A new report from the Center for Popular Democracy examines the ways that large financial institutions are helping dismantle the middle class and making life more difficult for working families. The top 10 banks alone bring in some $100 billion in annual profits, and a significant amount of that revenue is generated from sometimes unethical and questionable tactics that working families have a hard time fighting back against.
Here are 11 ways the big banks are making life harder for working families:
1. While 27% of Americans have no or little access to financial services, the big banks are closing local branches, making the problem worse.
2. Banks are pressuring their workers to push customers to purchase services that use predatory banking practices instead of sound financial principles. Quotas drive the process rather than the needs of customers.
3. The large financial institutions are cutting wages, benefits and hours for workers, making it harder for them to serve customers and increasing work-related stress.
4. Core banking activities for the average worker, such as helping people open and manage accounts or plan for retirement or obtain a credit card, are considered low value services by the banks, and they are actively trying to avoid those services in favor of higher profit activities such as mortgages.
5. Workers who can’t fill their quotas for pushing mismatched or predatory products and services are threatened with termination or had their paychecks docked for the amount they fell short of their quotas.
6. Since 2011, 17 lawsuits have been settled by the financial services industry for alleged illegal and unethical business practices. The banks have paid out nearly $46 billion.
7. At least three banks are accused of charging people of color higher interest rates or fees than white borrowers.
8. The big five banks are accused of steering people of color into dangerous subprime mortgages.
9. Two banks have, in the past, maximized their profits off of overdraft fees by posting charges in order of the largest dollar amount first, increasing the likelihood that not only are customers more likely to overdraft their accounts, but more likely to do so multiple times.
10. Three financial institutions were charged with forcing homeowners to buy overpriced property insurance.
11. Nearly one-fifth of employees at the biggest banks reported that more and more jobs had been moved from full-time to part-time.
This blog originally appeared on aflcio.org on April 21, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
Author’s name is Kenneth Quinnell. He is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist. Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars. Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History. His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.