Jury orders Wyndham Worldwide to pay $20 million to whistleblower

Thursday, December 1, 2016
Jury orders Wyndham to pay $20 million to whistleblower
There is a major development about a case against a renowned resort company Wyndham Worldwide.

There is a major development about a case against a renowned resort company -- Wyndham Worldwide. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reported about two lawsuits claiming sales people tricked the elderly into buying timeshares. Now, years later -- a jury has reached a verdict.

Michael Finney first reported about this case four years ago. Some elderly customers claimed they were duped into taking out huge loans. Sales people from one office claimed they were trained to deceive, and now, a jaw dropping result.

"The abuse toward the elderly people I feel them, I loved them," said Patricia Williams.

Four years ago Patricia was fired for exposing fraudulent sales of timeshares to the elderly.

"I gotta tell you I'm proud of it now. I'm proud to be a whistleblower," said Patricia.

She just won a wrongful termination lawsuit against the timeshare company, Wyndham Vacation Ownership -- and it is huge. A San Francisco jury ordered Wyndham to pay her $20 million in damages.

"This kind of number sends a message and it says you know this is wrong," said Patricia.

Williams was a sales person at the Wyndham Resort in San Francisco. She says some sales people targeted vulnerable senior citizens, tricking them into taking out credit cards and using them to buy expensive timeshares.

"They pounced on them. A lot of them couldn't hear a lot of them had walkers," said Patricia.

Among them were retired school teachers Donna and Thomas Crook, who told me their story four years ago too. They filed a class action lawsuit claiming they were tricked into buying thousands of dollars in timeshares that plunged them into debt.

"I never really understood what I was signing," said Thomas Crook.

Their case wound up in mandatory arbitration. Results are confidential. Four co-workers joined Patricia's lawsuit but dropped out or settled as the case dragged on. Only Patricia kept going to trial.

"I was stripped of a career I loved, everything I owned I had to pawn or sell at some point," said Patricia.

She also tried to report her fraud allegations to authorities, but no one took action.

"Finally to be able to get in front of 12 jurors and tell them what is happening," said Patricia.

"She was determined to see this through to the end, to see 12 people hear the facts and hopefully have this whole record made public," said lawyer Chris Dolan.

Wyndham said it disagrees with the verdict and is contemplating an appeal telling us:

"The allegations in this case were isolated to a single sales office years ago involving a small group of individuals who are no longer employed by the company, and are wholly inconsistent with both our values and business practices. We operate a robust, highly-developed sales compliance program, including video recordings of the closing process...and a rigorous code of conduct."

Patricia says her ordeal changed her life.

"It ripped out a little piece of my soul, it changed the way I feel about the world and who you can trust," said Patricia.

Many of you may be offered gifts to attend a timeshare sales pitch, experts say don't be pressured into buying. Take someone with you and always have an expert review documents before you sign.