“…you can’t take the effect, and make it the cause;/I didn’t rob a bank because you made up the law…” - Jack White, “Effect & Cause”
NEW YORK (MainStreet) —I worked as a manager, project lead, and analyst at Countrywide and Bank of America from October 2005 to January 2011. I sat behind the curtain of Oz during the peak of the housing bubble and start of the recession before standing up to the banks and turning whistleblower. I didn’t just work for Countrywide and BofA, though.
My clients included Aurora Loan Services (a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers, whose bankruptcy filing is among the largest in history), GMAC (aka Ally Financial - now government-owned), IndyMac Federal (aka OneWest - now government-owned), and many more. I worked at a centralized machine at the center of the housing crisis building databases, creating training material, performing quality control, managing volumes, querying and auditing data with backend IT & Accounting level system access to nearly every system utilized by every collateral lender in the country. To say I have intimate knowledge of the mortgage, insurance, and banking industries would be putting it lightly. Thankfully I’m training to be an Ashtanga yogi…so I’m flexible enough to pat myself on the back…
On March 14, 2011, I worked with Anonymous to leak confidential Bank of America emails to the media and public in an event called #BlackMonday. BofA’s stock plummeted as interest in Force-Placed Insurance grew online. It may have doubled in 2012, but it still hasn’t reached the level it was at when I hit them. Since then, I trained all 50 State Attorneys General, along with various regulatory agencies, journalists, and attorneys, on the backend processes, systems, screens, subsidiaries, schemes, and solutions affecting society from Force-Placed Insurance, a form of insurance placed on collateral loans when it’s determined contractual insurance requirements aren’t being met.
Later that year, #BlackMonday sparked Occupy Wall Street, and I became a follower of Anonymous under the name Versability. Versability worked on projects with Anonymous and Occupy, promoting them through multiple social media accounts while I connected the dots for the New York Dept of Financial Services. The world assumed Occupy was a pointless protest. It wasn’t pointless the day Joy Feigenbaum, Executive Deputy Superintendent of Financial Fraud & Consumer Protection at the NY DFS, apologized to me over the phone for the noise outside her office caused by the Occupation. The Occupiers served their exact purpose: evolving nonviolent revolution in the Digital Age. They captured everyone’s attention…but the financial industry is too complicated to describe the root of the problem.
In the two years since I left the bank and started working toward my beliefs, I became a whistleblower, Anon, Occupy activist, writer, entrepreneur, yogi and more. At one time, I was a depressed alcoholic watching my life fall into financial ruins at the hands of the banks I once worked for. Now I smile, dress how I want, practice yoga, work when I want and I couldn’t tell you the last time I woke up to an alarm. Now that you know all of this, let me ask you …
Do I sound like the type of guy who’s cracking your password simply because you have a password? Does it sound like I’m going to turn around and go home just because you secured your data?
If I want what you have behind your security systems, you’re not going to stop me with bells and whistles. I dropped Bank of America from the largest bank in the U.S. to 2nd place with an email. I didn’t need to exploit any systems. I have passwords. I know people. I started meditating to stop my brain from coming up with ways to walk right into BofA to take anything I want. I could DDoS the Res.Net, Lender Processing Services, and Fidelity web portals and shut down any outsourced operations if that’s the battle I wanted to fight. The banks use all sorts of data transmission methods, and they’re using laughably outdated systems, software, and methods to accomplish it.
The reason I don’t knock over the house of cards is because I don’t have to. It would be overkill. I already KO’d Bank of America, Assurant and QBE First in court. They’re just too old and inefficient to realize they’re dead.
I’m not unique. There’s millions of people just like me worldwide attacking systems in every way we can. The hacker mentality isn’t just for programmers and network admins. Your encryption is a car alarm. Your password is a bike lock. They may slow us, but they’ll never stop us. We’re driven by curiosity and a belief in freedom. The only way to protect your company from people like me is to practice Ethical Risk Management.
Unlike those Enterprise Risk Management solutions companies waste millions of dollars on, Ethical Risk Management cures the problem, rather than simply treating the symptoms. You’re being targeted for a reason. The only way to stop people like me from affecting your business is to work ethically. The only way to prove that to the public is to work transparently.
Why can we turn on "How It’s Made" on Discovery to see the inside of every production factory in the world, yet can’t get a straight answer about our own loans that we signed a contract for, much less the mortgage industry? How are Assurant and QBE monitoring nearly every home and auto loan in the country without anyone knowing they even exist? In what other industry can a company have tens of millions of customers annually that have no idea they’re even your customers? Why can a bank hide their financials from the Fed when a restaurant can’t hide its kitchen and stockroom from the health inspector? Why is it easy to dispute any charge from any company except financial institutions?
Why can’t we see behind the curtains?
Enterprise Risk Management practices are nothing more than obstacles to people like me, because these are the questions that drive us. Rather than Bank of America, Assurant, and other corporations creating plans to discredit people like Julian Assange or myself; hundreds of millions of dollars of waste could be eliminated by simply running an ethical business in the first place. If there was nothing to find, we’d have no reason to look, and what we find wouldn’t be widely covered by national media organizations.
If not for Bank of America and Countrywide’s shady business practices, I wouldn’t have become a whistleblower. It’s not something I aspired to be. My guidance counselor didn’t prepare me for this. I didn’t wear a whistle on Halloween while all the other kids wore capes and face paint.
The banks created the need for someone like me when they created the fraudulent Force-Placed Insurance kickback scheme. Their financial losses could have been avoided. I may have walked away. Occupy may never have ignited. The hive of Anonymous could have proved ineffective against the banks, and the spirit of Wikileaks could have been extinguished.
All the banks had to do was operate with ethics…But they couldn’t do it…
Your passwords, protocols, VPN’s, strategies, etc are useless…
Your strongest protection is to #ExpectUs…
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He documents his experiences van dwelling, working with Anonymous, training to be a yogi, and fighting the banks on his blog.