Former Lehman Brothers female employees claim they experienced sickening sexual harassment and death threats when they questioned the firm’s illegal practices before it went bust in 2008.
Two women who worked for a mortgage firm owned by the investment bank open up about their terrifying experiences in BBC Four Storyville’s recent documentary Inside Lehman Brothers: The Whistleblowers.
One told of being sexually harassed by a man who was allegedly hired to walk around the office intimidating women, while another claimed she had her home broken into and the lives of her and her daughter threatened.
Lehman Brothers’ collapse triggered a worldwide financial crisis; it had more than $600billion in assets and was the largest bankruptcy filing in the history of the US.
Sylvia Vega-Sutfin, of Nevada City, and Cheryl McNeil worked for BNC Mortage, a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers acquired by them in 1997, which provided subprime mortgage loans with higher interest rates to those who found it difficult to maintain a repayment schedule.
Sylvia Vega-Sutfin worked for BNC Mortage, a firm acquired by Lehman Brothers in 1997, and told of the terrifying harassment she and her family faced at the hands of the financial giant while appearing on BBC Four documentary Inside Lehman Brothers: The Whistleblowers
Pictured is former chairman and chief executive officer of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld Jr., in 2008 as he prepared to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s hearing on the causes and effects of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy
The bank would falsify information about homeowners so they could sell their loans to investors for a higher price.
Once the loans had been sold, interest rates would increase even further to compensate the lender, meaning people were unable to make their payments.
Cheryl claimed the firm would ‘target anyone who was gullible’ and Sylvia told how she knew fraud was being committed when one of her documents stated a man working at a KFC restaurant was making $7,000 every month.
She explained how she was sent an email by mistake from the investment bank that said Lehman Brothers ‘had to keep the company going’.
Sylvia recalled how one day her situation went ‘from bad to worse’ when $30million worth of her loans mysteriously disappeared – which she believes was an attempt by the firm to ‘destroy her credibility’.
Cheryl McNeil worked for a Lehman Brothers subsidiary BNC Mortage and appeared on BBC Storyville’s Inside the Lehman Brothers : The Whistleblowers, where she spoke of her horrific ordeal
She said: ‘How is it possible that $30million plus in loans are gone? They wanted to destroy my credibility. So my credibility would be tarnished in front of another employer.’
Soon, a mysterious man with ‘no official job title’ was reportedly employed to intimidate women around the office, and Sylvia compared him to a member of ‘the Mafia’.
She went on: ‘Then new management came in things started changing, they came into our office like the Mafia. They brought a gentleman in who had no official job title and he would just walk around the office.’
Cheryl told a similar story of how things quickly began to change when she became increasingly suspicious of the peculiar paperwork coming through the office.
She recalled how a man once sat beside her at her desk with his leg close to hers, breathing heavily and making suggestive remarks.
‘He was talking about African American women and what he’d heard they were like and whether was I like that and just being very sexual,’ Cheryl said.
Lehman Brothers’ collapse triggered a worldwide financial crisis; it had more than $600billion in assets and was the largest bankruptcy filing in the history of the US
When she left BNC, Cheryl said she called her supervisor at her new job and they said they had ‘changed their mind, they weren’t gonna hire me’.
The mother told how she was subsequently blacklisted from all other mortgage firms and eventually lost her home and her car, despite only having four months left to pay on it, as she was unable to maintain her payments.
‘I eventually lost my place,’ she said. ‘I got evicted because I couldn’t pay the rent, I lost my car… I couldn’t send my son to school, to this day he’ll say it doesn’t bother him but I know it did because he kind of blames me for not pursuing his career.’
Sylvia claimed on the day she left BNC, the man mysteriously hired to ‘intimidate’ the women threatened her and her daughter’s lives, warning her he ‘knew where she lived’.
‘On the day I was leaving the office I got to the person who would harass me and threaten my life,’ she recalled.
‘He pulled me in and whispered in my ears, “I know everything about you, I know where your daughters go to school, I know where they live, I own you”.’
The mother said she then arrived home to find somebody had been inside her house, and told of the ‘devastating’ effect it had on her and her family.
She said: ‘Things were torn and moved and things were gone and people were letting me know, “Hey we’ve been at your house, it’s a devastating way to live,” and my children said, “We don’t like this new you”.’
Storyville’s Inside Lehman Brothers: The Whistleblowers will air on Monday on BBC Four at 10pm.