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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September 16, 2009; 11:11 AM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: Cheronda Guyton, Tom Hanks, Wells Fargo
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