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Kai Ryssdal: If you picked up a major newspaper today, you may have come across a big advertisement from JPMorgan Chase. The bank had its message plastered on the pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post to name but a few. The ad’s billed as the 11th in a series of messages from Chase called “The Way Forward.”
Today’s explains what the bank has been doing to modify mortgages and keep people in their homes. Which could be quite a few, since JPMorgan services almost a quarter of this country’s 45 million mortgages. We asked Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson, though, why all the publicity?
JEREMY HOBSON: You’d think the best way to reach homeowners in trouble would be to send them a letter or call them up.
What if they don’t read the New York Times?
Well, JPMorgan spokesman Tom Kelly says the ad has a wider audience in mind.
TOM KELLY: We think it’s important to make sure people know that we’re doing what we can to help the economy.
Which people, exactly? Maybe the ones in the big white buildings in Washington, says Sanford Bernstein analyst Brad Hintz.
BRAD HINTZ: At a time where Congress is determining the regulatory rules how financial institutions are going to be controlled, it’s probably a prudent thing to position your firm as the man in the white hat who’s trying to keep middle Americans in their homes.
In the ad, JPMorgan claims to have prevented 565,000 foreclosures since 2007. That includes people who were able to stick with the lower rate on their adjustable rate mortgages.
Holden Lewis of Bankrate.com says the number sounds plausible. But like all ads, he says, JPMorgan’s only tells part of the story.
HOLDEN LEWIS: I get a lot of e-mails from readers who are frustrated because they can’t get any help from their mortgage servicer, and I would say of the major servicers, Chase is the one I’ve had the most complaints about.
But you won’t hear many complaints about JPMorgan Chase at the Treasury Department. It was one of the first to pay back its TARP money. Still, like all big banks, it’s got some work to do softening its image with consumers. And on that front, a full page ad or 10 can’t hurt.
In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.
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