
The protestors were led by a coalition of religious groups, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), which targeted GE because they say the company has refused to consider investing money in nearby Prince William County to help struggling homeowners make up for the equity and losses they incurred from the subprime loans. VOICE has successfully begun negotiations for reinvestments with other major lenders, including Bank of America.
The event came on the same day President Obama announced a new initiative for mortgage relief to military personnel.
GE spokesperson Russell Wilkerson said the company has agreed to fund one mortgage counselor and that it is reviewing VOICE's requests for additional investments.
"This is an ongoing discussion," Wilkerson said. ""It takes time to go through each of their items."
However VOICE member Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd of Bull Run Unitarian Universalists in Manassas, VA, says that though they met with a GE representative last year, they've asked for follow up meetings three times since and been turned down.
What’s more, she said, WMC Mortgage was not part of the $25 billion nationwide attorneys general mortgage fraud settlement announced last month.
At the event, protestors left pink slips of papers — a notice of dismissal they said they were delivering to GE’s Immelt, who chairs President Obama’s jobs council.
"You're fired," the crowd shouted, as they asked for a GE representative to come downstairs to speak with them.
A handful of other clergy spoke before building security began ushering the group out the door.