I love being a whistleblower. I'm proud of it.
When I wrote my last article about being a whistleblower, the response I received was overwhelming. Many people backed what I did, and I made a lot of contacts I wouldn't have otherwise. Last night I spent 5 hours on the phone with a fellow whistleblower. We had never met before, but it felt like reconnecting with an old friend. We shared war stories that we never told anyone before, because we connected on a level that nobody outside the whistleblowing community will ever truly get. We've both fought impossible odds and seen amazing things. It was the first time I felt like I was talking to someone who really understood me and what I've gone through.
In talking to her, we discovered a lot of misconceptions about whistleblowers in the general public. Blowing the whistle is like waking up from a coma one day and hearing the most beautiful music. You want to dance, but you can't find anyone to dance with because everyone around you is still asleep. They don't hear the music. You find yourself walking a brand new path no one has ever walked before. Your only weapons are your own perseverance, creativity, and inner strength.
Being a whistleblower brought meaning to my life. It gave me the freedom and passion to truly enjoy life for what it is. I swallowed the red pill and saw behind more curtains than I ever even wanted to know existed. Despite the corruption and evil I've witnessed on my journey, I continue to dance. You don't need to understand why I do what I do. I live my life for me. What I do want to do, however, is dispel a few common myths about whistleblowers:
Myth - Whistleblowers can't be trusted
Reality - We're not snitches. We just see the bigger picture. We're not looking to right every wrong in the world. The fact of the matter is right and wrong aren't as black and white as you want them to be. Life is filled with gray areas. Every whistleblower reaches a point where they weigh the good of the few against the good of the many. I don't run around tattling on everyone for every little misstep I see. I'm not a perfect person either. I've done a lot in my lifetime. I've lied. I've cheated. I've stolen. I've bent the rules. I've even broken the occasional law. What I refuse to do, however is hurt the whole of society for my own personal gain. This is how I became I whistleblower.
Myth - Whistleblowers are doing it for the money
Reality - It's been 2 years that I've been a whistleblower. In those 2 years, I've grown and evolved. My reasons for blowing the whistle on the banks have changed many times. At first I only wanted to fix system glitches and inconsistencies in Bank of America's auditing. I was being asked to falsely adjust reports so their clients wouldn't realize we had failed. I was uncomfortable doing it, and the next thing I knew, I was no longer the golden boy in the company. I was labeled a terrorist. After that, I went to the press because I wanted nothing more than to clear my name. I had no criminal record. I never harmed anyone in my life. Suddenly the bank was telling their employees and the media that I am a terrorist. I couldn't allow that to happen.
Once I learned more about the bigger picture, I dropped my personal vendetta and began fighting for the people who lost their homes due to false placement of inflated force-placed insurance. I was disgusted to find out how many people my department forced into undue hardship. Even the victims often didn't realize it was the negative escrow balance created by force-placed insurance that blocked their tax payment, got them rejected for a loan modification, or doubled their mortgage payments. The bank had me convinced I was doing the right thing, but I was only doing the right thing for the bank.
As I followed that path and met with regulators, I became disillusioned in the banking and insurance regulators. They were all too happy to be complacent in the bank's schemes. I continue my fight because I refuse to live in a country where I can't trust my government. I will not allow these people to continue opening their pockets to the banks while closing their eyes and ears to the pleas of their constituency.
Although I've thought deeply about what I would do if I was ever awarded a whistleblower reward, I understand the odds are against it ever happening. If I cared about the money, I would've stayed at the bank and continued helping them commit fraud against you while joining in the employee chant of "I know my company is committing fraud, but I'm not a part of it."
Myth - Whistleblowers chose to be whistleblowers
Reality - No whistleblower I've ever met had the goal of becoming a whistleblower. Our goals were once just like everyone else's. We just wanted to do our job the best we could, advance in our careers, and live the American dream. The problem is we were too good at our jobs. In giving 110%, we figured out how we fit into the big picture. We brought our concerns to the higher ups. We thought we were doing the right thing by following company policy. We assumed our company would commend us for helping them run more efficiently.
I didn't even know I was a whistleblower until 3 months after I left the company when a journalist for the New York Times called me one. When I first heard it, I was both ashamed and afraid. The term has a stigma attached to it in our society. I didn't want that to be who I am. I didn't want that to be my legacy. I didn't want to be defined by being whistleblower. It took a long time of soul searching before I finally embraced my role in society...
My name is Brian Penny, and I am a bank whistleblower.