Thursday, October 30, 2008

Investigating the Friends of Angelo Mortgage Program At Countrywide

This investigation should have been underway months ago as it was evident that Countrywide Home Mortgages was throwing all kinds of perks to certain politicians that had the appearance of greasing the wheels and benefitting the company. I guess we should be thankful that it's underway now, although the results wont be available until well after the election next week.
"The Justice Department is making very serious inquiry into any possible wrongdoing that may involve (former Countrywide CEO) Anthony Mozilo, other Countrywide employees, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kent Conrad, (former Fannie Mae CEO) Franklin Raines or other public officials," said Feinberg's lawyer, Anthony Salvano. "Robert has always cooperated thoroughly with authorities and is strictly a witness in their investigation."

'Friends of Angelo's'
Salvano said the prosecutors and FBI agents seemed focused on whether the preferential treatment given to V.I.P. customers was part of an effort by Countrywide to buy influence - as well as on the conduct of each public official who received a mortgage from Countrywide.

Feinberg says that Countrywide's clients in this program were known by a nickname.

"We called them F.O.A.'s," Feinberg told NBC News, "which were Friends of Angelo's."

"Angelo" is Countrywide's then-CEO, Angelo Mozilo, who once called an ordinary borrower's plea for help on his mortgage payments, "disgusting."
Among those who are looking at having to answer tough questions? Senators Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad. What's missing? Their party affiliation. They're both Democrats.
Feinberg's client list also runs the gamut. Among those benefitting from the VIP program were four former Cabinet members spanning Democratic and Republican administrations: Henry Cisneros, Richard Holbrooke, Alphonso Jackson, and Donna Shalala. Two former CEO's of Fannie Mae, James Johnson and Franklin Raines, heads of the government-sponsored entity which bought Countrywide's mortgages - also received VIP mortgages from Countrywide.
Those named indeed spanned both Democrat and Republican administrations, but let's be clear who's affiliated with which parties.

Henry Cisneros: Democrat (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1993 through 1997 for the Clinton Administration; Cisneros entered a plea deal for lying to the FBI, and was fined $10,000; later pardoned by President Clinton)
Richard Holbrooke: Democrat (was in Clinton Administration in various capacities and worked for the Kerry campaign in 2004)
Alphonso Jackson: Republican (named to HUD by President Bush)
Donna Shalala: Democrat (Secretary of Health and Human Services for President Clinton from 1993 through 2001).

Was it really that difficult to point out the party affiliations here? Nope. It does offer up some clarity though. Countrywide was trying to influence the decision making process, and more Democrats than Republicans were involved. That's an issue that simply not in doubt. The media simply obfuscates the issue by not reporting as such, or conflating all those involved in one big jumble without noting that the key players involved were Democrats.

Senator Dodd continues to claim ignorance as to what the VIP/Friends of Angelo meant to the bottom line of his loans with Countrywide. That's simply not believable given that he knew, or should have known, what mortgage rates were and how his rates and fees differed from those of prime borrowers as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. If he doesn't know those basic pieces of information, that brings up the question of his competence as the chairman of that committee, whose function includes oversight over the banking and finance industries.

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