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Piggybankblog posted 05/30/12
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Cross linked with reuters.com
(Reuters) – A former home appraiser will receive $14.5 million as part of a whistleblower lawsuit that accused subprime lender Countrywide Financial of inflating appraisals on government-insured loans, his attorneys said Tuesday.
Kyle Lagow’s lawsuit sparked an investigation that culminated in a $1 billion settlement announced in February between Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and the U.S. Justice Department over allegations of mortgage fraud at Countrywide, his attorneys said in a news release. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.
Lagow’s suit was one of five whistleblower complaints that were folded into the $25 billion national mortgage settlement that state and federal officials reached with Bank of America and four other lenders this year. His suit was unsealed in February, but the amount of his settlement had not been disclosed.
Gregory Mackler, a whistleblower who challenged Bank of America’s handling of the government’s HAMP mortgage modification program, has also finalized a settlement, said Shayne Stevenson, an attorney with the Hagens Berman law firm, which represented both whistleblowers. Stevenson declined to comment on Mackler’s settlement amount.
The complaints were brought under a whistleblower provision in the U.S. False Claims Act, which allows private individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to bring suits on behalf of the government and share in the proceeds of any settlement.
Both Lagow and Mackler lost their jobs after raising concerns about practices at their companies and faced difficult times awaiting settlements, Stevenson said. Lagow, who worked in a Countrywide appraisal unit, filed his suit in 2009; Mackler, who worked at a firm called Urban Lending Solutions, brought his case in 2011.
“These guys are inspirational,” Stevenson said. “They both did the right thing. They should inspire other people to come forward.”
Bank of America declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which handled the Bank of America settlement, also declined to comment.
(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, North Carolina; editing by Andre Grenon)
John Wright says: “I can already hear the headlines once everyone figures out that they can get 25% of settlement money.”
Breaking news: People around the world are practicing for their new Bofa job!
Read related article:
- Countrywide Appraisal Whistleblower
- Did BofA whistleblower get death threat?
- SEC Whistleblowers Waiting For Big Payouts As Rumors Of First Award Mount
- Woman Who Couldn’t Be Intimidated by Citigroup Wins $31 Million
Behind HAMP Curtain
Written by John Wright
March 9th, 2012
What You Did Not See On Reuters About BofA Whistleblower. Never Seen before documents until now on Piggybankblog.
Slap me five Reuters! Up high! Down low! Too slow! I actually have many more never been seen documents posted then Reuters!
All Rise! The Honorable Judge John Wright has entered The Court Of Public Opinion!
Despite this concealed fraud, Bank of America has collected tens of millions of dollars from federal government for the comparatively small percentage of permanent HAMP modifications it has permitted. In other words, BoA has had it both ways. BofA has continued to maximize the value of its mortgage portfolio with anti-HAMP-modification practices and managed to make money by committing fraud on homeowners and the United States Government.
The lawsuit itself centers on the statements and observations of an employee of a Bank of America contracted company named “Urban.” This company was a contracted by Bank of America to help homeowners with the modification process, even though a process was created ON PURPOSE to make sure that these employees were never able to assist the homeowners accurately. The employees name is “Gregory Mackler,” and he was hired by Urban to work as a “Customer Advocate” — on April 30th, 2010.
According to Mr. Mackler, the trainees were not even remotely qualified to intelligently advocate or seek proper resolution for homeowners, which as Mackler discovered, is precisely what Bank of America desired. That’s right! Bank of Defrauding America was not looking for employees to actually advocate and escalate matters to assist homeowners in entering the HAMP process, but instead, Bank of America was merely creating the impression thereof, while having the new employees focus on “closing” issues instead. In other words, “closing” could be defined as clearing out any complaints in the system using any means necessary, even if such methods resulted in homeowners illegitimately being disqualified for the loan modification. Basically, their new job title might as well have been “Waste Management Sludge Control Managers,” because their job was mainly was to make complaints disappear out of thin air, which might be equivalent to being paid to shovel a bunch of bullshit all day long, while subjecting innocent homeowners to a potentially irregular, fraudulent, illegal and simply abusive home loan modification program. This is because, according to Mr. Mackler, Bank of America’s architecture for handling HAMP modifications complaints was deeply rooted in fraud. Mackler also claims that they were taking direction from, none other than, Bank of America employees and executives directly. In fact, some directions were coming from as high up as Brian T. Moynihan (BofA CEO) and Barbara Desoer (Former President Home Loans.) At one point Gregory Mackler claimed that a high level Bank of America executive, Ken Scheller, returned his call about a homeowners’ complaint he was trying to escalate. Ken Scheller did not fully understand that Mackler was merely a Customer Advocate at an outsourced contracted company, so he reminded Gregory Mackler that Bank of America was “not of course interested” in faithfully reviewing HAMP modification requests and that he should “back off” of the issue. According to Mackler, it was stated as if it were common knowledge of which Mackler should have been well aware of, while Ken Scheller repeatedly expressed his frustration to Mr. Makler, because Ken Scheller thought everyone “at the Bank was on the same page” in terms of not really working to legitimately review homeowners for HAMP.
Vinesh Reddy (BofA AVP of Advocacy /Exclusions in HRD) and Morgan Haijduk (Workflow Coordinator for BofA) participated in a conference call with Mackler to discuss the MHA/HAMP process. Both Reddy and Haijduk instructed that there is be a de facto lockdown, stalling all HAMP modification reviews, and keeping all homeowner inquiries in abeyance. This would allow BofA to eliminate a large backlog of applications and inquiries for being eligible for HAMP. This was to be justified based on a novel interpretation of Supplemental Directive requiring documents to be submitted by homeowners within 30 days, and complete reviews 30 days after receipt. I have evidence this was going on! – John’s Mod Bac letters Bank of America’s interpretation was to hold all modification reviews until June 1, 2010, after which time, HAMP eligibility for these homeowners would be permanently eliminated by Bank of America’s manipulation. Vinesh Reddy confirmed the instruction received directly “from the top” of HARD, (HL&I and Corporate)meaning Barbara Desoer and Brian Moynihan. Gregory Mackler asked whether such protocol would not be transparently fraudulent, however, Vanesh Reddy stated that executives had directed that some defined number of homeowners would be permitted to “slip through,“ just to create the appearance of a legitimate HAMP review process and, therefore, merely responding that a review was “pending” was born of a BoA ECR business practice known as “forward progress.” All of you remember those days, right? Some people were told it was “pending” for two years.
In August of 2010, one of Mackler’s superiors reported that Brian Moynihan himself ordered that they reduce the “pipeline” of complaints. This involved pushing to drive down the number of existent ECR regulatory and homeowner complaint (again, a small subset of the overall number of modification-seeking homeowners) from roughly 12,000 to 15,000 to 5,000 within a matter of months. Again, the majority of these complaints were escalated to claims by a regulator or homeowner objecting to treatment by BoA in handling a particular HAMP eligibility determination. Jim Emerick, a BoA ECR executive, communicated that Moynihan himself was checking in on the “pipeline” (the number of outstanding ECR complaints daily in pursuant of this goal.) How about this for a “pipeline” Brian Moynihan! You may be too big to fail! But you are not too big for jail! How about putting that in your “pipeline” and smoking it Brian and Barbara?
Bank of Fooling America personnel were observed “helping” Urban Advocates “close files,” and giving direction to fraudulently alter system of record to allow closure. Ultimately, the “Drive to Five” program was considered a “success” by BoA, though it rendered scores of potential HAMP participants ineligible, but simply in order to meet an artificial requirement imposed by Bank of Destroying The American Dream.
The words of the BofA song:
- You never fund our loan anymore without tons of shit.
- There is no 30 day mod anymore –
- They just don’t exist.
- We’re trying so hard to fund it.
- Baby! Oh Baby! — believe me I know it!
- You lost that funding feeling.
- Whooooah that funding feeling.
- You’ve lost that funding feeling,
- Now it’s gone, gone, gone.
- Baby — Baby I get down on my knees for you.
- If you would only fund us like you used do.
Now, given Gregory Mackler’s constant expression of concerns about fraud, he was moved into another department. In this new department he could now officially work to determine what “mistakes” were being made in operation of the HAMP reviews, and would “work with the line of business” to fix and correct those. In fact, as was explained later, BoA wanted to learn what degree of exposure it was facing, particularly with respect to what Congress or Treasury might do if it accessed BoA’s internal system in an effort to detect wrongdoing. Eric Marsing (former Countrywide First VP, now BofA SVP in SGC), who Mackler reported to now — acknowledged the political ramifications and reputational risk that could emerge from these audits, thus emphasizing their important and sensitive nature. However, over the course of the next six months, after reviewing thousands of audits by his team and receiving constant direction from BoA executives, it became more evident to Mackler that the Root Cause was never designed to identify fraud so as to prevent it, but, ultimately, it was to identify it so as to remove the evidence of that fraud from the system records. In fact, after Mackler participated in high-level Risk conference calls with Bank of America executives, Six-Sigma Engineers, Process Design Consultants, and other in Change Management and the Root Cause Transformation Sub-Committee where it was made even ever more clearer that Bank of America’s HAMP fraud was orchestrated — and entirely by design..
What ended up happening to Gregory Mackler? Well, on March 17, 2011, Gregory Mackler was terminated in retaliation for his complaints about fraudulent activity surrounding the potentially criminal Bank of Defrauding America’s HAMP operation. — The rest are history.
The question is — why isn’t Bank of Destroying The American Dream raided at gunpoint by the feds — just like all these other fraudulent loan mod companies where?
And — none of the fraudulent loan mod companies got billions of dollars of government money either. (Scratching my head)
Ladies and Gentleman of the Court, it gives me great pleasure to present to you five documents that the public has never seen yet online concerning this Bank of America Whistleblower employee.
- Silencing The Whistleblower
- Letter From BofA Whistleblower
- HAMP Document
- New BofA Sealed Complaint (allegations on bottom of page 20)
Therefore, does the Piggybankblog Council find Bank of America guilty or not guilty of purposely implicating a potentially irregular, fraudulent, illegal and simply abusive home loan modification process — while unrightfully enriching themselves with taxpayer money in the process? – Piggybankblog Council decision
Like A Rolling Stone Song Lyrics: click here
Dear Bank of America:
- Once upon a time you dressed so fine
- You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you ?
- People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
- You thought they were all kiddin’ you
- You used to laugh about
- Everybody that was hangin’ out
- Now you don’t talk so loud
- Now you don’t seem so proud
- About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
- How does it feel
- How does it feel
- To be without a home
- Like a complete unknown
- Like a Rolling Stone…..
- When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
- You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
- How does it feel?
Related BofA Piggybankblog Article:
My name is John Wright AND I AM FIGHTING BACK!
All Rise! The Honorable Judge Wright has left The Courtroom of Public Opinion!
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Piggybankblog posted on 03/11/12
Cross linked story with iwatchnews.org
Amy Biegelsen and Emma Schwartz10:34 am, March 9, 2012 Updated: 12:22 pm, March 9, 2012
Whistleblower lawsuits made public in recent weeks shed new light on abuses in the mortgage industry that led to — and continued well after — the housing crash in 2007.
The cases suggest that fraud inside the banking industry continued years after the meltdown, some as late as 2011. They have been made public as federal officials put the finishing touches on the $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement with five major lenders.
A suit unsealed March 7 alleges that Bank of America fraudulently misled borrowers and regulators in order to keep customers out of mortgage modifications that would have cost the bank money but potentially prevented foreclosures — making “a mockery of a program designed by Congress and the Treasury Department to help millions of struggling American homeowners,” the complaint stated.
As a condition of accepting $45 billion from the federal bank bailout, Bank of America promised to help move troubled borrowers into the taxpayer subsidized Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
But that’s not what happened, according to the whistleblower suit filed by Gregory Mackler, formerly an employee of Urban Lending Solutions, the company Bank of America contracted to manage HAMP complaints.
Mackler claims the company developed a host of strategies to evade required HAMP modifications, using stalling tactics designed to run down the clock on the window of time borrowers were eligible for federally subsidized loan modifications.
The suit claims Bank of America:
- Told borrowers and regulators that a complaint was “under review” while internally classifying the files as incomplete.
- Parked cases with terminated or vacationing employees and sent payments to a “partial account” instead of crediting them to the loan, artificially inducing or prolonging a delinquent status.
- Tried to persuade borrowers that did qualify for HAMP to take a proprietary loan that came with much less favorable terms, a violation of the bank’s agreement with the government when it took the bailout money.
Mackler, the whistleblower, rarely saw complaints resolved by moving a homeowner into a HAMP loan, although he was able to resolve one borrower’s complaint after alerting top management that the homeowner was an underwriter for AIG and presented an elevated risk of litigation.
Another whistleblower case filed in 2009 but not unsealed until last month detailed how Countrywide Financial Corp., now owned by Bank of America, developed a scheme to inflate housing prices, which ultimately led to more foreclosures. Bank of America allegedly manipulated home evaluations with help from LandSafe, a Bank of America subsidiary of appraisers, and a home building company, KB Home.
Those inflated prices, the complaint alleges, included thousands of Federal Housing Administration backed loans, which were supposed to be reviewed by qualified appraisers. But the complaint alleges that the companies skirted federal law by using rookie appraisers lacking certification from the federal government.
These came to the attention of Kyle Lagow, a former appraiser supervisor at LandSafe, who tried unsuccessfully to get the company stop.
Instead, these relationships allowed Countrywide to “use its market power to pressure appraisers to inflate values to whatever Countrywide needed and punish appraisers who refused to ‘play ball,’” the complaint stated.
Countrywide also set up a review system of the appraisals that the complaint alleges were used to “create the illusion” of due diligence but instead allowed “for rewriting and inflating of any appraisal valuations.”
“To put it plainly, Countrywide made money by making loans,” the complaint claimed. “It worked aggressively and unlawfully to prevent a final appraisal from coming in with a valuation less than was necessary to close the loan.”
A third whistleblower case unsealed last month also addressed fraud involving FHA loans, this time involving Citibank. The company settled the complaint in February for $158 million. The case was based on a whistleblower complaint brought by former quality assurance manager Sherry Hunt.
Citibank accepted responsibility for failing to verify borrowers’ ability to make payments and endorsing loans with “serious defects.” This violated government standards and as a result, since 2004, more than 30 percent of loans originated or underwritten by Citibank went into default.
Citibank spokesperson Mark Rodgers said in a statement: “We take our quality assurance processes seriously and have pro-actively undertaken process improvements to ensure that they are as robust as possible.”
Bank of America did not respond to calls for comment.
The federal government has until March 16 to decide whether to join the Bank of America or Countrywide actions.
These cases highlight issues that have been explored by recent Center for Public Integrity investigations. One piece documented evidence that Countrywide worked to silence whistleblowers who tried to report forged documents, inflated income documentation and other misconduct. One of the highest-level employees to complain about fraud inside Countrywide was Mark Zachary, a former vice president who alleged appraisal problems similar to those described in Lagow’s lawsuit. Zachary and Bank of America reached a confidential settlement in 2009.
Another Center story looked at how homeowners are still struggling to deal with a faulty mortgage modification process.
The $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement by 49 state attorneys general and several federal agencies included Bank of America and Citibank, as well as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial Inc. Although the formal papers have yet to be filed in court, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that under settlement, the majority of the funds would go to principal reductions and loan modifications to borrowers under water. And roughly 750,000 borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure will receive $2,000.
Piggybankblog posted 03/12/12
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Cross linked story with firedoglake.com
I think my disgust over federal housing policy is just about complete. As you know, we’re still waiting for the actual terms of the foreclosure fraud settlement, more than one month after the announcement. But more information has dribbled out, not much of it to the good. Michael Hiltzik rounded up some of the more troubling issues. He mentions that OCC penalties will get folded into the settlement, basically charging $0 for their violations. The Federal Reserve did the same thing. He mentions the Ted Gayer study showing that only 500,000 borrowers will even be eligible for the principal reduction in the settlement, half of what HUD and other regulators promised. And he adds that the Treasury Department restored all HAMP incentive payments for servicers who failed to meet their obligations under the programs. As Hiltzik writes, “If the banks had shown as much forbearance toward their struggling borrowers as these three agencies have shown toward the banks, the foreclosure settlement wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.”
But it gets worse. Remember those whistleblower lawsuits announced last week, alleged fraud in how Bank of America abused HAMP? iWatch News expanded on those reports, showing the different strategies BofA used to delay and deny loan modification claims for eligible borrowers:
The suit claims Bank of America:
Told borrowers and regulators that a complaint was “under review” while internally classifying the files as incomplete.
Parked cases with terminated or vacationing employees and sent payments to a “partial account” instead of crediting them to the loan, artificially inducing or prolonging a delinquent status.
Tried to persuade borrowers that did qualify for HAMP to take a proprietary loan that came with much less favorable terms, a violation of the bank’s agreement with the government when it took the bailout money.
And there was another whistleblower case, unsealed last month documenting appraisal fraud at Countrywide, now part of BofA. And there was a third whistleblower case documenting underwriting fraud on FHA loans. These whistleblower lawsuits, along with the investigations we know about on foreclosure fraud and securitization fraud and other servicer abuse, paint a picture of a complete and utter criminal enterprise at Bank of America and elsewhere in the mortgage industry.
Well, guess what. The whistleblower suits were folded into the settlement, which is why they were recently unsealed:
The $25 billion foreclosure settlement released Bank of America from a lawsuit charging the bank with fraud violations under the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Gregory Mackler, a former contractor with the servicing outsourcer Urban Lending Solutions, filed the lawsuit as a whistleblower on behalf of the U.S. in July. BofA contracted with companies like Urban for scanning documentation and working with borrowers seeking assistance through HAMP [...]
A BofA spokesman said the bank received no evidence the allegations in the Mackler suit were true, and it focused on improving borrower experience through HAMP.
“At Bank of America, HAMP is the first of numerous programs we extended to our customers in need of assistance, and it is central to our ongoing efforts to assist our customers who continue to struggle with economic factors, including unemployment and under employment,” the spokesman said.
How could a private citizen’s whistleblower suit get extinguished in a federal settlement? We haven’t seen the terms, of course, but apparently the Mackler suit could have been filed under the False Claims Act on behalf of the US government, which was being defrauded. Mackler probably got a payout for his services, but the suit sought $5,500-$11,000 in fines per violation, which could have ranged into the billions. So when faced with documented proof of noncompliance with and abuse under HAMP, the government simply passed it off and folded it into their settlement, and for good measure gave back all the incentive payments owed to the same banks alleged to have defrauded them in this lawsuit.
That would not have worked differently if Bank of America executives were in charge of the government’s actions. The government could have mandated principal forgiveness under HAMP, armed with proof of abuse as well as the associated foreclosure fraud investigations. And they didn’t do a damn thing. In fact they threw more money at the banks to encourage principal reductions, and will allow them to use those HAMP modifications as part of the settlement.
If there’s anything approaching accountability in the Obama Administration’s actions against the banks, I’m not seeing it. And as for that vaunted task force, co-chaired by Eric Schneiderman, check out this revealing but little-noticed piece of testimony before the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the size of the investigative panel. He cited Phil Angelides’ recent op-ed on the panel, known as the RMBS working group, and how Holder committed only 55 lawyers and investigators to the panel which is about half of the investigative force put just to the Dallas Bank Fraud Task Force during the savings and loan scandal, a much smaller fraud. He asked Holder if the Justice Department needed more funds to hire more investigators for the task force. And Holder said, “No, we’re cool”:
BROWN: And you of course are aware of the public sentiment of — of anxiety, frustration, outrage, pick your noun, towards the fact that so few people have been prosecuted. Talk to me about the working group, the dollars you’re dedicating of the $55 million increase you’re asking for. Is it going to go into the RMBS working group?
HOLDER: The — I will say first off that this whole mortgage fraud problem — scandal that we are dealing with is something we have taken extremely seriously. We brought charges against about 2,100 people last year — over the course of the last few years in connection with the mortgage problem. The number of people who — I guess you mentioned there are 55 federal personnel to vote (ph) to this new the (ph) RMBS task force. That’s the federal component.
But one of the things that I think is unique about that is that we’re working with our state and local partners, and in particular state attorneys general. And so the number of people who are ultimately devoted to that task force will be, I think, substantially greater than that. And I suspect we will also be adding people from various U.S. attorneys offices around the country.
I think we’re looking at four or five that will be intimately involved in this. So I think that number will ultimately go up. We’re going to have adequate resources in terms of the numbers of people to do the job that we need to do with regard to the residential mortgage-backed securities working group.
Brown also asked about extending the statute of limitations on some of these crimes (many statutes are nearing the end right now), and Holder said he’d have to talk to the prosecutors.
In other words, this isn’t a priority for Justice at all. They could give a damn about accountability or deterrence. The Administration wants to hold some press conferences where they can tout relief for a couple individual homeowners, maybe with big novelty checks, while nobody who committed this total disaster that led to millions of foreclosures and millions more unemployed, the ones who broke the US residential housing market and engaged in a mass scheme to cover up their crimes, will in any way feel pain for any of this. That guarantees that we’ll be back here again, maybe in the near future. Because protecting corrupt and criminal banks only invites more corruption and crime.
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