Did whistleblower out First Mortgage's $7.5 million Ginnie Mae mortgage bond fraud?
The SEC wants to know, offers potential reward
The Securities and Exchange Commission is offering a reward to the whistleblower that revealed a scheme at First Mortgage Corporation that involved several of the company’s senior executives lying about the performance of the mortgages the company originated, re-securitizing them, and defrauding investors out of $7.5 million – if in fact there is one.
Earlier this year, the SEC fined First Mortgage and the company’s chairman and CEO, president, and chief financial officer, and other executives a total of $12.7 million for pulling current, performing loans out of Ginnie Mae mortgage bonds by falsely claiming the mortgages were delinquent in order to sell them at a profit into newly-issued residential mortgage-backed securities.
The charges also lead to six company execs, Chairman and CEO Clement Ziroli Sr.; President Clement Ziroli Jr.; Chief Financial Officer Pac Dong; Senior Vice President Ronald Vargas; Senior Vice President Scott Lehrer; and Managing Director of the servicing department Edward Sanders, agreeing to five-year bans from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
Now, the SEC is offering up a whistleblower reward to any individual that contributed to these charges and fines, provided there is one.
On Wednesday, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower put out a series of “Notices of Covered Action,” which are SEC actions that led to monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.
Included among those “Notices of Covered Action” was the fine and sanctions against First Mortgage and executives.
But the SEC notes that the publication of a “Notice of Covered Action” only means that an order was entered with monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million, not necessarily that a whistleblower tip led to the sanctions.
Although to claim a whistleblower award, a “Notice of Covered Action” must be filed.
Basically, the SEC is stating that a whistleblower tip may have led to the fines against First Mortgage, but it is not making any declaration or determination either that a whistleblower tip took place or that a reward will be handed out in this case.
The SEC describes the notices as such: “By posting a Notice for a particular case, we are not making any determinations either that a whistleblower tip, complaint or referral led to the Commission opening an investigation or filing an action with respect to the case or an award to a whistleblower will be paid in connection with the case.”
But the potential is there for a whistleblower payout. And while it’s possible that a whistleblower tip did lead to the First Mortgage fines, the SEC isn’t saying so one way or the other at this point.
But whistleblowers have proved valuable to the SEC, and it rewards them as such.
Earlier this week, the SEC celebrated the fact that it’s handed out more than $100 million in whistleblower rewards since the program began in 2011.
So the money is out there to be claimed in the First Mortgage case, if someone is indeed the whistleblower.
It should be noted that Edward Sanders, First Mortgage’s managing director of the servicing department, “cooperated in the SEC’s investigation,” as the SEC said when the charges were announced.
Sanders agreed to pay disgorgement of $51,576.51 plus $6,811.19 in interest as part of his punishment, but just because he “cooperated in the SEC’s investigation,” it doesn’t mean that he’s a whistleblower.
But if he, or anyone else, was the whistleblower, they now have the chance to claim their reward.