Fannie Mae Silence on Taylor Bean Led to $3 Billion Fraud

The first sign of what would ultimately become a $3 billion fraud surfaced Jan. 11, 2000, when Fannie Mae executive Samuel Smith discovered Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. sold him a loan owned by someone else, Bloomberg News’ Tom Schoenberg reports.

Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprise which issues almost half of all mortgage-backed securities, determined over the next two years that more than 200 loans acquired from Taylor Bean were bogus, non-performing or lacked critical components such as mortgage insurance.

That might have been the end of Taylor Bean and its chairman and principal owner, Lee Farkas. He was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to 30 years in prison for orchestrating what prosecutors call one of the “largest bank fraud schemes in this country’s history.”

Instead, it was just the beginning.

Fannie Mae officials never reported the fraud to law enforcement or anyone outside the company. Internal memos, court papers, and public testimony show it sought only to rid itself of liabilities and cut ties with a mortgage firm selling loans “that had no value,” as Smith, the former vice president of Fannie Mae’s single family operations, said in a 2008 deposition.

“If there had been a criminal referral, Farkas would have gone to jail in 2002,” William Black, who served as deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. during the S&L crisis of the 1980s, said in an interview.

Seven more years passed before federal regulators shut down Ocala, Florida-based Taylor Bean and prosecutors charged Farkas with orchestrating the $3 billion scam. He had duped some of the country’s largest financial institutions, sought federal bank bailout funds and contributed to the failures of Montgomery, Alabama-based Colonial Bank and its parent, Colonial BancGroup, once among the nation’s 25 biggest depository banks.

The case is U.S. v. Farkas, 10-cr-00200, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).