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House panel seeks Mozilo’s testimony
Probe eyes ex-CEO’s ‘VIP’ mortgages
House investigators want to interview Angelo Mozilo, the former Countrywide Financial Corp. chief executive whose VIP program gave discounted mortgages to member of Congress, other government officials and influential people who could help the company.
Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been investigating the VIP operation to learn who received special deals from the program known internally as "Friends of Angelo."
Mr. Issa's letter, dated Tuesday and obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, was sent to Mr. Mozilo's attorney, David Siegel, in Los Angeles. Mr. Siegel did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
Mr. Issa's investigation so far has identified four current House members whose loans went through the VIP program: Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, California Republican, who has major influence over defense matters as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep. Elton Gallegly, California Republican; and Rep. Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat and Mr. Issa's predecessor as committee chairman.
In addition, it previously was revealed that former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, had VIP loans. The Senate's ethics committee cleared them in 2009 of any rules violations, but said they should have exercised better judgment.
All the lawmakers have said they did nothing wrong, and some said they weren't even aware their loans went through the VIP program.
Countrywide was the nation's largest mortgage lender, and its subprime loans help trigger the mortgage-foreclosure crisis. The company was purchased by Bank of America in 2008, and the current owner has been supplying documents to Mr. Issa's committee.
Mr. Issa's letter to Mr. Mozilo's attorney said, "Documents obtained by the committee show that former Countrywide Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo personally referred government officials and other individuals positioned to benefit the company into the VIP program, known internally as 'Friends of Angelo.'
"Friends of Angelo received discounted loans and other preferential treatment from Countrywide."
In October 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Mr. Mozilo would pay a record $22.5 million penalty to settle SEC charges that he and two other former Countrywide executives misled investors as the subprime-mortgage crisis emerged. The settlement also permanently barred Mr. Mozilo from ever again serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company.
Mr. Mozilo also agreed to repay $45 million in ill-gotten gains for a total of $67.5 million.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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