Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Parrot is for life- not just for Christmas!

If the Bank of America cant float their stocks and bonds these days, signs are they are preparing to float a new Noah's Ark if the activities of their debt collectors are anything to go by.

A character of our times, a woman in Somewheresmallville Florida, a woman in serious arrears of her mortgage repayments, arrived home to her subprime humble abode the other day to an empty house. But this was an empty house with a difference.

Monica Florent who was recently unemployed and had ignored correspondence from her mortgaging bank for some months, lived alone except for her 11 year old Blue Macaw Parrot named Luke. The Bank's collection sheriff believing the house to be vacant,followed the bank's salvage policy and efficiently emptied its entire contents. Including Luke, a very large, vocal, valuable but more importantly much-loved Parrot.

There followed an anxious time for Monica. Separated from her beloved Luke she repeatedly negotiated with bank representatives over the course of seven increasingly fraught days. Bank officials admit that they had to insist Monica stop calling as twenty to thirty daily enquiries after Luke's welfare eventually wore them down. Luke was released back to his owner after over a week in bank custody in a debt collector's warehouse 80 miles away.

Monica is getting her own back now. In a court case which has attracted world media attention Luke's owner has claimed severe emotional distress over the whole sorry episode and is suing Bank of America for reparations over separation anxiety.The outcome of this case no doubt will set a precedent for the work practices of debt collectors across the US.

The case of Luke's apparent kidnapping is interesting on several levels. Blue Macaws have a market value of 1500 to 3000 Dollars. Thus Luke could conceivably have bought Monica significant additional leeway on her distressed mortgage.However the distress caused, not to Monica but to Luke could bring a storm of animal welfare protest down on an already unpopular banking symbol of financial malfeasance.

Blue Macaw Parrots are the ones seen on every Treasure Island screenplay, made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson. Standing up to 20 inches tall with a tail of a further 15 inches, they have a brilliant-blue wings and back, yellow chest and splash of green on the crown and beak. Their formidable beak can give a nasty bite and when angered they will loudly startle strangers with a hissing wing-flapping charge. They form a strong emotional bond with preferably just one owner. They also can live for up to 70 years.

Bank of America could therefore have bitten off more than they could chew,so to speak, with Luke. I was reminded of a veterinary colleague owed a considerable sum of money by a racehorse trainer, who recently obtained a court order to collect his debt by the legal channels. The court sheriff arrived out to the trainer's yard to collect the debt to the vet only to find the only thing in the yard that wasnt bolted down had four legs.

Next day the county Sheriff ( yes,they actually are called that outside the pale)rang the vet to deliver his official line that " no goods were recovered". He did mention the horse in the yard as the only thing that could conceivably be seized and sold. " Why didnt you seize the horse?!That gelding won in Galway last month and would fetch a right few quid!"said the hapless vet.

The Sheriff's reply" The court service dont equip us with horseboxes!".