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Rebecca Steele (formerly Mairone) Found Innocent in 2008 Financial Crisis

"Rebecca Steele (formerly Mairone) Found Innocent in 2008 Financial Crisis" 

National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses

(The following is a press release from the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses, copied verbatim. We are so pleased to know Ms. Rebecca Steele a consummate professional. Rebecca's victory is a Victory for all Women!)



You would be hard-pressed to find a person who was not affected by the 2008 Housing Bubble. Millions of Americans watched their homes and life savings fall through their fingers, able to do nothing about it. With its rising mortgages, fluctuating home values and rampant foreclosures, the housing crisis stemmed from a long line of erroneous financial circumstances and was the leading cause of the 2007 American recession.

Despite the fact that the housing bubble's causers and causes are vast and various-from mortgage bankers, underwriters, low short-term interest rates, negligent mortgage guidelines, investment banks and even homebuyers themselves-only one individual was found liable for their part in the 2008 financial crisis. Rebecca Steele.
Steele's indictment was set in motion with the federal government's case against Bank of America's Countrywide for their issuance of unstable mortgages prior to the financial crisis; the accusation came with an additional $1.27 billion penalty for Bank of America. Edward O'Donnell, the whistleblower who received $57 million for his role in exposing the case, and was expected to earn an additional $1.6 million reward upon the case's conclusion, pointed the finger at Steele, the only woman in senior management at Countrywide. 


In October 2013, Rebecca Steele was found responsible for misrepresenting the quality of the loans Countrywide sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during her time as the chief operating officer for the company's lending division. Although she contended she did nothing wrong, she was found liable and fined $1 million by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.
After years and millions of dollars of litigation, a decision has been reached on Bank of America and Rebecca Steele.
This Monday, a three-judge panel within the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found Bank of America's Countrywide not liable for defrauding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with substandard loans, overturning the billion-dollar penalty the federal government sought. This means justice for Steele, who has finally been vindicated and found innocent of knowingly defrauding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The ruling also removes the $1 million fine assigned to Steele by Judge Rakoff.
This is a victory for Rebecca Steele, and for all hardworking professionals who at one point or another find themselves in the crosshairs of situations for which they are not responsible but nevertheless blamed. But it isn't all rose-colored, and in fact, it is necessary to examine the effects and meaning of the federal government's erroneous charge against Rebecca Steele.
In the coverage detailing the case against her, Steele was presented not only as a professional but also as a woman. Article describing her hair color and style of dress reminded readers that the federal government wasn't just charging a chief operational officer, they had found a woman at fault. This is the first issue. Would a man's hair and fashion choices have been discussed if he had been in Steele's position?
News outlets aimed not only to expose the decisions for which Steele was being indicted, they wanted audiences to consider and remember her gender. This could be to sell more newspapers and issues, stir conversations and turn heads, sure. But the subtext is troubling. "It was a woman's fault." "See, women can't lead." "We can't trust women with important decisions." These are all the type of reactions the writers writing about Steele prior to May 23, 2016 evoked, whether or not they would like to accept or admit it. 


Steele was persecuted for something she did not do. She eventually left working at a large bank and has been working as a consultant, dedicating her time and efforts to proving her innocence. She had to sacrifice time, money and career to appeal her case. Steele's credibility and reputation, which not even money can restore, also suffered. And how could it not? She has had to fight to get all of this back. 


Steele stated, "Over the past 3 years, I have been fighting for the truth and justice in this case. There was never any fraud. I am thrilled that the truth has finally come through, and justice has been done. My integrity and ethics have always been, and continue to be, at the forefront of everything that I do."
Now, Steele can move past this case and rebuild her career. But this is easier said than done. The effects of this case on Rebecca Steele are extensive and may never truly be forgotten. We cannot allow ourselves to ignore this fact, and it is one that must be considered when cases of this nature are brought to the forefront. A person's life is nothing to play with.
Even in her victory, Steele continues to be wronged. Most of the releases and articles about the ruling detail Bank of America but overlook her name. She is either absent or offhandedly mentioned. There was no shortage of the name Rebecca Steele when she was being accused; when she was, in the eyes of her accusers, on the wrong side of things. Now, when her name should be spoken of more than ever and associated with innocence, its mentions are few and far between.
Make no mistake; Rebecca Steele is continuing her legacy as a strong leader for women in business. As the Chairwoman for NAWRB's Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC), Steele works diligently to bring C-suite women to the forefront of our industry and increase the number of women in boardrooms and executive offices across the country. With her experience, Steele leads by example, paving the way for the generations of tomorrow.
Often times, including presently, it's women's organizations that champion women's movements and bring women's issues to light. In times of struggle, the outlets and articles that denounce a person are abundant; they seek the coverage, credit, buzz and engagement. When something good happens however, and it's time to right a wrong, those who raise their hand to lead are few. NAWRB is proud to take this lead and congratulate Rebecca Steele on her victory. As a leading voice for women in housing, we will not waver in our support of professional women.