NEW YORK — US authorities on Wednesday ordered Bank of America to pay $930,0000 to an employee who was fired after exposing fraud at the bank's disgraced mortgage unit, Countrywide Financial.
The US Labor Department said in a statement that the employee was illegally fired after he led "internal investigations that revealed widespread and pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud" at Countrywide.
Bank of America acquired Countrywide in 2008, a spectacularly bad move that has saddled the US banking giant with numerous lawsuits and billions of dollars in legal costs stemming from Countrywide's mortgage-lending practices.
Prior to the global financial crisis, Countrywide was a prominent issuer of subprime mortgages, many of which were poorly documented and sold to borrowers who eventually defaulted on their loans.
The whistleblowing employee was fired after the Bank of America-Countrywide merger was completed in July 2008, the Labor Department said.
"It's clear from our investigation that Bank of America used illegal retaliatory tactics against this employee," David Michaels, a senior Labor Department official, said in the government's statement.
"This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same."
Bank of America expressed disappointed with the Labor Department's ruling and said it would exercise its right to appeal the decision.
"The bank's actions to dismiss (the employee) 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," a spokeswoman for the bank told AFP.
The employee in the case was not named.