Anonymous, the hacker collective, has released a batch of emails from Bank of America purporting to show that the bank improperly foreclosed on homes during the financial crisis, but the emails don't seem to have anything to do with mortgages at all -- at least not directly.
The loose group is known for staging attacks on PayPal and MasterCard on behalf of Wikileaks after both refused to process payments for the site, which made thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables public.
The emails show an exchange in which an employee of Balboa Insurance and his superiors. Balboa insurance is a risk management firm in Arizona. The firm buys insurance on mortgaged homes in order to protect the investors in the loans. They were leaked by Brian Penny, has a blog on which he outlines the supposed ethical lapses at BofA. He says problems started when he sought to apply for a position at Bank of America, and was later questioned in relation to a bomb threat. He says the emails show that Bank of America was altering the information about loans in order to more easily foreclose on them.
Penny says Bank of America wanted to foreclose on homes, so it asked that the documents and their tracking numbers be mismatched or changed. But it isn't clear from the images published so far that the emails are directly related to foreclosures. In fact, a person familiar with the matter says that the whole exchange is an attempt to correct a mistake, in which letters would have been sent to agents (not homeowners) telling them they required flood insurance on the house when they did not, or didn't require it when they did. To correct that mistake, the erroneous letters had to be removed from the system.
The part Penny says is damning is an email chain that starts with Jason Vaughn, who signs off as operations team manager at Balboa Insurance. He says he needs the images of documents associated with a set of tracking numbers removed from an insurance tracking system. (Jason Vaughn has since left the company).
Joanne Anderson answers and says she can't remove the tracking numbers from the system but she can remove the loan numbers so the documents will not match with the loans. She then says she needs management approval. A message left for Anderson was not returned. Another email from Vaughn to a woman named Peggy Johnson asks why the company is removing records of the error.
It is these emails that people familiar with the matter say simply refer to correcting a mistake, not to deliberately covering up evidence of wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for Bank of America said the documents in question were not foreclosure-related. "We are aware that a former Balboa employee has some stolen documents and is trying to generate interest. We are confident that his specious assertions are untrue."
Anonymous has said it supports Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who said he had a large number of emails from a major financial institution that would be embarrassing. But these emails don't appear to have anything to do with the trove Assange claimed to have.
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