Thursday, September 25, 2008

How You got Maxed Out

Anyone interested in data points to add to those collected by James Scurlock for his documentary, Maxed Out, might be interested in a report prepared for Reuters by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa. Now that credit card company MNBA has been acquired by Bank of America, some of its former employees have decided it is time to blow the whistle:

Cate Colombo, from Maine, said she signed up for a customer service job but was instead instructed to make insistent sales pitches aimed at getting MBNA customers deeper into debt.

"I was hired to sell money," she said on a conference call organized by Americans for Fairness in Lending, an advocacy group. "We had a goal of selling $25,000 an hour, $4 million per month. And I was one employee among hundreds, just at this one site."

To meet these goals, Colombo said she was told to turn every regular call from a customer into a sales call. She would do this by running the customer's name through the computer and finding out every possible line of credit they had ever obtained through MBNA.

She would then total the amount of credit outstanding and offer it to the customer as a blank check. MBNA was a bit lighter on disclosure details, such as telling customers that taking on more debt would reduce the borrower's credit score and thereby boost their outstanding interest rates.

"If we didn't attempt to max out, we were considered insubordinate," said Colombo.

If there was any doubt that debt is basically an addiction, all we have to do is take the word of one of the "pushers!"

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