Whistleblower Facing Foreclosure Wins $18 Million
When we first met Lynn Szymoniak on 60 Minutes last year, she was an angry homeowner facing foreclosure. Now, Szymoniak is walking away with an $18 million settlement after blowing the whistle on a “robo-signing” fraud that she says was perpetrated by some of nation’s largest mortgage companies.
Szymoniak described her win as “a little surreal,” speaking by phone to 60 Minutes yesterday.
“Robo-signing” is the illegal practice of forging mortgage documents. As 60 Minutes learned in its investigation last year, the documents underpinning homeowners’ mortgages are sometimes missing or nonexistent. Banks need such documents to foreclose on a homeowner, so some banks have resorted to fraud: creating phony or “robo-signed” paperwork to throw people out of their homes.
Szymoniak uncovered the “robo-signing” fraud while fighting to save her Florida home from foreclosure. After receiving what she considered to be fake paperwork from her bank, Szymoniak — a lawyer and fraud investigator — began investigating tens of thousands of documents in other foreclosure cases that appeared to be falsified.
She blew the whistle, claiming that the country’s four largest mortgage services had defrauded the federal government by creating fake documents to replace lost or non-existent ones in order to receive government-funded payments. The government joined Syzmoniak’s complaint, and it was announced this week that those banks-Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co, and Citigroup Inc.-settled the case for $95 million. Under law, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of the money recovered by the U.S. government, in this case $18 million.