By Paul Kiel, ProPublica
An executive who the Justice Department says facilitated a scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is now spearheading JPMorgan Chase's role in the government's program to compensate victims of the big banks' abusive foreclosure practices.
The executive, Rebecca Mairone, worked at Countrywide and Bank of America from 2006 until earlier this year, when she left for JPMorgan Chase, according to her LinkedIn profile.
In a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in New York, Justice Department attorneys allege that Countrywide, which was bought by Bank of America in 2008, perpetrated a two-year scam to foist shoddy home loans on Fannie and Freddie. Neither Mairone nor any other individuals are named as defendants in the civil suit, and no criminal charges have been filed against her or anyone else in connection with the alleged misconduct. But Mairone is one of two bank officials cited in the suit as having repeatedly ignored warnings about the "Hustle," as the alleged scheme was called inside the company, and she prohibited employees from circulating some of those warnings outside their division.
Mairone was chief operating officer of the Countrywide lending division that allegedly carried out the "Hustle." She took the helm of JPMorgan Chase's involvement in the Independent Foreclosure Review this summer, according to a former Chase employee.
The review, overseen by federal banking regulators, requires the nation's biggest banks to compensate victims for harm they inflicted on borrowers. Victims can receive up to $125,000 in cash or, in some cases, get their homes back. But the review has already been marred by evidence that the banks themselves play a major role in identifying the victims of their own abuses, raising the question of whether the review is compromised by a central conflict of interest.
Mairone's role raises additional questions about the Independent Foreclosure Review.
The review "never seemed designed to place first the interests of those who were supposed to be helped u2014 victimized homeowners," said Neil Barofsky, the former federal prosecutor who served as the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as the bank bailout.
"Finding out that the person running it for JPMorgan Chase is a person whose conduct in the run-up to financial crisis was allegedly so egregious that she somehow managed to be one of the only people actually named in a case brought by the Department of Justice goes beyond irony," he continued. "It speaks volumes to the banks' true intent and lack of concern for homeowners when addressing the harm that they caused during the foreclosure crisis."
In response to ProPublica's questions about Mairone's role in the foreclosure review and the suit's allegations, Chase issued a brief statement confirming that Mairone is a managing director who is "working on the Independent Foreclosure Review process." The statement added, "It would not be appropriate for us to discuss another firm's litigation."
Chase declined to make Mairone available for comment, and she did not return a message left at her home number.