In the first trial alleging fraud on the part of banks toward the United States, a Bank of America whistleblower has come forward and testified that the bank had in place a system that could approve a home mortgage loan in 13 minutes.
The system could move a loan from submitted from review to “cleared-to-close” in 13 minutes. Opponents of the practice claim that there was no way for the process to properly evaluate the validity of loans, according to Bloomberg. Representatives of the bank claim that the process properly vetted loan applications and that no misrepresentation had been made to the government.
“The banks could care less about the quality of the loans because they were packaging them up, selling the bundles, getting the risk off their balance sheet and making hundreds of millions in the process,” commented Peter Mougey, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who leads the firm’s business torts department. “Fast food owners don’t eat their own cheeseburgers, they sell them. Same as the banks. They aren’t stupid.”
The lending strategy was exposed by Edward O’Donnell, a former employee of Bank of America and who now works for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under the federal False Claims Act. The Act provides incentives and protections for individuals to come forward and report their knowledge of groups submitting false claims for payment.
“The provisions of the False Claims Act that protect whistleblowers and provide them with compensation for their efforts are a strong reminder to businesses who seek to defraud the government that such practices will be vigorously prosecuted,” added Christopher Paulos, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of qui tam or whistleblower and business litigation.
O’Donnell was employed by Countrywide, a unit that was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.