Tag Archives: banks

New Report: Wells Fargo’s at the Bottom of the Heap

When it comes to foreclosing on Californians, it looks like Wells Fargo may take the prize.  According to a report released today, Wells Fargo is responsible for more homes in the foreclosure pipeline in California than any other single lender.  

Wells Fargo is servicing the most loans, but they are providing less principal reduction to struggling borrowers than either Bank of America and Chase – who themselves should be doing more!  Wells Fargo trails behind Bank of America and Chase when it comes to the amount of principal reduction given with first lien loan modifications, according to the Monitor of the multi-state Attorneys General settlement with the five big mortgage servicers.

This is the very same Wells Fargo that just had its most profitable year ever in 2012, with earnings of $19 billion.  

The report, California in Crisis: How Wells Fargo’s Foreclosure Pipeline Is Damaging Local Communities, by ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), the Center for Popular Democracy and the Home Defenders League, shows the harm coming to homeowners, communities and the economy unless Wells Fargo reverses its course and averts some or all of the impending foreclosures.  

Download the report at: http://www.calorganize.org/sit…

The report uses data from Foreclosure Radar to look at loans currently in the foreclosure pipeline in California – meaning loans that have a Notice of Default or Notice of Trustee Sale. Of the 65,466 loans in the foreclosure pipeline, close to 20% of them are serviced by Wells Fargo.

If Wells Fargo’s 11,616 distressed loans go through foreclosure, California will take a next $3.3 billion hit: Each home will lose approximately 22 percent of its value, for a total loss of approximately $1.07 billion; homes in the surrounding neighborhood will lose value as well, for an additional loss of about $2.2 billion; and government tax revenues will be cut by $20 million, as a result of the depreciation.  

And not surprisingly, African American and Latino communities will be particularly hard-hit. The report includes maps for seven major cities showing minority density and dots for each of Wells Fargo’s distressed loans. In city after city, they are heavily clustered in neighborhoods with high African American and Latino populations.

“My community has been absolutely devastated by the foreclosure crisis, and I put a lot of the blame at the doorstep of Wells Fargo,” says ACCE Home Defenders League member Vivian Richardson.   “Wells Fargo’s heartless and unfair foreclosure practices are sending far more homes into foreclosure than is necessary.”  

“Our communities and our entire State are still reeling from the housing crisis, and will be for years to come,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.  “As this report shows, the numbers of homes still facing foreclosure is enormous.  Principal reduction is clearly a critical strategy for saving homes and stabilizing the economy.  Wells Fargo and the other major banks should be doing more of it.”

The report recommends:

1. Wells Fargo should commit to a broad principal reduction program.  

This means that every homeowner facing hardship should be offered a loan modification, when Wells has the legal authority to do so. The modification should be based on an affordable debt-to-income ratio, achieved through a waterfall that prioritizes principal reduction and interest rate reductions. Junior liens must also be modified.

2. Wells Fargo should report data on its principal reduction, short sales, and foreclosures by race, income, and zip code.  

Wells Fargo must be more transparent about its mortgage practices. The bank has an egregious history of harming California’s African American and Latino communities through predatory and discriminatory lending. To show the public that it has reformed, Wells Fargo must make this data available. The people of California need to know that Well Fargo is no longer discriminating against people of color and is fairly and equitably providing relief to homeowners and to the hardest hit communities.  

3. Wells Fargo should immediately stop all foreclosures until the first two demands are met

In the event that it takes a few months to set up a fully functioning principal reduction program, Wells Fargo needs to immediately stop all foreclosures. Wells Fargo has done enough harm. It’s time to stop. California deserves a break.

ACCE is waging a campaign to push Wells Fargo to be a leader in California, their home state, in saving homes – beginning with their performance to comply with the Attorneys General Settlement and with the Homeowner Bill of Rights, but not ending there.  

To sign on to a letter to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to support the campaign demands, click here: http://salsa.wiredforchange.co…

ACCE is a multi-racial, democratic, non-profit community organization building power in low to moderate income neighborhoods to stand and fight for social, economic and racial justice. ACCE has chapters in eleven counties across the State of California. For more information visit http://www.calorganize.org/ or follow ACCE on twitter @CalOrganize

Kamala Harris Rejects 50-State Settlement From Banks

Attorney General says deal is inadequate

by Brian Leubitz

Kamala Harris, whom I had the great privilege of helping to get elected, has been a leader on mortgage fraud since her SF DA days.  She’s continued that as California AG, and now she’s showing just how important the closest California statewide election really was.  The CA DoJ recently announced that the proposed nationwide settlement for the systemic mortgage fraud by the big banks was inadequate for Californians:

“We’ve reviewed the details of the latest settlement proposal from the banks, and we believe it is inadequate for California,” Shum Preston, a spokesman for Harris, said in a statement. “Our state has been clear about what any multistate settlement must contain: transparency, relief going to the most distressed homeowners and meaningful enforcement that ensures accountability.  At this point, this deal does not suffice for California.”

While California isn’t totally alone on this settlement, NY AG Eric Schneiderman has also shared some misgivings about signing on to anything that wouldn’t allow him to fully pursue his investigations of the widespread fraud in the mortgage system during the bubble. For just some of the background on this story, see the 60 Minutes story embedded. The extent of the fraud has never really been uncovered.  

The President, the banks, and many state AGs are looking to bring this to a close. However, AG Harris has declared that punishing those that committed the fraud and getting the best deal for Californians is her priority rather than simply getting a quick deal.

On Dec. 6th, Occupy goes “home” for the holidays

Four years ago Wall Street bankers crashed our economy after reckless gambling with our homes and our livelihoods. Then they looted our Treasury for bailouts and bonuses while their 1% allies used the economic chaos as an excuse to rob us of the investments we've made in helping every Californian achieve the American Dream. But since September 17, the simmering anger at Wall Street has found a powerful expression through the Occupy movement, massive campus mobilizations and increasing numbers of homeowners standing up to wrongful bank evictions by organizing community-led “home defenses.”

This month, the Occupy Wall Street movement is joining with brave homeowners (underwater and foreclosure victims alike), renters fighting foreclosure-related evictions, and other community members personally affected by Wall Street's greed around the country to say, “Enough is enough – we're not going to let them take our homes.” On December 6th hundreds of homeowners and renters facing foreclosure are announcing that they are not leaving when the sheriff comes. Some are even taking the bold step of moving back in to the homes from which they have been evicted. Collectively, the 99% are taking a stand against Wall Street and their 1% allies a step further by demanding negotiations instead of fraudulent foreclosures and justice instead of avarice.

Here in California, one of the path-breakers in taking this type of action is Rose Gudiel, a member of the Alliance of Californians of Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the ReFund California campaign. In October, she successfully defended her home and family from a foreclosure eviction by taking decisive action. She was arrested for protesting outside of a Fannie Mae office in Pasadena. After her arrest, Fannie Mae agreed to halt her eviction and then met with her to negotiate a modification of her loan. Other home defenses have sprouted in places such as Atlanta,Cleveland,Minneapolis and San Francisco.

25% of homeowners in America are underwater and by the end of 2012 nearly 13 million homes will be in some stage of the foreclosure process. There is no shortage of families being pushed to the brink and the December 6th Occupy Our Homes Day of Action represents the launch of an effort to support families that are ready to stand up to Wall Street. Everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing. The website, occupyourhomes.org was launched to help the 99% fight for this right. It features an online action toolkit and a “Pledge in Defense of Homes and Neighborhoods” that anyone around the country can sign as a signal of their willingness to take action in defense of their own home or their willingness to stand in solidary with others taking that bold step. The goal is to get 50,000 people to take the pledge in the coming weeks.

Rose Gudiel and others that have stood up to their banks know that eviction defenses and home occupations should not be taken on lightly. That's why the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) has put together a teach-in called “Know Your Rights: How to Defend Your Home from Illegal Bank Actions” to help would be home defenders. Most teach-ins will take place this Saturday, December 3: anyone can sign up at www.calorganize.org/knowyourrights

On the day before Thanksgiving, appropriately, Occupy Wall Street in New York announced that they were supporting December 6th as a national day of action and encouraging people across the country to defend their homes against illegal bank actions. Throughout California and across the country people are organizing a variety of actions and many will publically announce that they are refusing to leave when faced with an unfair eviction.

As OWS member Max Berger told Salon, “This is a shift from protesting Wall Street fraud to taking action on behalf of people who were harmed by it. It brings the movement into the neighborhoods and gives people a sense of what's really at stake.”

Are you ready to be the next Rose Gudiel? Are you ready to stand by a neighbor or friend that is resisting a wrongful foreclosure? Sign up for a teach-in at www.calorganize.org/knowyourrights and then take the pledge at occupyourhomes.org

What Are Your Demands?

Every time people want to change the world for the better, they’re asked for demands. Sometimes, that’s even appropriate. But I work in DC, and I know a lot of people who have demands.

There’s the ever-popular 10-point list of demands. There’s the classic position paper; usually just one demand, often with a narrow set of policy suggestions centered on that demand, backed up by research expressed in charts, graphs, diagrams and extended essays. There are the demands spoken by lobbyists to congressional staff in regards to specific pieces of pending legislation. Demands are legion in our nation’s capital.

For all those demands though, for all the practiced organizing and inside game connections, almost everyone I know in DC has been vastly disappointed in recent years. Excepting those members of the LGBT community who decided to complain loud and long and publicly.

So, Occupy Wall Street, what do they want? I don’t speak for them, but I’m going to guess it’s a little something like this: to whatever extent human cruelty or greed makes life suck, it should stop.

Which probably, when you think about it, is a common theme of most of the demands made by non-corporate advocacy groups everywhere. And OWS, lack of more specific formulations notwithstanding, has gotten us all talking about that with a greater degree of success than anyone else in many, many years.

OWS’ strategy is, ‘We’re going to camp in a park, come join us.’ The only clear ask is, ‘let us keep camping in the park.’ Participants are offering their help to veterans and single moms and police officers’ families and dockworkers. They’re standing up against home foreclosures, bad bosses, corporate crime and landlords who won’t fix the boiler in the basement.

It’s a messaging disaster from beginning to end. It seems incoherent and unfocused. There’s no theory of change. Hope is not a plan. The actions and locations often have no clear connection to the name of the movement. The spokespeople are whoever the hell happens to show up for the press working group.

It’s enough to cause fits in a platoon of hacks and flacks.

But it’s working. I’m beginning to think that demands are overrated.

The Economy

Much of the OWS ire is clearly reserved for Wall Street and the banking industry, centered on the economy, and money-related problems.

Some people think that’s weird, because market capitalism is so accepted that it’s become our unofficial state religion in the United States, whose main dogma includes the sovereign independence of the central bank and the worship of high profit margins. Don’t even pretend you don’t know what I mean.

So we talk about the economy as if it were a natural phenomenon, almost as if, and this is where people start using it as a tool with which to judge each other, it were an Act of God.

It isn’t.

The economy isn’t like a volcano or a meteor. The economy is how people treat each other, and too often the way we treat each other is for sh*t.

The economy doesn’t happen to people. People happen to each other through the economy, even when we use money as a means of distancing ourselves from that.

Did you ever see ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’? The plot has this sweet, young kid ask his newly discovered, aristocratic and super-crusty grandfather not to throw his tenants out of their homes. The grandfather has lawful contracts! The tenants have obligations! Please, grandfather, don’t be mean to them. Well, okay.

Can you even imagine that happening at Bank of America?

We’ve been to the moon, mapped the Mariana Trench and walk around with Starfleet communicators in our pockets. We can’t stop treating each other like sh*t? Really? Is it that f*cking hard?

The story of our economy is Adam & Eve standing before their maker and saying, ‘It was the money. The money made me do it.’ Bull.


When the Greek tragedies were written, it was key that they were about important people. That’s what was supposed to make them tragic. If they’d been about ordinary people, the thinking went, who would have cared that the characters lives went horribly wrong?

Those stories are some of the first examples of celebrity culture that still seem relevant to the modern world. We still have plays, after all.

Celebrity is the foundation of the ‘great man’ model of history, with its harsh judgments on who was worth wasting vellum on prior to the advent of cheap printing, and who should die unremembered and unremarked.

Celebrity, whether we’re talking monarchs or entertainers, has been an enduring feature of concentrated human settlements. Beyond your immediate circle of friends, family and coworkers, you can really only know so many people.

Though because democracy is supposed to be about the idea that we all mattered as much as each other, celebrity culture has always been quietly at odds with it. Hardly anyone has ever believed that all human beings were equally worthy, and it really, really shows.

Celebrity culture is ancient. It’s unlikely to disappear in our lifetimes, or maybe ever, but space is now being made for something else.


I’m not sure it was entirely our fault that we took so long to try democracy and equality. And by try, I mean mostly fail what we said were our own goals.

For most of history, everyone lived in tiny communities with virtually no connection to the outside, except maybe a war, all their lives. People knew their own neighborhood, they knew about a few aristocratic celebrities, and everyone else who might exist was a highly suspicious mystery.

Even in a relatively small place (by today’s standards,) like the British Isles, there was so little travel that each village generally had its own very distinct dialect. That’s how separate most people usually were from each other. They were divided and relatively easy for their local celebrity governors to rule.

As true-to-life sound and image recording developed into mass media, it seems that there was a corresponding increase in the understanding that people in other places were just people. Just like the people you knew. It was harder to fear them.

Caricature in service of the powerful became more difficult and had to be subtler, even when mass-produced.

Toni Morrison described the phenomenon of white Americans who think that they know all the good black people, while still holding on to stereotypes of black people they’d never met as lazy or dangerous or otherwise no good. The black people they knew were people, individuals with demonstrable worth and variable personalities, but the ones they didn’t know remained caricatures.

Which is exactly how the wealthy landowners, who invented whiteness to avert class-based political alliances among the poor, wanted all European immigrants to the Americas to think.

Then Americans were shown a picture of Emmet Till in his coffin. For many white Americans, this was the first image of a black person they didn’t know that broke caricature. He was not an insult; he was a child. His humanity was impossible to deny.

Robert Kennedy showed America the face of Appalachian poverty during his presidential campaign, and it touched people’s hearts. After that, there was a war on poverty, which was even taken seriously for a while.

A Vietnam War photographer showed America a picture of a napalmed child. It made people hurt, one person seeing another in pain and feeling an echo of horror. The discussion of the war changed from that moment.

After these disasters for the powers that be, media stopped showing many actually touching images of caricatured groups.

The establishment media, partly owned by such wealthy warmongers as General Electric, has worked to caricature the poor, for example, as violent or lazy, layering that in with established slurs on predominantly poor racial minorities. Infamously and recently, white victims of Hurricane Katrina were labeled as ‘looking for supplies,’ while black victims were labeled as looters.

The beautiful thing about this moment in time is that social media is giving us back the early promise of true-to-life recording.

We can see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices and know each other’s strength and folly from far away. When we can know each other like that, with technology as a direct facilitator rather than a lying intermediary, it’s harder to make each other into jokes and slurs.

I saw Neda Agha-Soltan close her eyes for the last time. She and her fellow demonstrators will forever be real to me. I saw. People, not abstractions.

You may have seen that, too. It was one of many moments of ordinary people becoming real to ordinary strangers far away.

From the pictures of people who held Tahrir Square to those of Spain’s Indignados, or from the words of Syrian demonstrators tweeted live and direct to the entire world, we are all creating space for non-celebrities to become real to each other.


Our encounters with the reality of previously distant people, who aren’t friends or family or coworkers, but also not celebrities, are hugely important.

Because if we want to someday have a real democracy, it must become more important, to both you & me, to know the name Oscar Grant than the names Brad Pitt, Hillary Clinton or Richard Branson.

Which seems to be what’s happening with the occupations; I see ordinary people more interested in each other’s doings than the deeds of the mighty. It’s a thing that’s only possible because of the level of detail & fidelity with which we can, and now do, publicly communicate.

We are silly and serious together. We can read each other’s live commentary on events as if in a vast auditorium where each voice still carried clearly. The audience is as real as the person on stage we’re all looking at and getting to know.

Humans have never before had such powerful tools for amplifying ordinary conversation. Even when our conversations are infuriating, we’re getting to know each other. We are interested in each other. We care.

I don’t mean care in some warm and fuzzy kind of way, or as an expression of sympathy in case of misfortune. To care is to concern oneself, to attend, to notice.

If you can’t care about someone, you can’t believe in his or her equal humanity. You can’t coexist in meaningful democratic relationship to each other, where you respect each other as co-creators of a shared society.

It takes time to care about people, to develop the practice of attending to them and looking out for their interests.

Millions of people have decided that it’s time to develop this practice in regards to one another, right now.  This exercise, if it’s to be done at all, will take a while. We don’t all get along very well, as you may have noticed. But we have every reason to hope that if we come to this honestly, with compassion, we will learn to appreciate and care for each other.

The most important encounters of our lives, and possibly human history, are happening today, between ‘nobodies’, through a hybrid of online and offline public forums.

What are our demands? Care about us.

This is not a request solely of the powerful, but also of each other, of ordinary strangers. You learn to care about me as I learn to care about you.

Whoever you are. It doesn’t matter. But also, it matters more than anything. We must live together and share the same world.

Millions of us have decided to have these encounters as part of inviting ourselves to the discussions where big decisions are made. We’re meeting our fellow ambassadors and forming working groups. So we’re going to have to also demand some patience and some space. Especially because we all need more practice at democracy, and not waiting on great people who neither know nor care about us.

In order to make this happen, we’re going to have to insist, and believe, that a General Assembly is as important as a G20 summit.

Very little has prepared us well for the ongoing practice of democracy.  It doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out together, which is the whole point.

Leave Your Too-Big-To-Fail Bank to Fail

Switch to a local credit union as part of Bank Transfer Day

by Brian Leubitz

I’ll admit it. I’ve been a customer of a certain too-big-to-fail bank that recently backed down from a debit card fee recently.  I’ve had an account with them since I was 12. Well, that isn’t totally accurate, my account was in one of the predecessors to Nations Bank which eventually became Bank Of America. But, you know, I’ve been lazy for a long time, and it is probably well past time that I do a little searching on my own.

Of course, I was inspired by the #OWS movement, (and an email from the Burnt Orange Report folks) but now seems like a good time anyway.  And, the PCCC’s Banxodus campaign even will help you find a local credit union.  And there are many reasons to find a credit union:

Not-for-profit credit unions are owned by their members. These banks aren’t under pressure by Wall Street investors to maximize quarterly returns. Instead, profits go back to the members in the form of higher interest on savings and lower interest on loans, mortgages, and credit card balances.

The same is not true in the world of for-profit corporate banking. Just look at the chart on the left showing the tremendous consolidation of the consumer banking industry in the last 20 years. These big banks think they can get away with charging you exorbitant interest or excessive fees because you don’t have a choice. Well, you do have a choice, and that choice is a credit union that meets your needs.

A wide range of financial planners and media outlets agree: credit unions are better for your money. Here’s why:

1. Fewer fees, more savings. The Credit Union National Association estimates that consumers save more than $6 billion a year in better rates and lower fees by using credit unions. That’s your money — who should make a profit off of it, you or your bank? — ABC News

2. Credit cards with lower interest rates.  Federal law prohibits federal credit unions from charging interest rates above 18%. Credit union customers pay, on average, 20% less in credit card interest. — Forbes

3. Better customer service. 70% of credit union members feel that the institution put the customer’s interests ahead of the institution itself. The highest big bank, Wells Fargo, came in at a 40% positive rating. —Forbes

4. No penalties for using or not using your money. Corporate banks routinely charge you to open a checking account, charge you if your account is dormant, charge you if your balance drops below a certain level. It’s crazy! Credit unions simply do not engage in these kinds of practices — practices that are focused on driving up quarterly profits, regardless of customer satisfaction. — MSN Money

5. Your money stays in your community. Credit unions primarily employ people locally, and give back generously as well. Local credit unions are also more likely to give loans to local businesses, especially women- and minority-owned businesses. Since the recession began, credit unions have vastly expanded their business loan operations, which helps keep funds working in the local community. — Businessweek (Burnt Orange Report)

So, with that, I went online to find a credit union that works for me. I’m leaning towards SF Fire, but there are probably several right within your community to choose from. Banxodus will help you find one that works for you, or if the data isn’t there, you can help your neighbors by doing a bit of crowd-sourced research.  Either way, now is a splendid time to tell your Big BankTM to take a hike.

Officially, Bank Transfer Day is Saturday, but I’m sure nobody would hold it against you if you acted a bit early.

A Great First Step for Wall Street Reform

Last Saturday, I hosted three town halls in Fairfield, Antioch, and Walnut Creek, and as you can imagine, the questions ran the gamut.  But time and again, I heard from so many of my constituents about their troubles in this difficult economy. Whether it was recently laid off workers, students unsure if they can afford a 32% hike in their fees after five consecutive years of tuition hikes, laid off workers unable to collect unemployment insurance, employers who can’t acquire the capital they need to expand, or homeowners trying to save their properties from foreclosure, our people are hurting, and it’s our job in Washington to fix it.

We’re all now painfully aware that our financial sector was permitted to run amuck under the previous administration and our government failed to stop it. To address this problem, today I proudly cast my vote for H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. While I think more expansive reforms of the financial sector are necessary, this legislation is an important first-step that will go far in helping to protect consumers, investors, homeowners, and tenants.

More over the flip…

Under this legislation, consumers will finally have a federal regulator with teeth ready to battle predatory financial firms. We will stop financial conglomerates from becoming ‘too big to fail’ and provide legal and financial assistance to homeowners and tenants trying to save their homes. For the first time in U.S. history, we will regulate the over-the-counter derivatives marketplace, where millions of contracts between large banks have gone unregulated for years. We also require most private equity and hedge fund advisors to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and expand the SEC’s staff and anti-fraud capabilities. We also require full disclosure of financial firms’ compensation structures and give shareholders the opportunity to give an advisory vote on executive compensation practices. With millions of Americans unemployed, including tens of thousands in my district, we can’t afford further delay on this important package.

With my vote, I’m sending a simple message: no more. No more to abusive lending practices, no more to loopholes that allow billions of dollars between large firms to go unregulated, no more to a system that prioritizes short term profit in one sector over the long term health of an entire economy.

For eight years as California’s Insurance Commissioner, I regulated the largest financial industry in America: its insurance companies. Now I’m prepared to take this experience and use it to stop abusive practices in our banking industry. The games have to stop; it’s time we created an economy that focuses on the needs of Main Street, not just Wall Street.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. You can follow Congressman John Garamendi on his new Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Wall Street Banks Need To Stop Using Funny Math

(Say Hi to Asm. Lieu. NPR’s Planet Money podcast did a good report on this subject as well. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Two weeks ago, Bank of America surprised Wall Street by posting an alleged ‘strong’ profit of $4.2 billion the first quarter of this year. Now we know how they arrived at those numbers:  funny math. Today we learned that Bank of America actually needs another $34 billion injection of capital in order to survive. 

Bank of America is not the only firm using funny numbers.  Goldman Sachs posted an alleged profit of $1.8 billion for the first quarter of 2009.  The company had previously followed a calendar quarter that ran from December to February.  However, Goldman Sachs conveniently and suddenly decided to change its accounting to a calendar year schedule, and changed their fiscal year to start in January, effectively eliminating December’s results.  The company had suffered large losses in December.  So the ‘profit’ Goldman Sachs posted doesn’t account for the entire missing month of December.


Funny numbers, lack of transparency, and the obscuring of risk were some of the prime causes of Wall Street’s economic collapse, a collapse that started our recession.  America’s recession will be prolonged if investors continue to stay on the sidelines because they are unable to ascertain the true value of banks and other companies.  

It is time for Wall Street firms to come clean and start telling Americans the truth.

A quick correction regarding Delta Bank and all regional banks

I posted a story yesterday about Stockton in which I mentioned the former Delta Bank branch that now serves as the Republican Party HQ.  Delta Bank leased out the property like any other landlord for a standard paying tenant situation.  I didn’t mean to say that the Bank was in any way unstable, rather I was merely intending to point out the irony of the GOP office in a bank office. The economy has been hit hard in Stockton, and no business is immune. However, through sound business judgment from banks and borrowers, the economy in Stockton will certainly rebound. Local and regional banks, such as Delta Bank, will be key to this rebound.

I actually learned that Delta Bank was never involved in subprime lending, now that’s some solid decision-making.  While reviewing the story, I came upon this article in the Sacramento Bee noting that the smaller banks are actually faring much better than the big guys:

Still, bank executives and finance experts agree that smaller players are generally in better shape than big banks right now. Community banks and credit unions tend to invest more conservatively. While big financial companies such as Lehman Bros. and Washington Mutual Inc. were sowing trouble with risky home mortgage investments, local institutions held back. … Still, officials with River City and El Dorado Savings said that they’ve seen an uptick in new accounts recently, although they wouldn’t disclose details. Both attribute the business to disenchantment with their bigger rivals.(SacBee 9.19.08)

So, feel safe using these local banks, like say Delta Bank (they even have a pretty nice online banking system!). In addition to the fact that the federal government insures most deposits, dealing locally contributes significant economic benefits to the local economy.