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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Victory for a Countrywide Whistleblower; Mozilo Gets A Pass

A Countrywide Financial Corporation executive-turned-whistleblower, Michael Winston, won a partial victory in a California state court this past week when a jury awarded him $3.8 million in damages for wrongful terminating and retaliating against him for refusing to play ball with the company's C-level executives.

The case may be instructive for what employees can expect when they refuse to go along with questionable, if not outright illegal, practices.  In some companies across corporate America, the mere act of refusing to engage in criminal or unethical behavior can be viewed by human resources directors, hiring managers and other high-level corporate executives as disloyalty, insubordination and the justification for being fired "for cause." 

Mind you, these ethically-challenged individuals are often the same people who make decisions, on behalf of the corporations, as to which hapless employee will be "thrown under the bus" when the Justice Department or Securities and Exchange Commission starts investigating corporate misconduct. 

On a separate note, it appears from an unnamed source that a criminal investigation involving Countrywide's founder and chief executive officer, Angelo Mozilo, has been closed with no further action to be taken.  

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and commentator.    

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