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Will Your Grocery Bills Go Up Due to Flooding in the Midwest?; The Future of Flying: What You Need to Know; Foreclosure Frenzies; The Debate About Energy
Aired June 21, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Wildfires shut down sections of the scenic Highway 1 near Watsonville yesterday. The fast-burning wildfires consumed more than a dozen homes and bars and forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
In the Midwest, the worst appears to be over along the swollen Mississippi River. But the damage is done. An Iowa official says the floods may have caused some $3 billion in crop losses. Wiping out 10 percent of the state corn and 20 percent of the soybean crop.
At least 54 people have been killed by monsoon floods and landslides in eastern India. Flooding is so severe helicopters and ferry boats are being used to get food and drinking water to the thousands of villagers. Speed boats, they are being used to get some people to higher ground.
In southern Afghanistan, roadside bombs today killed five soldiers serving under the U.S. and NATO coalition. At least 32 troops, including 12 from the U.S., have been killed this month alone at the coalition battles a resurgent Taliban.
And after a last-minute delay, a man convicted of killing his ex- girlfriend's parents was executed last night in South Carolina. James Earl Reed was the first person in nearly a year to be executed by electric chair in the U.S. Reed has been on death row for 12 years now. The execution was delayed when a federal judge issued a temporary stay but an appeals court overturned it just a few hours later.
Painful memories in Wisconsin. The house where six young people were killed in a shooting rampage last year was torn down today. The deaths at the hands of a jealous off-duty sheriff's deputy stunned the small community. The site will now be used for a memorial.
We will update the top stories at the bottom of the hour. Now time for YOUR MONEY.
ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Welcome to YOUR MONEY. We look at how the news of the week affects your bottom line. I'm Ali Velshi.
Devastating floods hit the Midwest with up to 20 percent of Iowa's corn crops destroyed. We are going the find out if that means that your grocery bills will jump even higher this summer.
Also, with airlines ready to charge for everything from bags to soda, we are going to take a look at the future of flying. What do you need to know before booking your next trip?
And foreclosures, up more than 150 percent in the last we are, 73,000 families losing their homes to bank repossessions in May alone. Greg Hunter joins us with an eye-opening look at the little guy fighting back in the foreclosure frenzy.
But first the race for the White House includes the usual campaign rhetoric about the need to wean America off its dependence on foreign oil. However, with gas prices at record highs, there is a new sense of urgency entering the debate about energy between John McCain and Barack Obama.
CNN's MONEY.com's Poppy Harlow joins us now with a look at where the candidates stand when it comes to their energy policy. You have been doing this energy fix for us here at CNN. We are drilling down, no pun intended, get are getting more specific on energy policies.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Very specific especially now that we have the two presumptive nominees. They are not on the same page. Sky- high oil prices mean Americans are paying big bucks for energy. John McCain laid out his energy policy this week and he drew some clear distinctions of Barack Obama from voters to consider. The short term, Senator McCain wanted to give drivers a break from the federal gas tax this summer. He is focused on producing more oil here in the U.S. In other words, tackling the supply and demand problem by increasing supply.
In addition to easing restrictions on new refineries, McCain wants to lift the current ban on offshore oil drilling. The energy policy, though, is his design to increase this country's use of nuclear power. McCain insists it is safe and efficient and has said 100 nuclear plants was his ultimate goal with 45 new nuclear reactors in place by the year 2030.
On the other hand, Barack Obama opposes nuclear power. In fact, there is not a whole lot he agrees with Senator McCain on when it comes to energy policy. Obama called the gas tax holiday a gimmick or just a band-aid fix and he says offshore drilling of oil would have a negaeligible effect on gas prices. Instead Obama is focused on doubling fuel economy standards to 50 miles per gallon by 2026. Both candidates have big goals for our country.
VELSHI: John McCain, whether you like it or not, has staked out a position on this offshore drilling. But it is not entirely clear. It is entirely clear it is not going to have any immediate effect on gas or oil prices. These are long-term solutions. We are probably starting to think more about that as Americans.
HARLOW: Certainly thinking about long-term solutions. Now I think for both the candidates they are looking down the road because certainly what we are doing right now, depending a lot outside of America for our oil, that's why it is not working. They want a long term fix, not a band-aid.
VELSHI: Let's continue to talk about this. The kind of thing that our viewers want to talk about. You want to talk about. I will bring in Stephen Schork, he is the editor of the "Schork Report" and he is an energy commodities expert. Stephen, good to see you.
Many people wake up in the morning to your overnight reports on what is going to happen to the price of oil on a daily basis. It seems that for all of the things we hear about that bring the price of oil down, a little bit, we are still sustaining these very high levels and that means record gas prices. Is there anything the candidates can do that's going to have an effect on oil and gas prices now or within the next six months or a year?
STEPHEN SCHORK, EDITOR, "SHORK REPORT:" No. Not in the next six months or the year. All of the potential solutions are long term. And that makes sense. We got into this predicament over the last 30 years. This was a problem 30 years in the making and it will be a solution that will be 10, 15 years before we see any sort of -- the difference with the candidates is that John McCain is trying to offer a little bit of coherency to the market. He's trying to address an issue on the supply side.
Because, again, a lot of the speculation in this market is driving prices higher because there is strength between global spare capacity and demand. We have watched over the last two generations demand; not only in the United States, but around the world continue to grow.
Yet we sat on the sidelines the last 30 years twiddling our thumbs, whistling in the dark, hoping the supply situation was going to take care of itself. You know what? It is not. We have high prices today. They are going to remain.
VELSHI: If you think it is a supply problem, meaning we need to find more oil and there is more oil out there, the John McCain solution holds some water. The Democrats and Barack Obama have been talking more about a destruction of demand scenario. Creating a situation where we just depend less on oil.
Which one of these makes more sense? I'm speaking from the perspective of our viewer who is going to try to make a decision about who on to vote for in November. Which one is going to make more sense for the long-term price of oil and gas?
SCHORK: Well, if you want to continue to pay higher prices that are how we get the demand. Go with the Obama. He is telling us that high prices are here to stay. We do have a demand destruction. But you have to address this issue on both sides of the equation about supply and demand. Demand is taking care of itself. We are pulling back and we are conserving and driving less here in the United States, if you look at the strikes that are happening all over Europe right now, there's clearly demand destruction in Europe as we now believe there is demand destruction in the Far East.
We are taking care of that one side of the issue. But we also must address the supply issue. And what Obama is offering is no solution on this supply side. At least with McCain's plan we are going to address the supply side. That's no silver bullet. It is no quick fix. Again, we will continue the demand side. You have to -- you have to love these to high prices. Because these high prices are, again, telling demand which is for the environment means less -- on the Democratic side you are -- we have the issue with demand destruction, higher prices. We don't see any issue with how we are going to address our supply needs going forward.
HARLOW: You know Stephen, let's tack about the millions and millions of profits that these oil companies are making, Exxonmobil record profits over $40 billion last year. Obama says it is obscene and we should have a windfall profit tax on these companies. Is that going to help at all for me at the gas station?
SCHORK: Absolutely not. I mean, here in Philadelphia when -- when Obama was running for the primary, he didn't call it a tax. He called it a windfall profit penalty. My goodness. This is the United States. When did making a profit all of a sudden become illegal? On this issue the Democrats are clearly stating that they are determined not to be outdone by the Republicans when it comes to energy profit.
Yeah, I know $40 billion profit. That's a big number. That's a 40 with nine zeros behind it. Have you looked at what their revenues were? In the second quarter Exxon made $10 billion. They did that on revenue of $116 billion. Which means Exxon only made 10 cents on the dollar. There's nothing egregious.
VELSHI: They just happened to sell a lot of the oil. Stephen I'm going to get on a plane and go up to northern Alberta, into the oil sands. In Northern Alberta where they say there's more oil available there than Saudi Arabia. What's the thing we have to look for there? Is that part of our future in terms of consuming oil?
SCHORK: Absolutely. This was -- what allowed the western oil companies to thumb their nose when Chavez when he went ahead and nationalized the oil industry in Venezuela. They pulled out of the project because they could lean on western Canada and as you alluded to estimates now have enough oil up in Canada as there is the entire peninsula.
Now, this is a hard to, get to refine oil. It is essentially synthetic oil. So, therefore, it requires a higher price. You need oil prices at least $50 to $60 to justify to do that. At $140, look, they are going like gangbusters and it is within our future, in our grasp.
VELSHI: Get your e-mail available, I might need some questions answered while I'm up there. Stephen Schork, always a pleasure to talk to you. Stephen Schork is a publisher of the "Schork Report." Poppy Harlow does out energy fix for us and she will be back a little later in the show. Because she had a great conversation with the CEO of Southwest Airlines.
And nickel and diming us all. You want to stay tuned for more from Poppy later on.
Coming up, whether or not you live in an area that has been hit by those recent floods we were talking about earlier, you are going to feel the effects. What the floods mean to your food prices, coming up next on YOUR MONEY. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Chances are those Midwest floods will have an impact our life over the next few months even if you don't live in the flood zone. CNN's senior correspondent Allan Chernoff spent the last week knee deep in the water covering so many of those farms in Iowa where the crops have been destroyed. At this point, some of those homes are under water.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It is awful to see this. Farmers who have spent their lives planting, killing, tending all those crops. Now they are looking at the lakes where their corn and soybeans once grew.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Farmer Richard Siegle's home is in ten feet of water.
RICHARD SIEGLE, FARMER: It is unbelievable. Yes. Unbelievable. Never thought this would ever, ever happen.
CHERNOFF: He has lived and farmed this land in southeastern Iowa for 47 years until the Iowa River broke through a levee on Saturday. All of Richard and Thelma's possessions are in their son's basement, garage, and a semi trailer in his front yard. The flood zone here encompasses 21-square miles, including more than 100 farms. We are not even close to either river the Mississippi or the -- more than two miles in that direction. The Iowa River, seven miles down that way. Kirk Siegle, who runs the farm now, had invested more than $1 million planting and fertilizing corn and soybean.
KIRK SIEGLE, FARMER: That's like losing your job and not knowing when you are going to get back.
CHRENOFF: Kirk and his dad emptied their green silos to save last year's harvest. But now they can't sell it because of the Mississippi shut down for shipping. So processors are not buying. Its revenue Kirk desperately needs to pay off bills, bank loans, and a loan that helped him buy this brand-new tractor which now sits idle.
K. SIEGLE: I still have to feed the family and things continue to -- we have to have gas for our vehicles and electricity for my house. Education expenses for my kids.
CHERNOFF: A financial squeeze so tight that Kirk says this winter he might have to replace some of the income he was counting on his farm to provide.
CHERNOFF: There's no way a job will replace the income that the Siegle family lost. Kirk Siegle is estimating the has family lost $1.1 million in revenue as a result of this flooding. VELSHI: You were out there for the floods. You were describing the effect it had on soybean and corn. Iowa is the central place for this. If you don't think you have much of a relationship to soybean and corn outside of Iowa, you really do.
CHERNOFF: Everybody does. Even if you don't eat corn on the cob, you don't eat or you don't drink soy milk, it is in so many products. Even if you don't eat -- astounding. Soybeans are use for ink, for adhesives. There are just so many applications for all of these products. So really is going to affect all of us. The prices will be pressured upward.
VELSHI: We have seen record prices now for corn. We were supposed to have a bumper crop of corn this year. Now so much of it is lost.
CHERNOFF: And that's the reason that farmers had planted so much and that they had anticipated getting record revenues, record profits. That's why the Siegles bought that incredible huge tractor. I can tell you how big the tractor is. It would fill the entire studio. $122,000, it is sitting up on their high land. The tractor is OK. It is not doing anything.
VELSHI: Now let's bring in Stewart Ramsey he is the senior economist with Global. Let's talk about this a bit. We have discussed the likely impact of this. We have seen the price of the corn and soybean affecting our economy and the economies around the world over the course of the last year. What's the incremental effect? How much more is this going to be hit because of the flooding?
STEWART RAMSEY, GLOBAL INSIGHTS: I guess it is hard to say yet. We don't know exactly how the crop is going to come out of the floods. I mean, there's the impact like the farmers that you just described that are devastated. Probably they have no crop this year. But then there's the fringe areas where the crops actually have been reduced. But not eliminated.
So until we get the crop in the bi and, you know, a long ways off from that, we won't know the full effect. You can -- pretty well count on rising prices. At least high prices which we already have high prices for the next 12 months or so. You know, for the -- for the consume consumer, you know, that will permeate more in terms of the cost of meat and other food products and you mentioned some of the interesting places that corn and soybeans show up like the adhesives on the back of rugs and whatnot. 3
We have been creative about where we can use some of these commodities. I think those price effects will be somewhat less rather than the actual food price effects which will con to come for probably the next year.
CHERNOFF: Stewart, with regard to the food prices, a lot of people would think immediately would see prices rise. But isn't it the fact that a lot of farmers are going to have to slaughter tremendous number of their livestock because of those high feed costs? RAMSEY: Well, I mean, that's exactly right. You know, when we talk about corn and corn that is being devastated in Iowa and down through the Midwest, this is not really the corn that you and I eat. This is more so the corn that we feed the livestock or make in ethanol or so many other things, high fructose, corn syrup and similar with soybeans.
Not too many of us directly consume soybeans. We may use soybean oil in salad dressing or mayonnaise but -- soybean meal the primary product coming out of production of soybeans, protein for livestock feed. That effect in the short run is basically hog and chicken producers, cattle producers. They may have to slaughter their animals earlier because they are losing too much money because of the high feed costs.
VELSHI: You mentioned ethanol is continuing to struggle with record high gas prices and ethanol is a large percentage of gas now in some places higher. What's the direct effect on gas prices?
RAMSEY: You said large percentage. Ethanol still is only, you know, four to five, maybe 10 percent the most depending on regionally where we are talking about. You know, actually ethanol, gas prices right now are being driven by high oil prices, not high corn prices the way I see it. What is happening is ethanol margins are being trimmed. There's no doubt about that, $7 corn, $8 corn, depending on where we are headed, that's going to impact ethanol, producers as well.
VELSHI: Thank you very much, Stewart. Stewart Ramsey from -- he is a senior economist, Global Insights. Allan Chernoff thank you, great work in the Midwest during the floods.
Coming up next, banks have been hard hit by the credit crises but their jacking up one of their fees to help pay for it. We will tell thank you ones that affect you. Next on YOUR MONEY, stay with us.
VELSHI: All right. Jennifer Westhoven joins us now as she does every week. The banks are taking a big hit; we know this for the last year or so. There is one more way now that it has worked its way back to the consumer. Tell us about this.
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You really have to watch out for this. When people lose their homes basically when they have problems with their mortgages banks end up with a big hole in their balance sheet and they are looking to make it up out of your pocket. They will hit you even harder now if you accidentally overdraw your bank account.
Washington Mutual Bank of America, both recently raised their overdraft fees in many states. You can take a look at the increase there. They also changed the rules. If you do make a mistake say you charge something you don't realize you are overdrawn, they could hit you multiple times the same day. You keep going out and using the debit cards you keep getting these $30 plus fees on a $7 lunch can happen seven times in a day. That's infuriating.
VELSHI: You don't know that this is happening. They are going to continue to make that money if you don't do something to control that.
WESTHOVEN: Yes. This is something that the management -- the memos saying that they don't want -- want to make sure they don't refund your money. If you call up screaming they may not do anything about it. They take in more than $17 billion a year in these fees. The banks depend on that.
VELSHI: $17 billion.
VELSHI: That sounds like the amount of money we spend on bottled water in this country.
WESTHOVEN: It is the same amount of money that we spent last year on bottled water.
VELSHI: Ridiculous. I don't know how much you are spending on it because I'm spending nothing on bottled water.
WESTHOVEN: I used to buy a lot of bottled water. It is easy, taste goods. Feels like it is healthy. You about these days that's a no-no for many reasons. If have you a hard "time" buying gas, bottled water will be one of the first luxuries to go. The old friends of the faucet is making a comeback. Sales of bottled water slowed to the low nest ten years. Sales of those water filter faucets have been up. If you think about how much oil it takes to make the bottles, ship them all over the world and end up in landfills --
VELSHI: And you can't reuse the bottles. Some people like to freeze.
WESTHOVEN: And there are some concerns about the chemicals that are in them. So in many ways it is becoming a no-no to go around with a bottle of water.
VELSHI: Big thing for me in a restaurant, insist on tap water. Some of my friends -- I didn't realize that I was as imposing as I am but others of my friends have said that they know not to drink bottled water.
Other news out this week. Hundreds of arrests having to do with mortgage fraud.
WESTHOVEN: Yeah. You said some of the first criminal charges that we have seen connected to the housing market crises. Hitting Wall Street this week. Two former Bear Stearns Hedge Fund managers were indicted on conspiracy and fraud counts. Their funds invested heavily in these risky mortgages. When they collapsed along with the subprime market it cost the investors nearly $2 billion and then basically set off the chain reaction that led to Bear Stearns' downfall.
In a separate case the justice department says more than 400 people have been indicted. This is since March. In a federal crackdown on mortgage fraud. In this case, we are not talking about big Wall Street guys; we are talking about mostly small-time realtors and mortgage brokers who are accused of lying about income or assets, forging documents, inflated appraisals. But it is very interesting that we are starting to see charges, indictments, arrests.
VELSHI: One is people who are swindling average homeowners getting mortgages. The other one people charged with misleading the wealthy investors. It shows you how big this mortgage situation is.
WESTHOVEN: While it may not help people if you are losing your home, it may put in place the kind of preventative measures so it does not happen again.
VELSHI: Jennifer, good to see you. Thank you so much for that.
Coming up on YOUR MONEY, the major airlines are striking deals. What's that mean for you? What you need to know before you book your next trip. Stay tuned.
WHITFIELD: I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.
Happening right no, the worst appears to be over along the swollen Mississippi Rivers. The damage is done. An Iowa official says the floods may have caused $3 billion dollars in crop losses, wiping out 10 percent of the state's corn plants and 20 percent of soybeans.
California firefighters say they have the upper hand on fast- burning wildfires that shut down sections of Highway 1 near Watsonville yesterday. The fighters torched more than a dozen homes and barns and forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
At least 54 people have been killed by monsoon floods and landslides in eastern India. The flooding is so severe; helicopters and ferry boats are being used to get food and drinking water to thousands of villagers.
Nigerian media reports militants have blown up an oil pipeline run by Chevron. Chevron says the breached Nigeria pipeline has forced it to shut down some of its oil production. The latest attack coming only hours after Shell said it was forced to reduce output after a raid on one of its offshore facilities.
Coming up at the top of the hour, Christiane Amanpour reports notes from North Korea. Now back to more of YOUR MONEY.
VELSHI: We have been taking a look at how the news of the week affects your wallet. And in a case of CNNMONEY.com's Poppy Harlow, she has been looking at energy matters. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than -- obviously at the gas pump but it really worked its way through to travel and the airlines.
HARLOW: My goodness. The legacy carriers like American, Continental and Delta; they are bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars every year. They are trying to stay in business and not file for Chapter 11.
But Southwest Airlines, that discount carrier, they are making money and they are not cutting jobs. They are not adding on the surcharges. They are not charging folks for the first checked bag. I had a chance to sit down with the CEO of Southwest this week on "Issue #1." He said they hedged oil at $61 a barrel. They are doing well right now.
VELSHI: If there's probably nothing more irritating then the manner in which some of the airlines have done this. On one side you have to feel for them. They are paying higher fuel costs and they are trying to survive and pass it on. There has been a real discomfort amongst our viewers and any of us who travel about the way it is handled it.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of Faircompare.com, he is with us to have a discussion about air travel and what's going on. There has been a big story again this week, Rick, about Continental and United. They are announcing a deal -- like a cooperation agreement. It is not a merger. But it is going to -- what effect will it have on travelers?
RICK SEANEY, CEO, FARECOMPARE.COM: Well in the short term nothing. This kind of alliance is very popular with many of the legacy airlines. It is going to extend their region to Asia and into Europe. Right now, Continental is a member of called Sky Team which includes Delta Northwest. With those two airlines merging, they are the odd person out. So now they are hooking up with United. They will get antitrust immunity as part of this deal. So they will be able to work on pricing together and basically extend their reach. Really, this isn't going to show up at any level until 2009, and probably late in 2009.
VELSHI: Rick, Poppy is with us because she talked to the CEO of Southwest Airlines. One of the issues that you are here to talk to us about is what does the future air travel look like given these increases that we continue to see in air fares if we see oil prices staying as high as they are and gasoline prices staying as they are? Clearly things are going to shift.
SEANEY: Things will shift. There is going to basically less flights, less choice, less destinations. Flights are going to be fuller. With the new baggage fees, I personally think that there will be huge delays at TSA and on airplanes. Airlines are fighting flight auctions out of Newark which basically is supposed to help congestion.
The bottom line is that we are going to be paying higher prices and if you want to get a decent ticket you are going to have to change your buying habits.
HARLOW: Rick, let's get to that. The price that we are all paying for these airline tickets. Talk to us about how much more prices are this summer compared to last summer and also if there is a cheap ticket deal out there, how can people find it?
SEANEY: Basically, if you looked the year over year numbers, it depends really on what city you live in. If you live in a city that has a Southwest Airlines in it, your prices may be only up 7 to 12 percent like a city like San Francisco that has Virgin America. A city like Dallas where I'm sitting today, prices are up over 45 percent. Just since the beginning of the year.
So it just depends what city you live in and the smaller cities, some of those are up 80 to 100 percent. The bottom line is that where you sit makes a big difference on how much you are going to pay. And really what you have to do nowadays to get a decent ticket is change your behavior.
VELSHI: Tell us how to do that. Quickly, how we -- what we do now. Somebody is watching this and want to travel and they still want to have a trip. What's your best advice for them?
SEANEY: Got to start shopping four months in advance. Definitely most people shop about a month out, little over a month out. Start shopping earlier. You have to be flexible. Basically, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are the best days and cheapest days to travel, less crowded and cheaper. And when you see those prices, I know a lot of you at work, even during the workday, are shopping for airline tickets. Buy that ticket when you see a good price. Don't go home, don't ask your spouse. Buy that ticket when you see it. Everybody else is shopping and will buy that ticket before.
VELSHI: Or you can wake up to me on "AMERICAN MORNING" many days telling you guess what, there has been another airfare increase because Rick Seaney told me so. Rick good to see you. Rick Seaney is the CEO of Faircompare.com.
Great discussion that you had with the CEO of Southwest Airlines and people can go to Money.com and see that.
HARLOW: They can see the whole interview and find out ways to save and find out what's the future of airline travel in this country. We all need to fly. We have to find a way to afford it.
VELSHI: It is worth looking at. Because Southwest is one of the few airlines that's getting it right. Thanks Poppy.
Coming up, Greg Hunter has a look at how some people are actually able to fight back against foreclosures. What the banks don't want you to know about one option that could be available to you. Stay with us to hear that. Your are watching YOUR MONEY on CNN.
VELSHI: While the banks and the Fed and even Congress figure out what to do about this foreclosure crisis Americans continue to get hit hard. Last month alone more than 70,000 families lost their homes. Foreclosures jumped a staggering 158 percent year over year. Can the little guy fight back? Greg Hunter thinks so.
GREG HUNTER, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I think they can. In foreclosure, the bank has to show it owns your house. What most people don't know is almost half of the time the banks don't have their paperwork to prove it in court. In many cases, it ends up lost or destroyed. It is a national problem that the banks would love to keep quiet because knowing that could be your best defense in fighting foreclosure.
HUNTER (voice over): Like many home owners, Jacci O'Brien is behind on her mortgage. She bought her house near Clearwater, Florida, in 2004. But in 2007, fell behind on her payments following a death in the family.
JACCI O'BRIEN, HOMEOWNER: I returned to England. I was getting support of family members and things like this. When I came back to America, I was in default with my mortgage. I was behind with my payments.
HUNTER: She says she tried several occasions to catch up on her payment with her bank Wachovia. She showed us a photo copy of one catch up payment for $8,500. But the bank wouldn't accept and is fore closuring on her property. They wouldn't take your payments?
O'BRIEN: No. They wouldn't take my payments. That was it. No more. They didn't want to talk to me.
HUNTER: But in foreclosure she discovered the bank filed a motion for lost instruments. In other words, the bank lost or destroyed the actual proof that it owns her house.
O'BRIEN: I think the note is being sold so many times and they have become very sloppy with their paperwork. It could be in a dumpster for all I know.
HUNTER: A bank losing a mortgage note may sound like a rare occurrence but a recent study by law professor Katherine Porter found it happens nearly half the time.
KATHERINE M. PORTER, ASSOC. PROFESSOR, UNIV. OF IOWA: What I found is banks failed to attach a copy of the promissory note that's the evidence of the consumer owes the debt in 40 percent of the situation. Four out of ten consumers were being asked by their bank to make payments on a mortgage but the bank didn't provide the evidence to establish what those debts were.
HUNTER: Last November, a federal court ruled against Deutsche Bank and stopped them from fore closuring on 14 houses until they could produce the note. Those foreclosures are still in limbo.
CHRIS HOYER, ATTORNEY: If your case ends up in court don't let the mortgage companies off easy. Make them produce the note.
HUNTER: Chris Hoyer is a Tampa attorney that's on the Internet with a free Website that helps people fight foreclosure. He thinks people should fight for a better deal.
HOYER: If you are about to lose your home at least make them produce the note. Make them prove first that they have the note and the IOU and the person standing in the court is the person authorized by the owner to take your home.
HUNTER: That's just what Jacci O'Brien is planning to do.
O'BRIEN: I would like to know who actually owns my mortgage. I would like to know who I can deal with. I'm going make them produce the note.
HUNTR: She says the bank is pressing on with foreclosure. And won't agree on a catch up payment. In addition she says -- they keep tacking on fees.
O'BRIEN: The only they will do it, if I pay them something like $20,000 in fees and things. They want me to pay all these extra fees that they have thrown in on top.
HUNTER: Katherine Porter says excessive and unnecessary fees are also a national trend.
PORTER: The most disturbing thing we saw was that most banks simply don't tell consumers what these fees are for. We saw thousands of dollars of charges that were labeled as other or miscellaneous. So consume verse no way to know if, in fact, those fees are legitimate.
HUNTER: We contacted Wachovia to ask about the case and they said due to customer privacy concerns, we cannot give specifics into pending customer actions. But we will work with customers through the delinquency and foreclosure process to keep them in their homes. O'Brien says if the bank can't find her note, they should renegotiate a new mortgage without the fees and payments she can afford.
O'BRIEN: I want to pay -- I'm not looking for a free ride. I want to pay my mortgage. I want to get my life back on track.
HUNTER: O'Brien goes to court Monday to find out how long she will stay in her house. Attorney Chris Hoyer says if you do get a foreclosure notice, you should get an attorney or at the very least find out when and where your foreclosure court date is and shows up. Do not just abandon your property and move out. For more on this, logon to CNNmoney.com.
VELSHI: Why doesn't the judge just start out with something like this and says can somebody provide me with the proof of ownership of the house?
HUNTER: I think that's a great idea. A lot of times people move out and say a foreclosure note, let's go get a u-haul and move out. The banks go to court; they say hey, the property is abandoned. We want to retitle the note in our name and re-establish the note in our name. There's nobody there to contest it. Contest it and that's where the problem starts. The bank should first off say listen, where is the paperwork? Where is your work and proof you own the house?
VELSHI: Greg Hunter, thank you very much for that. Coming up next on YOUR MONEY, would we will tell you how your blog could jeopardize your job. You don't know to miss this. Stay with us on YOUR MONEY.
VELSHI: I'm not a blogger necessarily. I have a bit of a blog on CNN but it is very direct. Marian Webster calls a blog an online personal journal. If you have a blog you may want to stop and think about how it could affect your career. How to make sure you don't get deuced. Deuced is another term you may not know, Internet lingo. Getting fired from your job because you write something on a blog. Where did this name come from?
INES FERRE, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: From somebody that had a Website called Deuce.com. It is still there. It is a worker who got fired from her job because he had talked about her co-workers in her blog. Since then, that term, when you get deuced, that means you get fired for something that you posted on your blog about work.
Now, since then, more and more of -- more and more cases of people getting reprimanded or dismissed from work for blogging. I spoke with Sheryl Spanier a career consultant and asked her about the potential of dangers of blogging while you are at work.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERYL SPANIER, SHERYL SPAINER & CO: If you are actually using the business servers to be blogging, on personal sites of interests, personal interests or even critique of your industry, you are potentially exposing yourself to human resources, legal, public relations coming after you and saying stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FERRE: Certainly don't want them coming after you. But Ali not all blogs are of the same nature. We broke it down to three scenarios. First, what if you blog from work and using work servers, work time, and about your industry, about your work, and you have to be really careful. I mean, if you don't get paid to blog, most people are saying do not blog from work. That's not a good idea. Come into privacy issues, productivity issues. If you are doing that you might also --
VELSHI: Even if they are not mad at you. Are we paying you to have a blog?
FERRE: You put in the question, are you shopping online? Are you iming? If you are blogging outside of work, and you might be blogging about your industry or about your work, OK, that's also something that is really touchy. I mean, for some people, it can -- it can make them into experts about their industry. They are talking about the industry, et cetera, CEO's blogs. Young people blog. A lot of people are blogging. Also, you want to be careful about what you say about your company and a lot of people are saying, you know, just blog anonymously if you are going do that. There are cases where you know, even if you have blogged anonymously about your industry --
VELSHI: They know exactly who that was. Sounds like the only safe thing is to do blogging about your own interests or your personal life or your hobbies or something you are an expert at outside of company time. Not on company equipment.
FERRE: Right. Exactly. Or if your company knows about it, I mean a lot of companies know that their employees have blogs and just say OK, we will monitor it and we don't want you talking about our customers, specifics, et cetera. If you are blogging about hobbies, I mean, usually fine. You can blog about stuff --
VELSHI: You have to be careful about that because if you are identifying yourself and blog being your hobby and gets connected with your company, you know, make sure your hobbies are accessible. Ines thank you very much.
Don't go anywhere. There is this movement afoot that will get you to be paid overtime even when you are not in your office. We are going to check that out next.
But first, this week's "Right on Your Money."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI (voice over): Record high gas prices, falling home values, and the lowest level of consumer confidence since 1980 are all signs of a possible recession. Personal finance expert Jonathon Clemens says follow these steps to keep yourself recession-proof.
JONATHON CLEMENS: First you want to cumulate cash. If you don't have a lot of money in the bank, money market fund, this is time to accumulate it. Two, get your debts under control. Pay off those credit cards debts. Think twice before trading up to a bigger home. Three, keep funding the 401(k) plan. Put enough to get your full employer match. Even if you lose your job and even if you end up cashing out that 401(k) plan and pay tax penalties, you will come out ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We get paid for the work we do while we are in the office. What about all that time we put in outside of the office on our BlackBerries, or our cell phones or our iPhones? Should we get paid for that, too?
CNN's Richard Roth investigates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The BlackBerry is a constant companion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I use it from the second I wake up to the second I go to bed.
ROTH: The device can be a drag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing is like a ball and chain.
ROTH: Wired up workers say they can't escape from the job after hours. Now they want to get paid for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely think that we should be compensated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People should be compensated what they are asking to do outside of work.
ROTH: Writers and producers at ABC News demanded payment for after-work usage and reached a settlement with management. Elsewhere, people keep multitasking while the office is closed.
VALORIE BURTON, LIFE COACH: For some people they feel like they are missing out on something. For others, there is a genuine fear that they will appear not to be a team player.
ROTH: Attorneys are sending a message to businesses, prepare for legal action.
JEFFREY SCHLOSSBERG, ATTORNEY: Employers don't really perceive that there is a problem or issue with employees using their BlackBerries outside of work. They don't see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Expecting a message any mint.
ROTH: Finance Andrew is separated from his black berry only when taking midday naps.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn off your cell phone or BlackBerry.
ROTH: He does not expect his employees to be messaging at night.
ANDREW TSUNIS, BLACKBERRY USER: Compensated for using their BlackBerry in off hours, no, I don't think that's a good idea.
ROTH: Maybe brute force can eliminate the problem. It is tough to get rid of those.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy crap.
ROTH: World's strongest man in the United States cannot destroy this BlackBerry. Will companies beat us up when it comes to exhausted workers?
Richard Roth, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VELSHI: I tried to destroy mine and it has not worked. I have done a lot of talking this hour, it is time to hear from you. Things that you wrote to us this week.
Burt writes, "I very much enjoy watching YOUR MONEY show every weekend but I have several problems with economists saying there is no doubt we are in a recession. I have always thought that the definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative real GDP. We have not even had one quarter of negative GDP. Are we in an economic downturn? Absolutely, yes. Are we in a recession? No."
Bert, thanks for the e-mail. You are wrong. They changed the definition a long time ago to something about sustained decline in the economy by various measures over a number of months. I try to get that clear here on CNN. But I get you. We have no proof that we are in a recession one way or another.
Another viewer R.S. writes, "I wonder sometimes what the experts really know about what most average and modest income people, especially with children, really experience financially. I can tell you from my viewpoint that wages are stagnant while costs are up. That means I either borrow to maintain my standard of living or I cut back. The future seems dark for our nation. I hope my kids will be OK. I will do what I can to teach them responsibility."
You are right. We want to bring up on this network that what real people pay is very different from the measures that the economy often gives you. We know you are hurting out there. I hope you are wrong about the future being dark. Think there is good hope for us.
Lynn from Gainesville, Florida, by the way offers a different view. She says, "I don't understand all the whining and crying over airline ticket prices. If a person drove from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and back, which is roughly about 5,000 miles, and got 20 mpg, they would have to buy 250 gallons of gasoline.
Gas is up about a dollar from last year, so they would pay $250 more for the trip by car this year than last. Round trip airline tickets haven't increased by $250. No wonder the airlines are hurting. Stop complaining about a $20 increase in tickets or a $15 baggage charge."
Lynn, the beauty of this place is we're going to read your e-mail even if I disagree with you on that one. It's a whole lot more than that the airlines have been gouging us for. But I do get your point, some of it is out of their hands.
Thank you for writing to us and thank you for disagreeing with us from time to time. It does make us think what we report to you. Thank you for joining us for this edition of YOUR MONEY, we'll see you back here next week Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00. See you then.