Another notable whistleblower

December 28, 2010 | By | Reply More

In the December 27, 2010 edition of The Nation (available online only to subscribers), we learn of Martin Woods, who was an expert at spotting dirty money flowing through banking systems. In 2005 he took a job with Wachovia Bank. He was in for a rude awakening when, in 2006, during the Lebanon war, his superiors reprimanded him for trying to freeze in account used by Hezbollah.

That same year, he identified suspicious transactions relating to Mexican currency exchanges–deposits of travelers checks “with sequential numbers for large amounts of money–more than any innocent person would need–with inadequate or no identity information on them, and what seemed to a trained eye to be dubious signatures.” Instead of being commended, his superiors at Wachovia Bank told him to “stop asking questions and to cease blocking suspicious transactions.”

As the article points out, it turns out that his suspicions were entirely correct based upon the seizure of 5.7 tons of cocaine by the Mexican military. This year, the Justice Department charged Wachovia with the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act in US history, fining the bank $160 million. Shortly thereafter, Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia during the 2008 crash for $12.7 billion, thanks to a $25 billion handout of US taxpayer money.

What happened to Martin Woods? The bank charged him with professional misconduct in 2008. He received “a stinging reprimand [claiming] that his actions could expose the bank to potential regulatory jeopardy and even large fines.” In December, 2008, Woods sued Wachovia for harassment and detrimental treatment, and the bank settled in 2009 for an amount which was undisclosed.

For these reasons, I’m adding Martin Woods to my private Whistle-Blower Hall of Fame, along with Bradley Manning and Bradley Birkenfeld.


Category: Heroes, Whistle-blowers

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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