Photograph by Colby Katz for Bloomberg Businessweek

Whistle-Blower Lynn Szymoniak Beats the Banks

Attorney Lynn Szymoniak had spent her career investigating insurance fraud when Deutsche Bank (DB) moved to foreclose on her Florida home in 2008. Almost four years later, she’s still fighting the foreclosure. Yet the fraud by numerous banks she uncovered after combing through mortgage documents has earned her $18 million.

Szymoniak, 63, is getting part of a $25 billion national settlement that state and federal officials reached in February with five banks, including Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), according to the Department of Justice. Deutsche Bank was not part of that settlement. “When they did this to her, they picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,” says Richard Harpootlian, Szymoniak’s attorney. “They stuck their hand into the beehive.” John Gallagher, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank, declined to comment on Szymoniak’s foreclosure case.

The settlement with the five banks, which did not admit wrongdoing, resolves claims of abusive foreclosure practices and provides mortgage relief to borrowers. It pays $1.5 billion to those who lost their homes to foreclosure, and sets standards for how the banks service mortgages. It also provides $228 million to settle whistle-blower claims, according to papers filed in federal court in Washington. A group of six whistle-blowers will receive $46.5 million out of that amount, says Alisa Finelli, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. Spokesmen for JPMorgan and Bank of America declined to comment on the whistle-blower cases resolved as part of the national foreclosure settlement.

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