Michael Winston had a career of distinction in executive positions for over three decades in five Fortune 100 companies across three industries. As global head of leadership and organization strategy he worked closely with C-Suite Officers to develop business models, craft strategies and structure, create cultures and develop leaders.
Serving in executive positions for Motorola, Merrill Lynch, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed and Countrywide, Michael held the senior-most position in the organization in his discipline. Michael was hailed many times by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Thinkers on Leadership in the World.”
As Managing Director and Chief Leadership Officer for Countrywide Financial, Winston hired and led the team that designed, developed and implemented the company’s first-ever organization strategy, development and integration initiatives. As noted by Leadership Excellence Journal; based on Winston’s leadership and the efforts of his team, Countrywide went from being unranked to number eight on a long list of international corporations for being the “Best in Leadership Development.”
Michael Winston served as Global Head, Worldwide Leadership and Organization Development for Merrill Lynch & Co., during one of the most challenging periods in the history of the financial markets…before and after 9/11. He and his team reinvented succession planning and business continuity practices as well as organization integration practices for the Firm.
Previously, Michael spent 11 years at Motorola as VP and Managing Director, Global Leadership and Organization Strategy during the company’s meteoric rise from $6B to over $30B. He was the creator of The Leading Edge, S.W.A.T., Vision, Strategy & Culture and PULSE and Co-Chaired the inaugural 6 Sigma Steering Committee, one of the most benchmarked initiatives in business. Michael was dubbed Motorola’s “Ambassador of Change.”
Michael has also held top strategic human resources positions at McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Corporations during seismic shifts in the industry. At Lockheed Corporation, he reported to the Office of the President. Holding a Top Secret Clearance from the U.S. Government, he worked closely with the world-renown “Skunkworks” and successfully scaled their warp-speed cycle-time and quality initiatives throughout the company.
Winston authored the recently published book World-Class Performance, endorsed by key business executives, leading academics and famed Olympians. He has extensive experience appraising and developing leadership, managing large-scale change and creating succession plans that ensure the vitality of a business. He has also provided strategic guidance to the CEO and executive team on business planning, execution and human capital issues in all regions across the globe.
As a speaker he has addressed executives from several hundred companies and lectured at Harvard, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, INSEAD (France), Management Centre Europe (Belgium). Serving as Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Stichting deBaak (The Netherlands) for 16 years, Michael has delivered many presentations on organizational ethics, change and principled performance. Michael G. Winston was named “Best Instructor” at the University of Illinois and Pepperdine University.
Michael Winston holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, a Master’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame and attended executive programs at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Michael Winston was recruited heavily by Countrywide to help them build a “Goldman Sachs on the Pacific.” He served as Managing Director, Enterprise Chief Leadership Officer from 2005-2008. Michael built the strategy, leadership and culture and tried to stop the fraud, corruption and deception he observed at Countrywide. His warnings were dismissed or ignored by executive management. Instead of being rewarded for doing the right thing, he was punished, isolated, tormented, financially harmed and ultimately dismissed.
He had sought mitigation and reform internally at every level before contacting outside authorities. His offer to help CFC do the right thing prompted endless retaliation. When it was clear no action would be taken, he approached the SEC, Justice Department and District Attorney with evidence of wrongdoing.
Not only did these outside institutions ignore the truth, they actually seemed annoyed by it. Dr. Winston hoped they wouldn’t “kill the messenger.” Little was done. Consequently, he took Countrywide and Bank of America to court to expose their unlawful business practices and extreme retaliation.
Twelve jurors and two alternates listened and watched for nearly one month, hearing about and seeing 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 dangerous conditions of a company building and ratcheting up again in 2006 when he refused to lie on CFC’s behalf to Moody’s Investor Service and also complained about “liar loans” in the sub-prime market. This was done despite extreme executive pressure. After a month-long trial, the jury vindicated him and held BAC/CFC responsible for egregious business, human resources, and health and safety practices. The jury deliberated for 2 ½ days and rendered a decisive verdict.
According to trial judge Bert Glennon Jr., when affirming Winston’s legal victory and denying BAC’s claim after for a Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict, “there was a great deal of evidence that was provided to the jury in making their decision, and they went about it very carefully and took their time. 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.”
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson of the NY Times profiled Michael Winston’s courage and integrity in an article entitled, “How A Whistleblower Conquered Countrywide” and Salon Magazine’s David Dayen profiled Winston’s story in a piece called “Wall-Street’s Greatest Enemy: The Man Who Knows Too Much.”
Dr. Winston’s experiences in confronting Countrywide executives about fraud, market manipulation and insider-trading are highlighted in the television special by Frontline entitled “The Untouchables”.
However, over two years after winning a jury verdict described as “overwhelming” by the trial judge, Michael learned that the jury verdict was “tossed out” by an Appeals Court. There was no new evidence. It was a “cold case.” His winning jury verdict was reversed after a twelve-minute review.
In an Amicus Brief filed with the court, Richard Condit, Chief Legal Counsel for the Government Accountability Project (GAP) wrote that the “state Court of Appeal carved out an exception to the longstanding rule of law leaving matters of credibility, the drawing of inferences, and making judgments concerning the weight of evidence to the jury. Instead, the Court of Appeal nullified the jury’s determinations and substituted its assessment of the record for those of the jury and trial judge.” These words were written by him, and endorsed by GAP in hopes of restoring justice. He continued, “Such a departure from well-established principles of law creates a conflict among the Courts of Appeals and conflicts with the prior rulings of this Court. Respect for the jury’s determinations is the rule in California and likewise the rule in the federal system.”
Prominent California attorney, Cliff Palefsky, went on record saying: “This never happens … it isn’t legal … The appeals court is not supposed to go back and cherry-pick through the evidence the way this court did. And if there is any doubt about a case, they are legally bound to uphold the jury’s verdict.”
Mr. Palefsky knows. He has been in the Best Lawyers in America every year since its 1986 inception.
In May, 2014, famed journalist Yves Smith published an article in Naked Capitalism about Dr. Winston’s case sub-titled, “How an appellate court ran roughshod over bedrock principles of judicial review to reverse a decisive victory by a Countrywide whistleblower.”
This case is important not only to the whistleblower community but the general public as well. The role of the Courts is to enforce the law, not to make it up, twist or contort it. Many have opined that in this case, they ignored the “rule of law.” The Court of Appeals’ decision, especially because it is being so closely watched, also sends a message to would-be whistleblowers that a jury’s verdict can ultimately mean nothing and that even when justice is achieved, it can – with seeming arbitrariness – be taken away.
Michael is a founding member of the Bank Whistleblowers United.
Michael can be reached at Michaelgwinston@gmail.com