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National People’s Action Takes Over Bank of America Branch in DC

National People’s Action, one of the more aggressive progressive advocacy groups, has been deeply involved in street protests against foreclosure fraud and corporate greed. And today, they escalated those actions. 600 activists with NPA took over a DC branch of Bank of America today, handing over a “tax bill” to the large banking institution that they believe has cost states billions through tax avoidance and reckless speculation. There are pictures available of this action here. Later today, NPA plans to descend on a conference of state Attorneys General, to demand a foreclosure fraud resolution that includes mass principal writedowns and criminal prosecution for the fraudsters.

This is part of their Make Wall Street Pay campaign, which has found that Wall Street, not public employees or runaway spending, is responsible for the fiscal crisis in the states and the overall recession. They zeroed in on Bank of America and other large financial institutions in a report:

This year Bank of America is receiving the “income tax refund from hell” — $666 million for 2010, according to its annual report filed in late February 2011. This is following a $3.5 billion refund reported in 2009. Bank of America’s federal income tax benefit this year is roughly two times the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program ($299 million).

Six banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley together paid income tax at an approximate rate of 11% of their pre-tax US earnings in 2009 and 2010. Had they paid at 35%, what they are legally mandated to pay, the federal government would have received an additional $13 billion in tax revenue. This would cover more than two years of salaries for the 132,000 teacher jobs lost since the economic crisis began in 2008.

Wells Fargo reportedly received a $4 billion federal income tax refund on $18 billion in pre-tax income in 2009, and paid 7.5% of its pre-tax income of $19 billion in 2010 in federal taxes. Its net federal income tax benefit for 2009 and 2010 combined, $2.5 billion, is equal to the Obama administration’s proposed cuts of 50% to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Bank of America in particular offshores a lot of their profits in subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, with 371 tax shelters in all. This comes at a time when big business is actually pushing for another mass tax amnesty so they can repatriate profits. [cont’d.]

Activists from NPA and two other groups, PICO and the Alliance for a Just Society, are also protesting outside the Office of Back Advocacy Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal regulator which has been the most reluctant to issue a settlement in the foreclosure fraud investigation that puts any financial hardship on the banks. This is a big direct action push in advance of this “global settlement” on foreclosure fraud that could be coming down in the next couple weeks.

The #makewallstpay hashtag is a good one to follow to keep up with today’s events.

UPDATE: Protesters reached the Attorneys General convention at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington and are rallying out in front.

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David Dayen

David Dayen