S&L Whistleblowers Are Unprotected, Congressman Says
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Regulators who expose abuses in the government’s oversight of shaky savings and loans are unprotected by federal laws, creating a ″major flaw″ in the government’s S&L cleanup effort, a House Democrat charged today.
″Imagine putting a cop on the corner, taking away his gun, badge and nightstick, and telling him that he’d be fired if he tried to make any arrests,″ said Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. ″That’s about what we’ve done with our S&L regulators.″
Schumer spoke at a hearing of the House Budget Committee’s Task Force on Urgent Fiscal Issues, which he chairs.
Employees of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the now-defunct Federal Home Loan Banks, and other banking agencies are not covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. Schumer said he will propose legislation in Congress next year to extend whistleblower protection to those employees.
″Unless we’re allowed to talk about the fraud that went on (at savings and loans), the situation will just continue,″ Patricia Cosgrove, a former examiner for the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, told The Associated Press Wednesday. ″The good guys will be out of work, and the people who will be working will just be complacent.″
Ms. Cosgrove said she was fired in October 1988 after she complained about serious violations at Flushing Federal Savings and Loan of Queens, N.Y., including a lack of credit checks on borrowers.
Other S&L whistleblowers who were fired were scheduled to testify at today’s hearing.
Lisa Walleri, formerly an examiner for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, said in prepared testimony she was dismissed for refusing to sign a report on Far West Federal Bank that distorted its financial condition to make it look more healthy than it was.
Ms. Walleri has filed a suit against the Seattle FHLB and Far West, alleging wrongful discharge and ″intentional infliction of emotional distress″.
″I’ve waited two years for a vindication after being ignored and stonewalled″ by federal agencies, Ms. Walleri said before the hearing.
John Geddes, a former employee of the now-defunct Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., was fired in August 1989. He had told the agency about serious errors he had found in the adjustable-rate mortgage portfolio of American Federal Savings & Loan of Anderson, Ind.
Several law firms consulted by Geddes had warned the FSLIC that its failure to correct the errors could expose the agency to allegations of fraud.
″I was not the only employee who was informed not to rock the boat,″ Geddes said in testimony prepared for the hearing. ″Other employees were passed over for advancement or given the worst jobs until they could not take it anymore and resigned.″
Geddes said that errors involving adjustable-rate mortgages, which he discovered at various S&Ls around the country, could mean billions of dollars in liability for the lending industry. In some cases, he said, borrowers have been overcharged by almost $10,000 on loan balances of $25,000.
Other witnesses scheduled to appear were Thomas Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, and Mary Wieseman, special counsel in the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency within the executive branch.
The Whistleblowers Protection Act shields federal employees who disclose wrongdoing in the government against reprisal. Lawmakers who drafted last year’s S&L bailout legislation say they unintentionally neglected to provide such protection for banking agency employees.