Sallie Mae shareholder meeting report back!

Hey everyone! Yesterday Jess and I traveled to Newark, Delaware to take part in the Sallie Mae shareholder meeting protest, held at Sallie Mae's headquarters. It was organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice, the United States Student Association, and Rebuild the Dream. Here's a write-up of what happened!To kick things off, here's the image that Tyler and Kimberly created for folks to share online as a virtual solidarity action:If you think it's as awesome as we do, head to our Facebook page to share it with your friends.Rebuild the Dream was there to deliver our petition asking CEO Albert Lord to make Sallie Mae work with students, rather than against them, and provide more repayment options. Over 42,000 members signed it. Five of us would be going into the shareholder meeting to deliver the petition signatures -- here we are, pictured below (L-R), Curtis Hierro, Chris Hicks (SLAP), Annie Mombourquette, Dan Apfel (Responsible Endowments Coalition), and me![caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="From Twitter user @JessLivMo"][/caption]There were two components to the protest -- and both ended up working incredibly together to get the most out of the action. Folks would be protesting outside of the Sallie Mae headquarters where the shareholder meeting was taking place. The other component was that Curtis, Chris, Annie, Dan, and I would be making our way into the actual shareholder meeting to take control of the question and answer session and deliver the petition.Hundreds of folks turned out to hold a protest outside. Students, graduates, labor unions, community groups, and tons of others took part in a mock graduation to complete with ball and chain props to signify debt. Sallie Mae was ready for us -- they had set up orange cones and sent lots of police officers to greet us. The other component took place inside of Sallie Mae. In order to attend a shareholder meeting, you have to be a shareholder. Some of us had purchased shares, and some of us were proxies, meaning that we had permission to attend the meeting on behalf of an actual shareholder. Here are some pictures I (discreetly) took from inside the building... where we could HEAR the protest going on outside! Amazing power.And the best one -- evidence of what Sallie Mae was expecting: We made it into the meeting just as the question and answer session was starting. The session allows shareholders to ask the corporate board questions that relate to the meeting's proposals. We had each prepared a question intended to evoke responses -- but the main purpose was to make a statement. Unfortunately, they didn't allow cell phones in the meeting so we don't have footage from inside. Curtis told his story of being tens of thousands in debt. Annie shared that two months ago, she was arrested at a Sallie Mae protest held in DC. Chris and Dan demanded that Sallie Mae stop profiting off the backs of students, and I presented the petition with the help of everyone else. But they wouldn't allow us to deliver it to CEO Albert Lord himself -- even though he was sitting right up front. It was as if he was untouchable! So, his right-hand man offered to hand it to Lord himself and repeat back to us what our demands were!This action was one part of a larger struggle in student debt -- it isn't just focused on Sallie Mae. Yesterday, the Senate voted again on the interest rate... and it failed again. We have so far to go, but we have the power to organize and get our messages out. We have the power to make people listen. We're young, and we're ready. Edited To Add: Our Sallie Mae protest got media coverage from NewsWorks and the USA Today!

Put Sallie Mae On Notice Today!

This Thursday, busloads of people will head to Sallie Mae's annual shareholder meeting in Delaware to protest Sallie Mae's reprehensible business practices and overpaid CEO Albert Lord.Shareholder meetings are perfect opportunities for protest: they happen once a year, and the company's top executives are rubbing elbows with their shareholders. It's a lot of money in one spot -- money that is the direct result of high-interest loans and harassing phone calls to borrowers. Albert Lord, Sallie Mae's CEO, rakes in millions each year -- he has so much money that he built a private, 244-acre golf course for himself. Today is the day to put Albert Lord on notice.Since Rebuild the Dream members can't all attend the protest, we've created a virtual solidarity action -- and it's easy for you to do.

Use the buttons below to share this image on Facebook and Twitter and support the protesters at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting.

Why put Sallie Mae on notice?

How much money does Mr. Lord make off students? The Shareholder Committee granted Mr. Lord a bonus of $2.5 million in 2011 -- $1.25 million of which was in cash.In addition to making millions off of private student loans, Albert Lord has boldly claimed that the student loan debt bubble doesn't actually exist.From 2002 to today, Sallie Mae has spent $25,470,000 lobbying the federal government. Sallie Mae has been one of the most aggressive lobbyists in Washington, D.C. on issues impacting students and student debt, allowing them to continue to use predatory lending practices.Read Molly Katchpole's report on some of Sallie Mae's draconian collecting practices -- including encouraging debtors to sell their blood to pay for student loans.

What does a Romney Presidency look like?

My friend Doug tagged me in a Facebook post today. It was a screenshot of Mitt Romney's latest tweet (I retweeted it, then took a screenshot myself). Here it is, in all its glory:This isn't a parody account -- it's the real @MittRomney deal. Doesn't it seem fake, though?

Grover Norquist + hyperbole = offensive

Grover Norquist! One of my most favorite people, EVER. I love this guy. He's so... committed. Yes. Committed. Steadfast in his opinion. Fanatical, almost. If I ever feel like my commitment to something is faltering, I think of Mr. Norquist and his unwavering commitment to making sure taxes are never raised, ever, on anything at all.So ok, obviously I'm being sarcastic. I mean, no doubt the guy's committed -- but I just can't agree with never raising taxes. I just can't stomach the fact that Mitt Romney pays a 13.9% tax rate. And check out these guys -- they pay less than $0 in income tax.Last week, Facebook's Eduardo Saverin pulled a pretty crazy move and renounced his US citizenship in order to avoid paying over $60 million in taxes just before Facebook announced its initial public offering. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced a bill that would "bar individuals like Saverin from ever reentering the United States again."Whoa, I like that. BAM. You wanna leave the US so you don't have to pay taxes? Fine. Bye.Even Speaker Boehner agreed with it.SO WITH THAT -- Mr. Norquist decided to weigh in:

“I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well,” said Norquist. “He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”
Seriously? People are still equating laws they don't like with... Nazism? Folks, let's move past that. It's offensive. It's simplistic.

Milwaukee Combines Art, Music and Activism at Rebuild Wisconsin

Wisconsin is facing a turning point in their state's history on June 5th.A year after the historic protests in the state's capitol, the people of Wisconsin have collected enough signatures to hold a recall election against Governor Walker. If enough people turn out, Wisconsin can Recall Scott Walker, Refund priorities like jobs, education, and healthcare, and Rebuild the Dream. Enter Rebuild Wisconsin. Rebuild the Dream, along with SEIU, We Are Milwaukee, We are Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now and the League of Pissed-Off Voters, came together to create a movement for an economy that supports 100% of Wisconsin -- not just the top 1%. Through art, music and activism, Rebuild Wisconsin brought together youth, unions, activists and local leaders for a state revival that promoted voter education just in time for the Wisconsin recall election on June 5th. Participants were encouraged to vote early and recruit friends to get out the vote.Check out some of the art and performances from Rebuild Wisconsin:[View the story "Rebuild Wisconsin" on Storify]Watch the footage from Rebuild Revivals here.Not authorized by any candidate, candidate's committee or candidate's agent. Authorized and paid for by Rebuild the Dream.

An Idea Worth Spreading: Income Inequality is a Serious Problem

Is income inequality an idea worth spreading? // Image Credit Mother Jones
 I'm a big fan of TED. When it comes to promoting ideas worth spreading, there aren't too many bigger players than the annual conference of visionaries and thinkers and all its related offshoots.That's why I was surprised when controversy broke about an income inequality talk by "super-rich" venture capitalist Nick Hanauer considered "Too Hot for TED." In the Watch the video that sparked the discussion about TED and income inequality.Although TED has posted the video online, we still need to have an important discussion on income inequality in this country. TED curator Chris Anderson seems to agree on that point, stating, "Pretty much everyone at TED, including me, worries a great deal about the issue of rising inequality."As a leader in promoting ideas that can change the world, TED should be promoting discussion on income inequality. Today, Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones proposed the creation of a TED summit on income inequality as a way to shed more light on this issue. Powerful movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement sprung up in reaction to extreme income inequality. There is an incredible amount of discussion yet to be had on the topic of income inequality, and TED is uniquely qualified to bring together economists, social activists and other brilliant thinkers to promote those ideas.We at Rebuild the Dream encourage TED to expand the discussion on this topic -- income inequality matters and it's an idea we should be talking about.Watch the video that sparked the discussion about TED and income inequality.

Blood for student loans?! Umm, no thanks.

So... let's talk about Sallie Mae.They're the nation's largest student lender -- and they aren't as sweet and innocent as their name suggests. In fact, they're downright exploitative.Case in point: when we asked the Rebuild the Dream community to share stories about their student loan debt, Barbara H. from Tennessee said this about her son:"He's not been able to find a decent job, is barely making ends meet, so has not been able to start paying his loans. He's talked to Sallie Mae regarding this, but they continue to call him daily, including Saturday and Sunday. Then they started calling me daily, since I was listed as a secondary contact. When I complained to their representative that this was harassment, I was informed that they can call each contact number up to eight times per day."And Rose (not her real name) shared this:"I encouraged my grandson to pursue a college degree, because I thought as a Black male, his chances of landing a decent paying job would be much improved. Because I co-signed, I now use a great portion of my Social Security check to pay the loans. When I called Sallie Mae to work out a payment plan, the representative told me to tell my grandson to sell his plasma to pay the loan."That's right -- Sallie Mae told Rose that her grandson should sell his blood to keep up with his loan payments. Sallie Mae doesn't offer alternative payment plans for students. As it turns out, this is just the way they do business.[1] Click here to tell Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord: Shame on you! Stop exploiting student loan borrowers, and instead offer new repayment plans.Next week Sallie Mae is having their annual shareholder meeting in Delaware -- where we will personally deliver this petition to CEO Albert Lord.Right now, Sallie Mae gives students who are struggling with payments very few options, none of them good: defer their payments (and accrue interest), default on their loans (and wreck their credit), or put loans in forbearance (and pay huge fees and interest costs). College graduates are facing the worst job market in generations -- punishing them for a bad economy and soaring tuition isn't good business.What would good repayment options look like? Sallie Mae should modify loans to lower interest rates, provide income-based repayment plans, and stop charging forbearance fees and interest for those who need time to find jobs.Apparently, Sallie Mae doesn't understand good customer service.Let's gather thousands of signatures to tell Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord: We won't sell our blood to pay our loans. Work with student loan borrowers to come up with new repayment plans.Next week at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting, we're going to call out Sallie Mae's predatory practices and take a stand for student loan borrowers, with allies like the Student Labor Action Project.Many people think of Sallie Mae as the old, trustworthy, government-sponsored lender. But in fact, CEO Albert Lord led the charge in 1997 to privatize the company, which then purchased the name "Sallie Mae" for $5 million to give the impression that it was an agent of the government. Sallie Mae has spent millions every year lobbying against students, just so they can make fatter profits [2][3]. It's time to put a stop to Sallie Mae's exploitative and abusive practices.Sources:[1] Forbearance: How Sallie Mae Makes Money By Jacking Up Fees And Billing Taxpayers[2] Center for Responsive Politics: Sallie Mae Annual Lobbying, 2011[3] NY Times: Lobbying Imperils Overhaul of Student Loans (Feb 2010)p.s. The New York Times is doing a big series on student debt called "Degrees of Debt," starting with this piece from Sunday's front page. It's a must read.

Why Sallie Mae Should Take Google's Advice: Don't Be Evil


Sallie Mae is the country's largest provider of private student loans -- and despite their innocuous name, they're guilty of some pretty awful practices.Sallie Mae has a dual role of a lender and collector. As Elizabeth Warren said, "Sallie Mae gets to play every hand at the poker table." And, “Student-loan debt collectors have power that would make a mobster envious."When customers call seeking assistance, Sallie Mae representatives say pretty terrible stuff -- a story from one of our members: "I encouraged my grandson to pursue a college degree, because I thought as a Black male, his chances of landing a decent paying job would be much improved. Since he graduated, he has been unable to find a job with a living wage. His paycheck barely covers the gas he needs to go to a low paying job, much less repay his student loans. Because I co-signed, I now use a great portion of my Social Security check to pay the loans. When I called Sallie Mae to work out a payment plan, the representative told me to tell my grandson to sell his plasma [i.e., his blood plasma] to pay the loan."As a debt collector, Sallie Mae is highly abusive, using the Freedom of Information Law to collect personal information about students from their schools, and contacting borrowers' employers, families, and neighbors, to the point of violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. One Rebuild the Dream member shared this story with us: "My son not been able to find a decent job, is barely making ends meet so has not been able to start paying his loans. He's talked to Sallie Mae regarding this but they continue to call him daily, including Saturday and Sunday. Then they started calling me daily since I was listed as a secondary contact. When I complained to their representative that this was harassment, I was informed that they can call each contact number up to eight times per day."Charges unnecessary and exploitative forbearance fees -- $50 per loan, per 3-month block -- essentially an "unemployment penalty"Successfully lobbied Congress to strip away basic consumer protections from student loans, such as bankruptcy protection on private student loans.Successfully lobbied Congress to obtain Draconian collections practices, including garnishment of wages, tax returns and federal benefits such as Social Security, without a court order to make it easier for them to harass.Angry yet? Click here to sign our petition telling Sallie Mae's CEO Albert Lord: Work with students -- not against them. We'll be delivering signatures next week at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting in Delaware. Compiled with the help of our friend Rob Applebaum.

America's Top Housing Official Must Aid Struggling Homeowners

The Greenlining Institute just published this piece in the Huffington Post calling on Ed Demarco to act on principal reduction for the millions of homeowners whose homes are underwater.Preeti Vissa writes,

"DeMarco agreed to speak at an April 19 symposium organized by The Greenlining Institute that focused on how to restore and protect the dream of homeownership that seems to be slipping out of reach of so many Americans.At our meeting, DeMarco said he was "deeply concerned" about these underwater mortgages. He promised that FHFA would have something concrete to say about principal reduction by the end of April... But in an astonishing story published May 1, the Los Angeles Times reported [that the] FHFA was still working on its analysis of principal reduction and would have nothing to say until that analysis is done -- with no hint as to when that might be."
The underwater mortgage crisis is a key issue area for Rebuild the Dream. Check out America Underwater, the site we created with New Bottom Line, and the Tumblr that features the faces behind the underwater mortgages.

Sen. Rubio still paying off student loans, votes for doubling Stafford loan interest rate

Well, this is eye opening.Senator Marco Rubio released a short video statement after Tuesday's vote on the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate, saying in part:

“I think I am one of the only senators here who still has a student loan... As someone with a student loan and with a state with so many people with student loans, I support a hundred percent making sure that the interest rates on student loans do not go up.”
Sen. Rubio voted with 44 other Republicans to block debate on the proposal.What Rubio didn't say was that the Republican proposal would completely deplete a public health fund in order to pay for the bill.