Housing group stages protests at banking executives' homes

A non-profit housing advocacy group said Monday it will protest at the homes of those it calls "financial predators" — investors and banking executives it says are balking at helping struggling homeowners refinance their mortgages.

Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America demonstrated Sunday at the Greenwich, Conn., home of William Frey, chief executive of Greenwich Financial Services, and the Rye, N.Y. home of John Mack, chief executive of Morgan Stanley.

Hundreds of demonstrators wore bright yellow shirts and signs that read, "Fix our loans, save our homes." There were no arrests.

Bruce Marks, chief executive officer of the Boston-based group, said the organization is setting up a "financial predators registry" of uncooperative executives.

"No one has ever gone in such huge numbers to these guys' homes," Marks said. "If they don't do the right thing, we'll be back. We are the junkyard dogs. Once we grab on, we will not let go."

Frey and Mack have opposed loan modifications designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by reducing their interest rates and, in some cases, the principal balance on loans, Marks said. Frey's company, which deals in mortgage-backed securities, sued a mortgage lender over loan modifications.

"The greed they are showing is just beyond the pale," Marks said Monday. "To sue lenders who are trying to do the right thing is outrageous."

Morgan Stanley said its mortgage servicing business "actively collaborates" with NACA to structure solutions for qualified borrowers so they can remain in their homes. A proposed agreement by NACA was delivered Saturday afternoon.

"We are reviewing it now and expect to come to mutually agreeable terms," Morgan Stanley said in a statement.

A telephone message was left Monday for Frey.

Greenwich Financial Services filed a lawsuit in December in New York State Supreme Court against Countrywide Financial objecting to Countrywide passing on more than $8 billion in reduced mortgage payments to investors who bought the mortgages. The lawsuit seeks a judgment requiring Countrywide to buy every loan it modifies.

Police in Connecticut's wealthy suburbs of New York, home to many of Wall Street's wealthiest executives and financial managers, said they'll warn future protesters about laws that prohibit causing a disturbance or hindering the flow of traffic.

"They will be subject to arrest if they violate any laws," said Greenwich Police Lt. Daniel Allen.

Marks said about 90% of the nation's loan servicers have agreed to participate in NACA's loan restructuring program. He would not name those that are not participating or are being targeted by his group.

Sunday's protests came as NACA held a "Save the Dream" forum over the weekend in nearby Stamford, Conn., drawing about 3,000 people for financial counseling and mortgage assistance, Marks said.

Stamford sits in the midst of one of the nation's wealthiest areas, but is among the regions particularly hard-hit by the housing market collapse.

NACA organizers said a similar event last summer in Washington, D.C., drew up to 20,000 people.

With Congress considering a new tax credit intended to turn around the battered housing market, real estate lobbyists are pressing the government to spend billions to temporarily subsidize lower mortgage rates.

The Obama administration has said it will devote up to $100 billion of the remaining $350 billion to programs to combat a rising tide of mortgage foreclosures. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to reveal some of those efforts Tuesday.

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