Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Look what they're outsourcing now

When they read of outsourcing most Americans and Canadians think of computers being made in China, clothes made in Indonesia and call centers located in Mumbai. Reading today's Washington Post I found out that other things were being outsourced as well. Scandals tarnish Citibank’s image in Indonesia.

An Indonesian man who owed money to Citibank was "invited" to their office in Jakarta. Hours later he was dead. While there are still many questions as to what happened in the small room that was set aside by the U.S. bank for questioning of deadbeat debtors there is no question that U.S. banks are outsourcing debt collection.

While some may see this story primarily as a case of the unfortunate consequences of an American company working in another country outsourcing work to "locals" who do not adhere to American standards and values I suggest that there is an alternate, and much scarier, reading. Outsourcing jobs to countries with a lower standard of living and/or laxer standards of worker/workplace protection has been a useful tool to undermine wages and workers' rights in the United States. The rush toward outsourcing was evidence that these methods of increasing "profits" that the companies involved considered reasonable/within their brief.

Can you find it hard to imagine the day will come creditors is the U.S. will be "invited" into small rooms? Probe after probe and investigation after investigation shows American companies engaging in fraud and coercion in the United States:
House of Cards
Lauderdale man's home sold out from under him in foreclosure mistake
Lawsuit accuses bank of seizing wrong house
Woman says Bank of America wrongly repossessed home
No Mortgage, Still Foreclosed
Bank Wrongly Seizes Home, Takes Parrot

The notable asymmetry of power between these companies and the people whose property they seize (and damage) when the company is completely in the wrong makes chills run up one's back. The only reason that these people have any voice at all is that they are completely "in the right." They are so clearly "in the right" that even the people who normally side automatically with companies recognize a wrong has been done. But what about the people who have no voice? The person who doesn't know who to complain to? Those who are without the privilege of being middle-class or well-educated or sympathetic? What aren't we hearing?

Take for example the case of Mr. and Mrs. Nyerges. A bank attempted to seize their home even though the couple had bought the house with cash. They had to go to court in order to get the foreclosure case dismissed. The court ordered that the bank pay the couple's court fees. It did not.

Finally the couple's lawyer got a court order that allowed them to seize the assets of the local branch and it was only after the sheriff (and the local media) arrived with the order that the couple got their cheque.

While I cheer for the Nyerges and applaud their lawyer's efforts to get them justice I wonder just how many people have horror stories that we aren't hearing.

I wonder if most of America is already sitting in a room set aside by the U.S. bank for questioning of deadbeat debtors.

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