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Mozilo Goes From Admired to Toxic

Angelo Mozilo
Angelo Mozilo

Angelo Mozilo helped build Countrywide from nothing into a giant and has been lauded over the years as proof of the American dream, at the same time bringing that dream to so many home buyers.

Now he's more toxic than the CDO's in a Norwegian pension fund.

Watching some in Washington distance themselves from Mozilo after he cut them breaks on their mortgages is, well, interesting. I blogged last week thatSen. Kent Conrad,D-ND, had no idea Countrywide was shaving off a point on one re-fi for him, and going outside its own rules to grant him another loan, all at the urging of Mozilo. Sen. Conrad said in a statement, "I never met Angelo Mozilo."

What he didn't mention was that he had talked to Angelo Mozilo over the phone. That came out in a Wall Street Journal interview over the weekend. Sen. Conrad says he spoke with Mozilo by phone after former-Fannie-Mae-chief-now-disgraced-former-Obama-VP-vetter James Johnson put the two in touch. Sen. Conrad still says he had no idea he was getting a break and that other lenders offered terms similar to Countrywide's, but he chose Countrywide. Now he's donating the $10,500 he saved in costs to charity.

Ok, so I guess one can say they've never "met" someone, unless you consider "meeting" someone over the phone as having "met" them. It reminds of the sort of parsing we saw ten years ago over the word "is."

Meantime, I've received an email making the rounds of the real estate world purportedly from a Countrywide VP rallying his troops to get their act together pronto. I cannot vouch for its authenticity. It may be a fake. But it sounds real, given the mood I'm hearing inside the company. The alleged email demands that everyone involved in the mortgage process makes sure all applications are completely filled out--no excuses. Jobs are on the line. The email says it's looking for employees to recapture the standards and practices which made Countrywide a respectable powerhouse in the '80s and '90s. "BofA is mandating that we get this cleaned up..."

Lastly, Countrywide corporate facilities dot the 101 freeway from Calabasas to Thousand Oaks out in California. There was a time when it seemed like new buildings were going up as quickly as home prices. I remember one very large building going up a few years ago west of the main headquarters (near the Las Virgenes offramp for those of you who know the area). Yesterday I noticed a sign on that gleaming structure: Entire building for lease.

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