Updated Long Version | June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards Were Fired After Revealing Widespread Foreclosure Fraud
June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards Were Fired After Revealing Widespread Foreclosure Fraud
June Clarkson went to Ernie’s Bar-B-Q in Fort Lauderdale to have lunch with her supervisor, Bob Julian; and some coworkers. It was a Friday in May 2011, the end of a hectic workweek at the local economic crimes unit of the Office of the Attorney General.
Clarkson, a small, lively woman with glasses and blond hair, had left a private law firm to accept the sub-$60,000-a-year job. She relished the idea of being a public watchdog, of digging into the records of companies to catch them trying to cheat customers.
“It was just right up my alley: people defrauding other people, companies defrauding the public. I thought it was the best thing that had ever fallen into my lap,” Clarkson recalls.
She worked closely with colleague Theresa Edwards. Their typical assignments involved consumer fraud, but in 2010, they started getting calls from hard-up homeowners. Millions of families had faced foreclosure in the wake of the housing collapse; most had capitulated under the power of giant banks and simply surrendered their homes. But more and more, Clarkson was hearing from individuals who were fighting back.
These homeowners noticed mistakes in the documents that the banks were using as the basis to seize people’s homes: strange signatures, missing information, notary seals with no signature, dates in the future. Skeptics began wondering whether these were in fact not innocent mistakes but symptoms of intentional and possibly systemic fraud. Clarkson and Edwards were some of the first public officials willing to listen to these accusations.
Clarkson noticed Julian’s phone ringing during lunch but didn’t pay much attention. They drove back to the downtown Fort Lauderdale office building they shared with several of the area’s most powerful law firms.
Clarkson returned to her desk, reading through piles of documents. Recently she had been investigating Lender Processing Services (LPS), a company that, by some estimates, helped prepare paperwork for half the foreclosures in the country. Every time she found a red flag — a suspect signature, perhaps, or an intriguing memo — she went next door to Julian’s office and showed him. But since lunch, he hadn’t been acting normally, she thought. Clarkson came back a couple of times, and each time she announced a discovery, it seemed to pain Julian. Eventually he closed his door, but Clarkson knocked again. Julian just looked up at her. She thought he might be sick. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “I’m doing a good job!”
“I know,” she remembers him saying. She left and closed the door.
Edwards came back from a morning of depositions and stopped by Julian’s office. She was tall and calm-voiced with reddish-brown hair, more experienced at the AG’s office than Clarkson.
“Get June and come in here,” he told her.
He cut straight to the chase: “You’re both done at the end of the day. It’s a done deal, all the way up to Tallahassee. You can either quit or be terminated,” they remembered him saying.
Clarkson and Edwards left the office, stunned. Edwards had known Julian since law school, and the three of them had worked closely together. The two investigators considered themselves the hardest-working people in the office and had recently received a commendation for their work. Julian had encouraged them to go after the foreclosure-fraud cases with all they had, and they even helped win a $2 million settlement with the foreclosure law firm of Marshall Watson, which had been accused of fudging its documents.
So what happened?
Be sure to find out here…
It is one of the best in-depth write-ups of the story yet…