18 February 2015

Taibbi: A Whistleblower's Horror Story

"Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

"Flagrant evils cure themselves by being flagrant."

John Henry Newman

If a whistleblower reveals benign 'secrets' of government actions to a domestic reporter in the time honored tradition, they may be prosecuted as 'enemies of the state' under the abusive misuse of the Espionage Act.
It was Winston's contention that six week's after refusing to lie in his report to Moody's, Angelo Mozilo personally contacted Winston's supervisor and demanded his termination based on a personal website Winston maintained for his work as a motivational speaker and expert in leadership.

What I find particularly odious in the judgement is that not only will Winston NOT be able to obtain the reward from the jury verdict, which is a legal matter which I understand can be contended.  Although it seems that the appeals court took a fairly aggressive stance in this appeal, to the point of nullifying the jury not on the legal process but on their judgment about the evidence itself.  A copy of that first appeal is downloadable here.
The subsequent judgement against plaintiff to pay the costs filed by Bank of America seems excessive if not vindictive to say the least, given that the case itself was a 'close call' at worst.  And then there is the matter of his speaking to Frontline, and engaging in behavior in describing the ongoing frauds at Countrywide that were very embarrassing to Bank of America, and the DOJ itself.  It smells of vindictiveness.

I don't think it is this case alone that is so infuriating, but the context of Wall Street friendly judicial policy in the Obama Administration, and the hypocritical and harsh treatment of whistleblowers in general.   And Taibbi does a fairly good job of bringing these things forwards in his article linked below which I suggest that you read.

Deceit and theft by the privileged is excused and protected, while honesty and innocence are severely punished.    And the great mass of official journalists are silent, so we hear the news about this in a rock 'n roll magazine. 
Rolling Stone
A Whistleblower's Horror Story
By Matt Taibbi
18 February 2015

Two years ago this month, Winston was being celebrated in the news as a hero. He'd blown the whistle on Countrywide Financial, the bent mortgage lender that one could plausibly argue nearly blew up the global economy in the last decade with its reckless subprime lending practices.

He described Countrywide's crazy plan to give anyone who could breathe a mortgage in a memorable January, 2013 episode of Frontline called "The Untouchables," a show that caught the eyes of several influential politicians in Washington. The documentary inspired Senate hearings and even the crafting of new legislation to combat too-big-to-jail corruption in the financial world.

Winston was later featured in the New York Times as the man who "conquered Countrywide." David Dayen of Salon described Winston as "Wall Street's greatest enemy."

But today, Winston is tasting the sometimes-extreme downside of being a whistleblower in modern America.

He says he's spent over a million dollars fighting Countrywide (and the firm that acquired it, Bank of America) in court. At first, that fight proved a good gamble, as a jury granted him a multi-million-dollar award for retaliation and wrongful termination.

But after Winston won that case, an appellate judge not only wiped out that jury verdict, but allowed Bank of America to counterattack him with a vengeance.

Last summer, the bank vindictively put a lien on Winston's house (one he'd bought, ironically, with a Countrywide mortgage). The bank eventually beat him for nearly $98,000 in court costs.

That single transaction means a good guy in the crisis drama, Winston, had by the end of 2014 paid a larger individual penalty than virtually every wrongdoer connected with the financial collapse of 2008.

When Winston protested his preposterous punishment on the grounds that a trillion-dollar company recouping legal fees from an unemployed whistleblower was unreasonable and unnecessary, a California Superior Court judge denied his argument — get this — on the grounds that Winston failed to prove a disparity in resources between himself and Bank of America!

This is from the court's ruling:
Plaintiff argues that the disparity in the resources between the individual plaintiff and the defendant Bank of America make it unfair to place the cost of the premium on plaintiff. Plaintiff offered no evidence in support of this argument; it is rejected...

Read the entire story in Rolling Stone here.