The Countrywide scandal continues:
The Connecticut Senator [Chris Dodd] has been out front denouncing the “companies that form the foundation of our financial markets,” for “their insatiable appetite for risk.” He has also decried “reckless, careless and sometimes unscrupulous actors in the mortgage lending industry” and he has proclaimed that “American taxpayers deserve to know how we arrived at this moment.” To that end, we propose he take the stand — under oath.
Former Countrywide Financial loan officer Robert Feinberg says Mr. Dodd knowingly saved thousands of dollars on his refinancing of two properties in 2003 as part of a special program the California mortgage company had for the influential. He also says he has internal company documents that prove Mr. Dodd knew he was getting preferential treatment as a friend of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s then-CEO.
That a “Friends of Angelo” program existed is not in dispute. It was crucial to the boom that Countrywide enjoyed before its fortunes turned. While most of the company was aggressively lending to risky borrowers and off-loading those mortgages in bulk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Mr. Feinberg’s department was charged with making sure those who could influence Fannie and Freddie’s appetite for risk were sufficiently buttered up. As a Banking Committee bigshot, Mr. Dodd was perfectly placed to be buttered.
In response to the charge that he knew he was getting favors, Mr. Dodd at first issued a strong denial: “This suggestion is outrageous and contrary to my entire career in public service. When my wife and I refinanced our loans in 2003, we did not seek or expect any favorable treatment. Just like millions of other Americans, we shopped around and received competitive rates.” Less than a week later he acknowledged he was part of Countrywide’s VIP program but claimed he thought it was “more of a courtesy.”
Mr. Feinberg, who oversaw “Friends of Angelo” from 2000 to 2004, begs to differ. He told us that as the loan officer in charge he was supposed to make sure that the “VIP” clients knew at every step of the process that they were getting a special deal because they were “Friends of Angelo.”
The story continues with details of how Countrywide made sure its VIP clients knew they were getting a special detail. It concludes:
Mr. Feinberg says he went public with his story because when he heard Senator Dodd on TV talking about predatory lending, he felt it was “hypocritical” and he says, “I just thought, ‘This is wrong.'”
Mr. Dodd hasn’t yet released his copies of the mortgage documents, though he promised to do so more than two months ago. His office told us this week they’d get back to us on that. Meanwhile, presumably the Justice Department can have Mr. Feinberg’s Countrywide documents, if it’s interested.
I, for one, am glad the Democrats have ended the culture of corruption in Washington.
(Via the Corner.)