US: Credit Market

Countrywide Urged to Split Leadership Roles


Countrywide Financial should name an independent director to serve as chairman, and appoint a special committee to examine the largest U.S. mortgage lender's stock option grants and practices, a prominent shareholder said.

In an Oct. 18 letter to Harley Snyder, Countrywide's lead director, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also said Countrywide should appoint two independent directors and reconstitute its compensation committee to help avoid a repeat of past excesses.

Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's chief executive and co-founder, has been criticized for realizing well over $100 million of gains from exercising stock options in the last year, even as the U.S. housing slump has caused Countrywide's fortunes to plummet.

Last week, CtW Investment Group, a pension fund group affiliated with seven labor unions, called for Mozilo's resignation, published reports said.

Countrywide did not immediately return a request for comment. The company's shareholders in June rejected AFSCME's proposal to give them an advisory vote on setting pay for top executives.