by Brian Mahany
It’s been 631 days since Bank of America, Master Card and others have blocked donations to WikiLeaks. For those not familiar with the organization, WikiLeaks is a nonprofit media organization. Since its formation several years ago, both the organization and its spokesperson, Julian Assange, have been surrounded by controversy. Some say that controversy was the excuse Bank of America needed to form an economic blockade of monies to the organization.
The Swedish government wants Asange to answer to charges of rape, although he is not been formally charged. The United States government says WikiLeaks leaked sensitive government documents. Officially, the banking world has cut off the flow of funds to the organization based on the latter U.S. grand jury investigation. That’s interesting because the organization has not been charged with any crime.
Bank of America has good reason to be fearful of WikiLeaks. Since the financial meltdown of 2007, Bank of America has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle fraud allegations. Many of these concern the giant bank’s lending and foreclosure activities and those of Countrywide. (BOA owns Countrywide.)
One email exposed on WikiLeaks purports to be from a former employee. In the email he discusses how Bank of America acquired an insurance company, Balboa, and used the company to sell unnecessary, overpriced and crappy insurance to homeowners. Later, in another email we learn that Balboa and Countrywide “knowingly” hid foreclosure information fromfederal auditors and falsified loan documents to avoid being fined for falling behind on loam modifications.
The information certainly has a ring of truth as so called “forced place” insurance has been a major problem for struggling homeowners. The same is true with folks trying to work out HAMP loan modifications. According to a Huffington Post story from last year, a Bank of America spokesman claimed the emails were “simply clerical and administrative errors.”
WikiLeaks has said that it possesses a hard drive of very damaging information about a major U.S. bank. Many feel that the bank is Bank of America. So much so that the bank’s stock dropped 3% in one day after the announcement that WikiLeaks was holding sensitive information.
WikiLeaks says that in response to their success in shining a light on the dirtier side of the banking world, Bank of America hired a 3 private intelligence firms to attack the organization. They say they managed to obtain a copy of the plan document. In it, the plan calls for cyber attacks against the organization, a media campaign to brand WikiLeaks as a radical organization and to “Search for leaks. Use social media to profile and identify risky behavior of employees.” The latter statement suggests attacks on anyone from within the bank that comes forward and acts as a whistleblower.
Thus far, the reaction from the mainstream media has been mixed. Although there has been widespread criticism of Assange (currently hiding in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London) for not answering the criminal allegations lodged against him, much of the journalism community has supported WikiLeaks itself.
Last week Forbes aired a piece on line that was critical of the financial blockade of WikiLeaks. The piece started out by saying that “People shouldn’t fear their government, government should fear it’s people. Publishers and journalists will not be intimidated nor silenced.” Later, the story criticized the political motives behind the blockade. We agree.
Is it okay for Bank of America to stop allowing its systems to process donations to Barack Obama? To Mitt Romney? What business does a bank have telling us where we can send our money? For now, the financial world is hiding behind the disclosure of sensitive government documents rationale but that is a far cry from providing money to a terrorist organization.
Government and the banking world should welcome the free exchange of information and lift the veil of secrecy. It appears, however, that Bank of America and other lenders have many secrets to hide.
The fraud lawyers at Mahany & Ertl represent whistleblowers and victims of foreclosure abuse. We represent the whistleblower in the largest federal false claims act case in the nation involving a lender; HUD’s $2.4 billion fraud case against Allied Home Mortgage. Bullies and cowards hide in the shadows but American juries hold the ultimate ability to determine right from wrong.
If you were employed by Bank of America or another lender (insurance, appraisal and audit firms too) and know of fraud resulting in losses to American taxpayers, give us a call. Whistleblowers in federal false claim actions may be entitled to up to 30% of what is collected. It’s not just the money, coming forward and helping put a stop to fraud is also the right thing to do. We also want to hear from you if you believe you were improperly the subject of a foreclosure action or wrongly denied a loan modification.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine & Minneapolis, Minnesota. Services available in many jurisdictions.