Mr. Winston sent along this gracious response today – a must-read:
My name is Michael G. Winston. As you were kind enough to write about my legal battles with Bank of America/ Countrywide, I wanted to update you, show you how close you got to the truth and thank you from the bottom of my heart for covering the story.
My struggle is a struggle that goes on everywhere ignorance, arrogance and corruption are allowed to flourish. My legal battles have been going on for over four years now. The legal process is glacially slow and woefully indifferent. After many years, one wonders if anyone is really out there is paying attention. My feeling is if it happened to me, it could happen to anybody. Do these people know who I am? Do they care?
Thank you for showing me you did. I read your column posted on February 19, 2011. I felt as if you understood what happened and knew who I was. It was such a cleansing, healing and validating feeling to read the words in your blog.
I never thought of myself as a whistleblower. I still don’t. I never wanted to become a whistleblower. I just wanted Countrywide to do the right thing. I wanted them to follow their own ethical policies as well as the law. In the end, I was not only trying to save shareholders, tax-payers, and employees from Countrywide’s malfeasant practices. I was also trying to save Countrywide from itself. Thank you again for covering this story. Here is an update.
It is now more than six months past the Jury verdict which completely vindicated me and held Countrywide accountable for “retaliation in violation of public policy.” To the uninformed, I won and they lost, my lawyers have been paid. Surely by now, I have received the verdict money intended for me by the Jury. Also, I most certainly have received my expense money expected to be turned back to me via Court order. However, none of the above has happened. One wonders if it ever will.
I was called into Court in April, 2011 against CFC/BAC. They motioned the Judge to throw out the verdict as if it never happened. This is called a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict. They made a long argument saying we produced no credible evidence at trial. The Judge stopped them cold citing “OVERWHELMING high credibility and very strong evidence in documents and witnesses on our side.”
I believe this is conduct unbecoming any publicly-traded company. They are insulting the more than one month- long effort of twelve Jurors and two Alternates, mocking the legal system, and again crawling out into the legal limelight seeking to invalidate a rightful Jury verdict.
We won again. They lost again. The Judge threw their motion out. What a waste of taxpayer and investor money!
Then, a month after they were again denied, they filed an Appeal seeking to invalidate all. They do this because they can. They do it with investor money. They do it with taxpayer money. They do this with your money. They will never admit the wrongdoing that is so blatantly evident to all. This is wrongful and must be changed. Clearly, there has been no punishment to these behemoths for breaking the law. Taking on corporate Goliaths should not be so daunting. But their access to influence peddling, capital, resources and data is OVERWHELMING. I am just one person fighting for what is right.
They can keep this going endlessly. The system facilitates the victim getting victimized yet again, while the guilty go unscathed. I believe our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves as the miscarriage of justice goes on daily in our system. Also, companies should be forced to disclose to shareholders that they are squandering their money by trying to overturn a rightful verdict. Have these people no shame?
In the meantime, I am trying hard to get back to work. So many nice sentiments were articulated from around the world shortly after my rightful verdict. Yet, no offers were forthcoming. People speak about the courage, principles and integrity I demonstrated under EXTREME pressure, yet I cannot get a job offer. This is after a thirty-year career holding high office in Fortune 100 companies, demonstrating strong performance and being named one of the Top Fifty Global Thought-Leaders eight times. Something is wrong in this equation. The system rewards corrupt behavior that we do not want; and punishes the behavior and integrity we do want.
After Gretchen Morgenson’s piece in the Sunday New York Times (February 20) on my legal battle with Countrywide/ Bank of America, it was widely referenced in the media. Her story was about my ordeal was entitled: How a Whistle-Blower Conquered Countrywide!
Here is a bit more of the real story:
Prior to Countrywide, I served as Chief Organization and Leadership Officer in several Fortune 100 corporations across three industries (high technology, aerospace and financial services) for nearly three decades. In all, I worked closely with and reported directly to C-Suite Officers developing the strategy and business model, architecting structure, creating culture, and selecting and developing leaders. I am passionate about achieving exemplary performance in these areas.
I have deep experience in appraising and developing leadership, managing large-scale change and creating a succession plan that ensures the vitality of the business. I have also provided strategic guidance to the CEO and executive team on business planning, execution and human capital issues in all regions across the globe.
Having spent my career with such academy companies as Motorola, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed Martin and Merrill Lynch, my stint as Managing Director and Chief Leadership Officer for Bank of America’s Mortgage Group (formerly Countrywide Financial Corporation) was a challenge. However, my team rose to the challenge.
I hired and led the team that designed, developed and implemented the company’s first-ever organization strategy, development and integration initiatives. There was nothing there when we arrived in 2005. In 2006, our efforts were rated 15th in America; the next year we were rated 8th best globally against 1000 other companies considered. The team was headed for the “top five” in 2008 when the company was acquired. Above ratings were given by Leadership Excellence magazine. Our team’s efforts were also recognized by Linkage, Douglas Publications, The Concours Group and HR.Com for excellence in design and execution.
If my eleven years at Motorola (and fifteen years split between Merrill Lynch, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas) were heaven (and they were), Countrywide Financial was HELL, though not in the beginning. My team (many of whom had been with me for more than twenty years and a few companies) won high praise internally and externally on the design, scope and impact of our initiatives. Life was pretty good.
However, it changed abruptly when I continued to raise questions about Countrywide’s business and human resource practices, and getting no satisfactory answers (after giving them tons of time to reply), then contacted outside agencies when I saw potential cataclysmic abuses of customers, shareholders, employees and society.
Countrywide’s retaliation against me was immediate, relentless, egregious. It was done in public with the intent to humiliate, harass and destroy me and demonstrate their power to other personnel, lest they get ideas about questioning aberrant practices. Since most of my direct reports had relocated thousands of miles to work with me again, I could not leave. If I left, all of them would have been terminated immediately. So I stayed. It was like torture. The phrase, “death by a thousand cuts,” changed from rhetoric to reality for me.
Several years ago, I filed a lawsuit against Countrywide and subsequently added Bank of America. My first lawsuit ever! After four weeks of trial and two days of deliberation, the Jury completely vindicated me and held Countrywide/ BAC accountable for wrongdoing in violation of public policy. The date of the Jury verdict is February 3, 2011.
It totally affected me…weight gains and losses, edginess, insomnia, depression, etc., etc.. I have learned this is a by-product of taking on two Goliaths like Countrywide and Bank of America. If I told you all of the ways they tried to dissuade me from pursuing justice, you would be amazed.
However, I remained true to my purpose. I knew they had broken the law several times with me after I tried to do the right thing and I remained committed to holding them accountable.
So, Countrywide Financial and Bank of America are NOT above the law after all. A Jury saw to it they were held accountable. Finally, someone stands up to these people who have hurt tens of millions of homeowners, investors, taxpayers and many thousands of employees.
The media has covered the story. I am glad. I want people to know what happened. I want them to know how many people have been hurt by executives like those in CFC/BAC with no heart and no soul. Honesty and courage can defeat intimidation and fear. As I said to Gretchen, I want people who do the right things to know that the littlest of David’s can conquer the mightiest of Goliath’s…even two of them concurrently.
While I was pleased at the verdict, I am concerned that none of the CEO’s who caused the 2008 global financial crisis have been held fully accountable. Justice has been denied.
I want to do my part to promote vision-driven, values-based leadership that is a force for good, not evil. Finally, I want to rid the world of companies the abuse shareholders, customers, employees and society.
With kind regards,
Michael G. Winston
PS If I didn’t go through it, I would not have believed it.
CC: WinstonMG@aol.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: 2/3/2011 5:38:30 P.M. Pacific Standard Time
Subj: Superior court Jury hits Countrywide/BofA with $3,828,166.00 Verdict
Countrywide and Bank of America were today hit with a $3,828,166.00 verdict in a whistleblower/retaliation case brought by former Countrywide senior executive Michael Winston. The Van Nuys, California Superior Court jury found that Countrywide/BofA retaliated against him for refusing to lie to or mislead Moody’s Investment Services and because he filed a complaint with CAL-OSHA when employees in his building were sickened by an exposure to toxic chemicals.
This may be the first case in which Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s now disgraced former Chairman and CEO has had to face a jury. Mr. Winston’s counsel, Charles T. Mathews called Mozilo as a hostile witness and got him to admit that he ordered Winston fired shortly after Winston refused to participate in a fraud on Moody’s Investment Service.
In December of 2006, Winston was asked to fabricate an excuse to cover up the sudden departure of former Countrywide President Stan Kurland, who abruptly disappeared from the Countrywide scene in May of 2006 leaving a major gap in Countrywide’s management until he was finally replaced by David Sambol.
Winston testified that Sambol told him that Moody’s “could shut us down” if it gave Countrywide an unfavorable credit rating. The timing of this event was before Angelo Mozilo cashed out his Countrywide stock for over $140,000,000.00 and before Countrywide stock tumbled in late 2007. When Winston learned they wanted him to mislead Moody’s he told Sambol, “I’m not your man!” Less than a month later, Angelo Mozilo sent an email to the head of human resources stating, “I WANT HIM FIRED IMMEDIATELY.”
Knowing that if Winston brought a whistleblower/retaliation case alleging fraud on Moody’s at that time, the investment world, Moody’s, and government regulators would have been alerted to Countrywide’s fraud, Countrywide’s lawyers and others enabling Mozilo, prevailed on him not to fire Winston at that moment. Instead, they took away nearly all of his subordinates, most of his responsibilities and let him “die by a thousand cuts.”
Both Mozilo and Sambol were called as witnesses in the case by Mr. Winston’s attorneys as hostile witnesses.
For further information, contact Charles T. Mathews, Esq. at The Mathews Law Group 626-683-8291 or 626-807-3852.