The McCuistion television program, Whistleblowers: Who They Are and Why You Should Care, in which Michael Winston, William (Bill) Black, and I appeared last year, has been selected as a Telly Award winner. The Telly Awards is a widely known and highly respected national and international competition with awards based on overall production excellence, including content. The 38th Annual Telly Awards received over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents and honors the very best in TV and Cable, Digital streaming and Non-Broadcast Productions, so we are in very good company.
The McCuistion Program has aired on the DFW PBS TV station KERA for 28 consecutive years, a milestone.
The host, Dennis McCuistion, applauded us as having the courage to expose the corruption of the 2008 debacle, Wall Street’s role, the greed of the Too Big to Fail banks, and he says ”the courage of these individuals who took the right and ethical action and became whistleblowers regardless of the price they had to pay.”
My colleagues and I had the opportunity to talk about whistleblowing, tell our individual stories and talk about the fraud we experienced that made us take the steps we took. We defined a “whistleblower” as one who exposes to the public or to those in authority, or to management, information or situations of egregious mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing within an organization.
My colleague, Michael G. Winston, PhD, who wrote World Class Performance, was the Countrywide Financial whistleblower who has both been sued and celebrated as a hero for exposing fraud at Countrywide and was penalized to an extraordinary degree, talked about his horrendous experience. Michael had learned Countrywide’s policy was to fund loans, regardless of income, assets or even their having employment to anyone who could fog a mirror. Asked to misrepresent information about the company to Moody’s, he refused. The retaliation was virulent.
William (Bill) K. Black, PhD, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One, is a former bank regulator who played a central role in prosecuting the corruption responsible for the S&L crisis of the late 1980s. A serial whistleblower, he helped bring down Charles Keating, of Lincoln Savings and the former Jim Wright, a Speaker of the House. Bill talked about how financial fraud is one of the most damaging types of fraud and also one of the hardest to prosecute.
And you know my story as a Citigroup whistleblower during the housing bubble financial crisis meltdown when I witnessed countless episodes of fraud firsthand as the company continued to certify poor mortgages as quality mortgages and then sold them to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and mortgage securitizations. I lamented my testifying to the SEC, submitting 1,000 pages of evidence of fraudulent activities, and my nationally televised testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, with the SEC and commission withholding key parts of my testimony from the American public.
While whistleblowing is becoming more prevalent and in some very few cases actually acted upon with honor, and while the public value of whistle-blowing has been increasingly recognized, even encouraged by the Department of Justice, the reality is very different. As we all witnessed recently with Wells Fargo, whistleblowers are still often retaliated against, losing their job, incurring financial hardships and even blackballed from working in their professions ever again.
My colleagues and I are committed to continuing to talk about the egregious lack of ethics and transparency that is still very much a part of the Wall Street financial services arena, the damage it has caused to community banks and the cost to taxpayers. We applaud programs like this one that continue to get the word out about what really happens and how our government avoids holding those at fault accountable.