Heroes come in four varieties, with infinite variations within each category.
Life-long Heroes are individuals who organize their entire lives around taking heroic action in specific domains, against injustice, discrimination, and other evils, aware of personal risks and dangers in doing so. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa are some examples of this special category. I would now add the new Catholic Pope Francis, whose daily deeds of extraordinary kindness, wisdom and generosity of spirit can serve as a model for all religious leaders.
Military Warrior Heroes are soldiers who go above and beyond the call of duty in combat, often risking their lives to save their buddies. Doing so earns them the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Carnegie Foundation identifies and keeps a roll call of these courageous men. Typically however, nations are more likely to honor generals who have been instrumental in winning the war more so than soldiers who died in battle. Historically, we identify famous Greek warriors, such as Agamemnon and Achilles, along with Samurai warriors. In this realm, there is not much place for women, except perhaps Joan of Arc.
Impulsive, Reactionary Heroes act on the spur of the moment in emergency situations to save the life of someone in distress, again doing so with some awareness of the personal risk involved. Often they do so by becoming Upstanders when those around them are passive bystanders who see the same danger and do nothing.
A recent dramatic example is the New York City "super hero" Wesley Autry. This middle-aged African-American construction worker saw a young man fall off the platform on a subway station, his body spread across the tracks. A large group of other passengers also witnessed this tragedy in the making but did nothing. Mr. Autry turned over his two daughters to a nearby stranger and jumped down from the platform to try to save the youth from sure death, aware that subway trains come into each station every few minutes. He pulled the man's unconscious body between the tracks and laid atop him, pressing him down as the train passed over them-- only a half inch above his head. They both survived. When interviewed, this everyday hero modestly said, "I did what anyone could do, and what everyone ought to do."
Pro-active, Cautionary Heroes are individuals who become aware of corruption, malfeasance, or injustice in corporations and institutions and they work to challenge and thereby change it for the better. Often, they take their evidence and complaint to their superiors or those who should be in charge of correcting these problems. They do so aware that as "whistle blowers" they might lose their jobs, not get promoted or even be prosecuted by powerful institutional forces. Lawyer Erin Brockovich is one such famous whistleblower from the past.
Consider this more recent example of Dr. Mark Edwards, a Virginia Tech University professor of engineering who blew the whistle on the political situation that allowed lead toxins into the water supply of residents of Flint, Michigan, and then city and state officials refused to accept the incontrovertible evidence that the brains of many Flint children were being damaged, perhaps permanently by those toxins. Edwards has been a rare success story by helping to bring national media attention, and the federal government, on the scene to take corrective action.
However, there is now a new breed of such heroes who are marshaling the power of the many over the typical ineffectiveness of individual whistleblowers. They are known as BANK WHISTLE BLOWERS UNITED, or BWU. They plan to be heard loud and clear across the nation as they trade in, or trade up, their little whistles for blaring trumpets to sound the alarm of corruption in the highest levels of government and finance.
Consider the alarms about to be sounded by these four impressive men who are exposing the corruption and deception of many people and institutions involved in the 2008 market crash.
William "Bill" Black, is the whistle blower who helped successfully prosecute the S&L scandal of the early nineties as a federal regulator with the now and tellingly non-existent Office of Thrift Supervision. He is leading the charge as the chief architect of BWU's 60-day presidential plan to put the cops back on Wall Street and justice back in the DOJ!
Richard Bowen, another founding member of BWU, brought a tome of evidence of indefensible bundles of unsafe securities to the SEC and FCIC. When the Citi-group brass didn't heed his repeated calls, he was marginalized out of a key position of overseeing the underwriting of what proved to be an endless sea of securitized toxic sludge. Bowen then did the right thing, by turning all his evidence over to the FEDS. Unfortunately, instead of remedying the situation, his evidence was sealed and buried, so that it would be out of public sight. But with WBU's new initiative and, in the face of powerful forces that have always lined up against him since blowing the whistle, his more than 1000 pages of damning evidence will soon see the light of a new day.
Gary Aguirre, a former SEC regulator, had the goods on Pequot Capital Management but, the further up the SEC food chain he went the less upper management wanted to do their job. Gary was dismissed for doing his job too well, but he was later able to prove his termination was not lawful, and on the way he took down PCM.
The final Knight on the board has the most dramatic case of all four whistle blowers. Michael Winston is no stranger to the perils of taking on the behemoths of Wall Street either. For decades Winston was a top executive in several national and international companies. After challenging the corruption at Countrywide Financial Corporation (CFC) and being fired from his senior position when he refused their silencing bribe, Winston successfully won a 3.8 million dollar jury lawsuit against Bank of America (BAC) -- which later took over Countrywide.
Twelve jurors listened and saw proof of more than 80 adverse employment actions taken against Winston by Countrywide over a two-year period, starting immediately after his alert to Cal-OSHA about dangerously toxic conditions of a company building. Those hostile actions were ratcheted up when he refused to lie on CFC's behalf to Moody's Investor Service, and he also openly complained about their "liar loans" in the sub-prime market. After a month-long trial, the jury vindicated him with a decisive verdict, holding BAC/CFC responsible for egregious business, human resources, and health and safety practices. The trial judge, when affirming Winston's legal victory and denying BAC's claim after for a Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict, proclaimed, "As this Court has noted, trial judges have the unique opportunity to consider the evidence in the living courtroom context, while appellate judges see only the cold paper record." The role of all Courts is to enforce the law, not to make it up, twist nor contort it.
Amazingly, that seemingly final decision was later completely overturned by a single appellate court judge with no new evidence -- that is legally unprecedented! Michael has never wavered from his moral stand against the criminally destructive actions of his former employer, Countrywide Mortgage, in their totally deceptive mortgage originating practices.
Together these men have made it known throughout each of their individual careers that they cannot be bought. The truth is worth more than their former employers' hush money -- and they have each paid dearly for it.
They now are pushing their plan into a political world that doesn't necessarily want it. By putting out this plan and placing it out for all to see they are in a unique position to smoke out the people and politicians who aren't really that serious about reforming the system, while at the same time giving the tools to do so to the ones who do want to right the wrongs.
When their full frontal assault takes place soon it won't have the comic relief of the popular movie, The Big Short. It may however, bring a sense of restorative justice to many of the millions of people world-wide who lost their homes, savings and pensions because of the malfeasance of those culprits who played the greed game to their advantage.
Whistles for trumpets indeed!