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IBM: Illegally Bleeding Mortgages (...allegedly)

Big Blue subsidiary accused of fraud, shoddy IT policy

IBM has found itself in the crosshairs of the US government after one of its subsidiaries has been accused of financial fraud.

A lawsuit [PDF] filed in the US District Court of Southern New York accuses both Big Blue and its Seterus loan servicing company of taking more than $13m from Fannie Mae in reimbursements it was not entitled to.

According to the complaint made through a whistleblower filing by former Seterus employee William Lawrence, the loan servicing company had agreed to help collect on loans and assist in the foreclosure process on some subprime mortgaged homes.

Lawrence said that he and other Seterus employees were asked to inflate the numbers on certain expenses that Seterus claimed with Fannie Mae as part of its collections process on delinquent loans. In particular, Lawrence said, Seterus filed thousands of fake forms in order to claim $500 payouts that would go unnoticed by the massive government agency.

When those expenses were paid back by the government, Seterus was able to get a bonus of just under $13m when, according to Lawrence's own calculations, Fannie Mae only really owed Seterus around $4.8m.

Though the actions were undertaken by a subsidiary, the complaint notes that IBM is also being charged in the case in large part because of how closely the two companies work together.

"Employees for IBM and Seterus often work out of the same facility and many IBM employees have transitioned to Seterus and vice versa," the filing reads.

Additionally, the complaint notes that even when presented with evidence of the shady accounting and possible fraudulent activity, management had turned a blind eye to the matter and failed to properly address the issue.

If that weren't enough, Lawrence alleges that on another occasion, auditors found that the Seterus IT department had failed to revoke some former employees' access to certain systems and, rather than address the issue, IT workers simply provided the auditors with a doctored screenshot that showed the access as having been revoked. ®

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