Last week the New York Times published the article “Wall St. Whistle-Blowers, Often Scorned, Get New Support” by William Cohan about Bank Whistleblowers United. This is gratifying and exciting news, as it focuses more attention and brings more eyes to the goals our new group is committed to. As I explained in a recent article, four former whistleblowers, including myself, recently banded together to form Bank Whistleblowers United. Our advocacy group includes Gary J. Aguirre, a former SEC lawyer; Michael Winston, a former managing director at Countrywide Financial; William K. Black, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (Black describes himself as “a serial whistle-blower” when he was a federal regulator during the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s); and me. We were all fired from our positions when we blew the whistle on our respective employers.
William Cohan’s article mentions that we are “encouraging presidential candidates to reject donations from big banks” and have created a “60-day plan” that would allow President Obama, or his successor, to “restore the rule of law” in the banking sector. Our goal with this is to stop the ongoing pandering to the “financial institutions that are “too big to fail” without requiring new legislation.”
“Among their proposals are ending the ‘revolving door’ that exists between Washington and Wall Street and that often curbs regulators’ willingness to prosecute the powerful law firms or Wall Street banks they hope to return to when their government service ends. In addition, the group seeks to stop the use of ‘deferred prosecution agreements’ for ‘elite’ white-collar criminals and to get 500 F.B.I. agents reassigned to investigate white-collar crimes. It is also asking Congress to allocate money to hire 3,000 new F.B.I. agents, 250 Justice Department lawyers and 250 S.E.C. investigators and enforcers.”
This is huge. This is a mission we believe we can and must accomplish. Shortly after our new Attorney General Loretta Lynch took office, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that the DOJ will now pursue criminals “regardless of whether they commit their crimes on the street corner or in the boardroom…A crime’s a crime.” We believe she was just blowing smoke.
As my colleague, Michael Winston, wrote in Huffington Post just the day before the announcement was made, they throw up “a smokescreen activated every six months or so to create the illusion of law enforcement.” He nailed it and basically predicted what the DOJ would do the very next day.
I expressed that same cynicism when I said to Vice News, that “it’s my belief that the new DOJ stance is a defensive smokescreen to shield itself from widespread criticism. I tend to think this is a public relations ploy… By now all of this is a moot point.” We need to keep in mind that in the last six plus years, 49 financial institutions have paid out nearly $190 billion in fines and settlements yet only one banker, Kareem Serageldin, a mid-level trader at Credit Suisse, has received any jail time for activities linked to mortgage fraud.
Regardless of what the DOJ has said, actions speak louder than words. Whistleblowers who see wrong actions within their organizations and report it are condemned. To date, whistleblowers have been persecuted, prosecuted and shunned. Harsh words, but true. For example, let’s look at what happened to Michael Winston, a member of our team.
Michael was a managing director at Countrywide Financial. You may recall that Countrywide was the originator of billions of dollars of home mortgages that didn’t qualify, and should never have been issued. He saw what was occurring, called it and instead of being lauded for it was “punished, isolated, tormented, financially harmed and ultimately dismissed.”
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1X6uInm”]#Whistleblowers are often persecuted, prosecuted and shunned. ~ @RichardMBowen #tbtf #ethics[/tweetthis]
And Gary Aguirre, another member of our team, is best known as the SEC attorney who, while heading an insider trading investigation, resisted his supervisor’s demands to give preferential treatment to a Wall Street banker and was fired for his so-called insubordination. The unlawful actions by the SEC were subsequently proven in two Senate Committee investigations.
That’s our story. Each one of us saw wrongdoing, shoddy and unethical practices and called it only to lose our jobs and forfeit our professions. And so, as William Cohan puts it so well, “It’s an ambitious plan and one worth paying close attention to, especially if there is to be any hope of returning Wall Street to a place that works for the benefit of the American people and not just the people who work there.”
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1X6uInm”]“It’s an ambitious plan and one worth paying close attention to.” ~ William Cohan #WallStreet #BankWhistleblowersUnited[/tweetthis]
And let me again quote Neil Cavuto, of Fox News, who says bankers have found it easy to dupe the rest of us. “It’s been a culture of winks and nods and jobs for the boys, where too many people making bad decisions have gotten where they are for reasons other than excellence.”
I absolutely believe that our team can and must act to wake up Americans to the dangers we’ve allowed Wall Street and our government to exploit. As Cohan quotes me in his article, “It is our firm belief that, if these actions are not taken, our country will experience another financial crisis again caused by the same misbehavior we have witnessed in the past.”
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1X6uInm”]We must wake up Americans to the dangers we’ve allowed #WallStreet & our gov’t to exploit ~@RichardMBowen #BWU [/tweetthis]