Bank of America accused by anonymous website of hiding data
Bank of America: Anonymous leaker releases e-mails purporting to show employees requesting the purging of loan documents. But Bank of America says 'extravagant' claims untrue.
NetNet Writer, Special to CNBC.com
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An anonymous website associated with activists from Operation LeakS released a cache of emails accusing Bank of America of "fraud" in handling its mortgage files.
The files went on-line shortly after midnight Eastern Time, but seemed to have been knocked offline shortly thereafter, perhaps due to high volumes of traffic.
The emails appear to show an exchange between employees at Balboa Insurance, a firm acquired by Bank of America when they purchased Countrywide Financial in 2009. Balboa was sold by Bank of America about a month ago.
The exchange centers on requests by Balboa employees to have document tracking numbers purged from Balboa systems so that they no longer correlate to specific loans.
At one point in the emails, a Balboa employee states that the request to purge information is an 'unusual' one and will require 'upper management approval' before they can move forward.
No response from upper management seems to have been included.
One of the leaked emails claims that Balboa was knowing hiding foreclosure information from federal auditors. This would appear to relate to federal investigations into accusations from consumer groups that Bank of America and other mortgage servicers have been foreclosing homes without the proper documentation.
The leaker claims that he was harassed and felt threatened after he left Balboa.
"They chose to destroy my professional career. Police officers surrounded my house, and my roommate was pushed against a squad car in front of my neighbors while patrol officers came into my house to accuse me of being a terrorist. I'm an artist, and anyone who knows me can tell you I'm no threat to anyone. The girl I was dating at the time stopped talking to me because of the stigma of what they did to me. There are people still working at that company that I have known for years and spent holidays with their families, taught their children how to play the guitar, dated, etc that won't even talk to me anymore. My own grandmother and parents have told me they fear for my life and have trouble believing what I'm doing, although they believe in me as a person."
In response, a Bank of America spokesperson told Reuters "We are confident that his extravagant assertions are untrue."
The allegations made here are quite serious, despite the downplaying they are getting elsewhere. Intentionally hiding documents from federal investigators would violate several laws.
However, it is difficult to know how much credence to give them without more information about the source and the veracity of the allegations
The leaker certainly seems to have a grudge against Bank of America—which he describes as a 'cult'—which would tend to dimish his credibility. He is certainly a disgruntled employee
Nevertheless, Bank of America's robo-signing antics have impeached its credibility as well.
As my colleague John Carney observed in January:
"The recent robo-signing scandal has demonstrated that banks had pitiful internal controls over the foreclosure process as late as October of 2010. There’s good reason to suspect that the mortgage origination and purchase process is still broken too."
In short, the accusations cannot be dismissed out of hand—particularly given Bank of America's track record.
Bank of America should, at the very least, request the the buyer of Balboa, QBE Insurance Group, cooperate in investigating the claims. A blanket statement about Bank of America's confidence is not much better than Charlie Sheen explaining himself as "duh...winning."
And it should provide a full public accounting of its findings.
The age of trusting banks with these kinds of allegations is over.