A year ago, Countrywide Financial Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Angelo R. Mozilo was boasting that the looming shakeout in home prices and hike in mortgage interest rates would usher in a period of remarkable prosperity for his company.
"I have 53 years of experience. . . and this is nothing compared to 25% prime and 17.5% mortgage rates and 10% unemployment," he told a conference of bond investors last September, pooh-poohing the effect of rising rates.
"This is when we shine," he said, calling Calabasas-based Countrywide "an industry leader" and "a role model to others in terms of responsible lending."
Today, the picture looks much different. Countrywide's financial reports and recent comments by Mozilo and other executives show that the company, the nation's largest mortgage lender, has been less a role model in the home-loan market than a prisoner of competitive trends.