Ada-vs-Wall-Street

Newsweek, Published January 2009

Noda says there are already criminals who need punishing in the financial fiasco: "Get rid of the CEOs and prosecute them—get rid of all these people getting the big bonus," she said. "All these other Enron people who did something—they prosecuted them and they went to jail. If you or I did something wrong we'd go to jail."

Noda may get her wish. The FBI is already investigating three failed banks suspected of mortgage fraud: Countrywide Financial Corp., IndyMac Bancorp Inc. and New Century Financial Corp., but this week expanded the probe to other firms whose financial fumblings hurt the economy: mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, insurer American International Group Inc. and investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Whatever the punishment may be, Noda says the best thing to do is take your lumps and move on. Fending off creditors ("they'd just torment me to no end") and facing bankruptcy was stressful for the octogenarian, but she got through it and says she is doing fine on infinitesimally less than a CEO payout. She shops at thrift stores—"I'm not proud, honey"—and gets by on her Social Security check. "I can manage. If I don't have the money, I don't spend it. I live in a mobile home with my dog and my cat, and I just thank God every day I can get up and take care of myself."

Despite her limited means, she's even willing to lend a hand to the stumbling financial behemoths that are asking to take even more from her: "I would tell them they need to learn how to budget and do better book work. Tell them come look at my ledger, and I'll show 'em how."

Editor's note: Ada Noda was able to file for bankruptcy with the help of the Legal Aid Society office in Saint Augustine, Fla. If you have limited income and need legal help (or if someone you know does) you can find your local Legal Aid office with this map.

© 2008