CPA Award Lauds Former Citigroup Exec’s Courage
Accounting Faculty Member Sought to Warn Bank Before Credit Meltdown
Feb. 14, 2012
Having the courage to take a stand against his former employer, risking his career and facing the repercussions have earned Naveen Jindal School of Management Accounting Professor Richard Bowen the “CPA of the Year” award from the Dallas CPA Society.
The award comes on the heels of a 60 Minutes news segment that focused on Bowen’s experiences during the run-up to the nation’s credit crisis and examined why large Wall Street banks have not been prosecuted under the Sarbanes-Oxley law.
Bowen, a former vice president at Citigroup, tried to warn the bank’s senior management and directors about the increasing levels of defective mortgages he was seeing.
He testified before a nationally televised congressional Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearing in 2010 that he attempted to warn management about risky mortgages that eventually helped spawn the financial crisis.
The Dallas CPA Society honored Bowen because “he had tremendous courage to stand up for what is right against some very powerful people at one of the largest companies in the world,” said Kendall Helfenbein, member of the Dallas CPA Society Board of Directors.
“One man standing up alone for truth. We should all be proud of Richard for setting the standards we should all strive to duplicate when we are faced with fraud or corruption, even if corporate profits are at risk. Always do what is right regardless of its impact on profits,” Helfenbein said.
Bowen received the award, which is the top award that the CPA Society bestows upon members who have made outstanding contributions, at the organization’s annual meeting held at the Cityplace Conference Center on Jan. 31.
“The reason Dick received this award is because he made choices, and ethics and integrity were the winners. That is exactly what CPAs are charged with doing. He took a big risk, and his reward is that his conscience is clear and he did the right thing,” said Art Agulnek, a UT Dallas accounting professor and Dallas CPA Society Board of Directors treasurer-elect.
Bowen began teaching, initially as an adjunct professor at the Jindal School in spring 2008, bringing 35 years’ experience in banking, including executive positions in finance, credit and information technology.
Before joining UT Dallas, Bowen was a senior vice president and chief business underwriter in the consumer lending division of Citigroup and was responsible for evaluating the quality of $90 billion of mortgages that Citigroup was buying annually from Countrywide and other mortgage lenders. Bowen was in charge of ensuring the mortgages met Citigroup’s policies with no signs of fraud or unqualified borrowers. But in 2006, he discovered that 60 percent of the mortgages he evaluated in his largest channel were defective.
“I started raising those warnings in June of 2006. The volumes increased through 2007 and the rate of defective mortgages increased to an excess of 80 percent,” Bowen told Steve Kroft in an interview that aired on 60 Minutes in December 2011.
“There are things that obviously went on in this crisis and decisions that were made that people need to be accountable for,” Bowen said during the interview.