Bank of America Must Whistle Up A Million Bucks

The poster child for Big Bad Bank Haters can't buy good news lately, can it? The latest public whipping came this afternoon, when the story broke that Bank of America has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay a former employee $930,000 as damages for firing her when she "blew the whistle" on fraud within B of A's Countrywide unit (whose motto was: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we'll still insist it's Scarlett Johansson."). (An aside: that Countrywide purchase might have helped bail out the FDIC, but for the bank, it sure as heck has been a Pandora's Box, filled with horrors and plenty of pain.) The employee was terminated soon after the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank took over Countrywide in 2008, the agency said today in a statement. The worker, who must also be reinstated, led internal investigations that found "pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud involving Countrywide employees," according to the release. "It's clear from our investigation that Bank of America used illegal retaliatory tactics against this employee," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in the statement. "This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees." Unsurprisingly, the bank begs to differ with the DOL. "The bank's actions in dismissing this associate were solely based on issues with her management style and in no way related to the complaints and allegations she made," [bank spokesman Dan] Frahm said in an e-mail. "Bank of America encourages associates to raise issues they see. We take such escalations seriously and investigate them thoroughly." "And then we fire the troublemaker," I'm sure Frahm didn't say, but would have if he'd had a belt or two of sour mash in his belly before he wrote his e-mail. A management style issue, huh? It's always a bitch when some employee insists on adopting a management style that screams "integrity" and "truth" when you're trying to put lipstick on a pig, call it Miss America, and use it to securitize some kosher mortgage-backeds you plan to unload on a fishing village in Lapland. I can see how that might be as annoying as all get-out. As the article notes, both parties have a right to appeal. Therefore, don't be surprised if the trial-lawyer-rich bank drags this controversy out and that the discharged employee is a resident of a rest home somewhere in the Inland Empire by the time she sees any of that $930,000.

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