Editor's note 12/2/11: Eileen Foster, the fraud sleuth profiled in iWatch News' "Great Mortgage Cover-Up" series, appeared on CBS News' "60 Minutes" on Sunday night (12-4-11). In a two-part story published Sept. 22-23, iWatch News staff writer Michael Hudson reveals how Foster, Countrywide Financial Corp.'s fraud investigation chief, uncovered massive fraud within the company and, federal officials say, paid a price for doing so.
In the summer of 2007, a team of corporate investigators sifted through mounds of paper pulled from shred bins at Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage shops in and around Boston.
By intercepting the documents before they were sliced by the shredder, the investigators were able to uncover what they believed was evidence that branch employees had used scissors, tape and Wite-Out to create fake bank statements, inflated property appraisals and other phony paperwork. Inside the heaps of paper, for example, they found mock-ups that indicated to investigators that workers had, as a matter of routine, literally cut and pasted the address for one home onto an appraisal for a completely different piece of property.
Eileen Foster, the company’s new fraud investigations chief, had seen a lot of slippery behavior in her two-plus decades in the banking business. But she’d never seen anything like this.
“You’re looking at it and you’re going, Oh my God, how did it get to this point?” Foster recalls. “How do you get people to go to work every day and do these things and think it’s okay?”
More surprises followed. She began to get pushback, she claims, from company officials who were unhappy with the investigation.