Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel at Netroots Nation with, among others, Lynn Szymoniak, the lawyer and forensics expert who during her own foreclosure case recognized the massive fraud in documentation being perpetrated by banks. Lynn devoted the next several years to rooting out this fraud and telling anyone who will listen about what the banks were doing with mortgage assignments. She ended up taking home $18 million in a whistleblower case that was folded into the foreclosure fraud settlement. And now, the 60 Minutes piece that gave her national notoriety won a Loeb Award, the most prestigious award in business journalism.
The story, “The Next Housing Shock,” picked up the prize for explanatory reporting. Other winners last night included the LA Times’ three-part series on used car lots, the Allentown Morning Call’s excellent series on Amazon.com warehouses, and Felix Salmon’s financial blog.
“The Next Housing Shock,” reported by Scott Pelley, brought the story of foreclosure fraud to an audience that may not have heard about it before. Szymoniak was the main expert in the piece, which told the story of how banks, unable to prove ownership of the houses they want to foreclose and repossess, resort to forged and phony paperwork to present to state courts. The story created a sea change in coverage of foreclosure fraud, moving it from a relative backwater to garner national attention.
The best part of the 60 Minutes award for the Szymoniak piece was that Wells Fargo, one of the banks Szymoniak has worked to expose, was an “Elite Platinum sponsor” of last night’s event. Other sponsors included UBS.
The Loeb Awards, named after the founding partner of E.F. Hutton Gerald Loeb, were established in 1957 to encourage business, financial and economic journalism. Since 1973, it has been put on by the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Congratulations to Lynn.