Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Subprime Disaster's High-Value Targets: The Deck

Card four.

Countrywide was at the center of the subprime meltdown. And Senator Conrad was at the center of enabling them in that role.

Conde Nast ran an investigation of Countrywide "Friends of Angelo" loans, and of Senator Conrad (and Dodd) they concluded:

Perhaps countrywide’s most troubling V.I.P. loans went to Democratic Senators Dodd and Conrad. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd is at the forefront of efforts to remedy the housing crisis. In May, he introduced a foreclosure-rescue bill that would extend up to $300 billion in government-backed loans to struggling borrowers if lenders forgave a portion of their debt. Conrad chairs the taxation subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, which often considers proposals affecting Countrywide, such as tax credits for first-time or low-income homebuyers.

They also gave some of the details:

Senator Conrad borrowed $1.07 million in 2004 to refinance his vacation home with a balcony and large porch in Bethany Beach, Delaware, a block from the ocean. Mozilo instructed a subordinate to “take off 1 point,” or $10,700, according to a March 17, 2004, email.Later that year, Conrad refinanced an eight-unit apartment building that he and his brothers owned in Bismarck, North Dakota. According to the former employee, the loan violated Countrywide’s normal policy of providing loans for buildings of four units or fewer. In an April 23, 2004, email, Mozilo encouraged an employee to “make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator.”

The Wall Street Journal article linked above makes it clear that Conrad personally asked Mozilo for the sweetheart deal over the phone:

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.

Finally, as only he can, Ed Morrissey sums it up this way:

For those who wonder how Countrywide got away with its mismanagement and its bad lending practices to the point of collapse, all we can say is that they had Friends in high places — or in low places, depending on how you look at it. The most ethical Congress ever put the foxes in charge of the henhouse, and it’s the homeowners who will suffer the consequences.

Thanks, Senator.


Card one: Ace of Clubs, Christopher Dodd
Card two: King of Clubs, Charles Schumer
Card three: Queen of Clubs, Jamie Gorelick

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