Angelo Mozilo is so f*cked on so many fronts, I'm losing track.
And yet somehow The Orange One still walks the earth a free man.
I'm starting the "Angelo Mozilo Arrest Watch" today. Anyone want to predict how many more days until the cuffs come out?
Follow the money. Follow the money. It leads places that will shock even HP'ers...
The Countrywide Financial sweetheart loan scandal continues to grow, spreading to Senators and other Beltway potentates. We are about to find out if Congress's passion for investigating business ethics extends to conflicts of interest and cash that involve fellow Members.
Take Senator Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat whose office issued a Friday statement saying that "I never met Angelo Mozilo." What he did not say then but admitted under later questioning by a Journal reporter is that, although he may not have had a face-to-face meeting with the Countrywide CEO, Mr. Conrad had called Mr. Mozilo and asked for a loan.
The result was a discounted loan on his million-dollar beach house and a separate commercial loan of a type that residential lender Countrywide did not even offer to other customers, regardless of the rate.
Almost as breathtaking is Senator Conrad's attempt to use a charitable contribution for the estimated amount of any mortgage savings – $10,500 – to make the issue go away. So while the Senator says he did nothing wrong, now that his nonmistake has been discovered he'll nonetheless give away the nonspecial treatment cash. There is ample evidence here to warrant an investigation, including subpoenas for relevant documents.
The same goes for Senator Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), who chairs the very Banking Committee responsible for drafting the laws that govern Countrywide's market. Mr. Dodd is still in denial mode, but so far no one has knocked down the Portfolio.com story that he received discounted loans as part of Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" program.
In the week since the Journal revealed this program, the key questions have become clear: What did Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo receive – or think he would receive – in return for the friendly loans to politicians? And what did Mr. Mozilo get – or think he would get – in return for sweetheart loans to Fannie Mae CEOs Jim Johnson and Franklin Raines? Mr. Conrad says he called Mr. Mozilo at the suggestion of Mr. Johnson, a leading and long-time member of the Democratic Beltway establishment.
The relationship between Countrywide and Fannie Mae goes to the heart of the mortgage crisis. Fannie makes its money by borrowing vast sums at low rates (thanks to an implied taxpayer guarantee on its loans) and then using that cash to buy loans from mortgage originators like Countrywide. Fannie then holds the mortgages and earns interest on them, or pools them into securities for sale to investors.
For the sake of its shareholders and the taxpayers who are ultimately on the hook, Fannie should immediately launch an internal investigation into the terms offered to Countrywide, and exactly what role Messrs. Johnson and Raines played in the negotiation of these terms. Did these men exert any pressure on Fannie employees to do business with Countrywide?
Congress also needs a full accounting of the contacts between Countrywide and the politicians receiving favors from the lender. Did Countrywide ask for and receive assistance from the Friends of Angelo? With Senate Banking Chairman Dodd at the center of the scandal, ranking member Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) will have to lead the inquiry.
Meanwhile, until it is clear how much Countrywide will benefit from Senator Dodd's proposed $300 billion mortgage rescue – and exactly how Mr. Dodd came to do business with Countrywide – Congress should call a halt to legislating bailouts. Taxpayers deserve no less.