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Countrywide whistleblower receives national accolades

Employees should be aware that it is illegal for their employers to retaliate against them for reporting ethical and financial violations occurring within the company. Although whistleblowers often face harassment and threats after submitting even anonymous complaints, one woman stood up for her beliefs and she has been rewarded by a prominent national organization as a result.

The woman was presented with a prestigious honor bestowed by the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for blowing the whistle on inappropriate lending practices at Countrywide Lending. Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America in 2008. That organization is said to have employed predatory lending practices throughout the United States, including areas throughout California.

She said she is disappointed that no executive leaders have been implicated in the lending crisis, which shows a continued decline in the overall health of the American legal and financial systems.

The woman had pressed for an investigation into suspected forged documents, which she claimed over-estimated loan applicants' income streams and included falsified signatures. Bank of America fired her after she submitted the complaints.

The federal Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has mandated that Bank of America reinstate the woman and pay her $1 million in owed wages, but the bank is appealing the decision and the woman has not yet returned to work there. Instead, she is employed by a credit union in southern California, where she leads security, investigations and procurements activities.

The woman said she was naïve in thinking that Bank of America would appreciate the information related to the forged documents. Instead of thanking her for her ethical persistence, the company fired her and has continuously attempted to block her reinstatement. Two of the woman's coworkers, who were also fired by Bank of America and chose to fight back, attended the ceremony earlier this week. Those cases have been successfully resolved in favor of the former employees.

Previous recipients of the award include army officers who have exposed injustices during the Afghanistan conflict as well as an FBI agent who wrote a tell-all book revealing civil rights infractions by the agency during the 1960s.

Source: Reuters, "Countrywide whistleblower sees no change in financial sector," Emily Flitter, April 26, 2012

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