CHAPTER 6

“WE’RE GONNA DRIVE YOUR DAMN COMPANY INTO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN”

In late 1998, a Durham school bus driver named Freddie Rogers came to a Self-Help credit union to inquire about its new “fix-it” loan. The loan’s stated purpose was to help homeowners repair or improve their homes. Rogers’s home had drainage problems, which had led to a flooded basement and mold so bad that he and his daughter couldn’t live there.

Lanier Blum, the Self-Help employee who met with Rogers, learned that Rogers had a mortgage with Associates First Capital, a Texas-based lender that at the time was a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company. Blum called Associates to find out how much Rogers owed. The lender’s phone operators were evasive, and so she called over and over—“We ...

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