The suit, filed by 16 former Countrywide customers in Ventura County Court, CA, charges that Countrywide Financial employees took and then sold tens of thousands or millions of its customers personal data files and exposed them to identity theft.
This case comes nearly two years after a Countrywide employee was charged with stealing the identities and personal information of two million of the firm's mortgage loan applicants. Rene Rebollo, a senior financial analyst at one of Countrywide's California-based subprime lending divisions, took the information over a period of two years. This happened before Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.
The new suit charge that, "Beginning in 2008 - coincidentally after they sold their mortgage portfolios under wrongful and fraudulent 'securitization pools,' and coincidentally after their mortgage portfolio went into massive default as a result thereof - Countrywide learned that the financial information of potentially millions of customers had been stolen by certain Countrywide agents, employees or other individuals."
The class action wants to find out if Countrywide helped with the theft and illegal dissemination, or if it was "an architect of the plan." The suit claims that Countrywide did not dispute that private financial information was "disseminated," didn't immediately admit to the massive breaches of confidentiality and didn't offer much help once customers were notified of the breach.
The 16 ex-customers charge they've been victimized by identity theft, their credit histories "shattered" and haven't been able to get real estate loans or other credit since the breach. "Countrywide delayed several months before informing their customers," states the complaint. When notification did come, the complaint says it was misdirected, "Finally, Countrywide informed only certain of their customers by letter and offered in settlement to refer the customers/borrowers to counseling, when it was Countrywide that needed to review and repair its internal procedures and it was Countrywide that needed to repair damages done to the credit of its customers."
The class group is represented by Mitchell Stein of Walnut Creek, CA. The $20 million asked for in damages covers invasion of privacy, as well as aiding and abetting, and punitive damages.