Report | Countrywide won influence with discounts
WASHINGTON (AP) — The former Countrywide Financial Corp., whose subprime loans helped start the nation’s foreclosure crisis, made hundreds of discount loans to buy influence with members of Congress, congressional staff, top government officials and executives of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, according to a House report.
The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the discounts – from January 1996 to June 2008 – were not only aimed at gaining influence for the company but to help Fannie Mae. Countrywide’s business depended largely on Fannie, which at the time was trying to fend off more government regulation but eventually had to come under government control.
Fannie Mae was responsible for purchasing a large volume of Countrywide’s subprime mortgages. Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America in January 2008, relieving the financial services industry and regulators from the messy task of cleaning up the bankruptcy of a company that was servicing 9 million U.S. home loans worth $1.5 trillion at a time when the nation faced a widening credit crisis, massive foreclosures and an economic downturn.
Among those who received loan discounts from Countrywide, the report said, were:
-Former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.
-Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
-Mary Jane Collipriest, who was communications director for former Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, then a member of the Banking Committee. The report said Dodd referred Collipriest to Countrywide’s VIP unit. Dodd, when commenting on his own loans, has said he was unaware of the discount program.
-Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
-Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., former chairman of the Oversight Committee. Towns issued the first subpoena to Bank of America for Countrywide documents, and current Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed more documents. The committee said that in responding to the Towns subpoena, Bank of America left out documents related to Towns’ loan.
-Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.
-Top staff members of the House Financial Services Committee.
-A staff member of Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, a member of the Financial Services Committee.
-Former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif.
-Former Housing and Urban Development Secretaries Alphonso Jackson and Henry Cisneros; and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. The VIP unit processed Cisneros’ loan after he joined Fannie’s board of directors.
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