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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

The Worst Story of This Recession. So Far.

This may be the perfect story to illustrate the Great Recession. And by "perfect," I mean "disgusting and reprehensible."

Goes like this:

A wealthy couple named Lawrence and Linda Elins have a nice beachfront house in Malibu, overlooking the ocean. Built in 1990, the 3,800-square-foot house has three bedrooms and four bathrooms. It has patios overlooking the Pacific. Nice spot. Tom Hanks is a neighbor. Life is good.

They've invested their money with a New Yorker who has been delivering unnaturally high returns for years. Seemed odd, but he was so trustworthy. Besides, everyone invests with Bernie Madoff.

Flash-forward to this year: Madoff is exposed. The couple's losses are in the millions. They are forced to give up their house, which is taken back by the bank in May. In this case, Wells Fargo.

The house sits empty for a while. But not for long.

A 17-year Wells Fargo executive named Cheronda Guyton, who is head of the bank's commercial foreclosure division, eyes the empty beachfront property and thinks: summer party house!

She essentially moves into the vacant house. But it's not just her, and she doesn't keep a low profile.

She and her family throw parties at this seized house, the neighbors in the gated community observe. They do some homework. They find out who she is from the parking pass she had to get to drive in and out of the community. They find out she works for the very company that foreclosed on the house. They are suitably outraged. Busted!

They start complaining, especially after guests at one of her parties arrive by yacht. In a twisted way, you sort of have to admire Guyton's sheer audacity, opportunism and evident belief she is above the moral laws of mere humans.

On Tuesday, Wells Fargo fired Guyton, issuing this understated statement: "A single team member was responsible for violating our company policies. As a result, employment of this individual has been terminated."

The house is now on the market, listed for $21.5 million, according to this story in the L.A. Times, which has been following this amorality play.

There's really no point in my commenting further on this story. It speaks for itself.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  September 16, 2009; 11:11 AM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Cheronda Guyton, Tom Hanks, Wells Fargo  
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Next: Report: Fed to Conduct Bank Stress Test for Commercial Real Estate Exposure


I hardly think that this is the worst story of the recession. So she took a summer house she wasn't supposed to and woke up a bunch of rich people. Big deal. Some people have no health insurance or food to eat or a place to live. Food and gas prices are sky-rocketing here in the U.S. at a time when they should be receding thanks to corporate greed. Now Bernie Madoff - There's the worst story of the recession!!

Posted by: caldreaming | September 17, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

excuse me mr. ahrens. if you consider this to be the worst story of this recession, i must state most emphatically that you are at least as out of touch with reality as the u.s. congress and all the rest of those government officials residing at disneyland on the potomic.

my god, man! are you really that above it all that you can't see what's happening to businesses and working americans in every state of the union? your own newspaper is saying that american families, in general, have lost a decade of effort and savings!

Posted by: rogers13 | September 17, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Guyton is certainly guilty of poor judgment in this instance. At the same time, I can’t help seeing her as a victim of circumstance to a large degree. At bottom the story contains two combustible elements - a large bank that received billions of taxpayer dollars in possession of foreclosed home, and a pair of displaced Madoff victims.

In a way, Ms. Guyton's responsibility for her situation parallels the complicity of many if not most of Madoff's victims in their own swindling:

Posted by: sryan212 | September 19, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

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