BANKS AND THE POWER OF BAD PRESS

Cleveland-based ESOP, a statewide community organization that advocates for homeowners facing possible foreclosure, continues to pressure big banks to be more responsive to people who need help making mortgage payments.

The group — formally known as Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People — took its fight last week to executives with JP Morgan Chase. During a November 21 meeting, ESOP representatives and homeowners asked Chase officials to speed up the bank’s process for helping homeowners work out late mortgage payments or to modify troubled loans.

The bankers agreed to accept and acknowledge receipt of a homeowner’s paperwork within three business days and said they would get back to the homeowner within 30 days with possible remedies, says Charu Gupta, a spokeswoman for ESOP. However, the bankers declined to guarantee their words with signatures, saying it was against their policy.

The advocates called bullshit, saying that Chase had already made a written promise to a similar advocacy group in Boston. A Chase spokeswoman declined to comment, saying only that Chase was working with many nonprofits around the country in an effort to help struggling borrowers.