Feds: BofA improperly fired employee who exposed Countrywide fraud
Bank of America Corp. wrongly fired an internal investigator who exposed "widespread and pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud" at Countrywide Financial Corp., according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Finding that the employee was protected by whistle-blower law, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered BofA to reinstate and pay the employee $930,000, including back wages, interest, compensatory damages and attorney fees.
Bank of America acquired Calabasas-based Countrywide in July 2008 and fired the whistle-blower shortly thereafter, OSHA said in a news release Wednesday.
In a statement, Bank of America said it would challenge the order. "The bank’s actions to dismiss were solely based on issues with the employee’s management style and in no way related to the employee’s complaints and the allegations made in the complaint," it said.
The federal agency didn't name the employee. It identified the worker only as an L.A.-area person who led internal investigations into Countrywide employees.
"It's clear from our investigation that Bank of America used illegal retaliatory tactics against this employee," OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels said in the news release.
"This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same."
--E. Scott Reckard
Photo: Countrywide Financial co-founder Angelo Mozilo, center. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times