Friends of Mozilo VIP mortgages for lawmakers
For years, there have been whispers and grumbling surrounding sweetheart mortgage deals given to lawmakers by Countrywide Financial Corp., with Angelo Mozilo at the helm under what has been dubbed the “Friends of Mozilo” VIP program.
After a lengthy investigation, the House Ethics Committee said it has found no ethics violations among House members who were given VIP loans, and while the Committee said nearly all allegations of preferential treatment were granted so long ago, they were not within the Committee’s jurisdiction, they noted that not all recipients got the best loan deal available, and “most” lawmakers were found to be unaware that they were on a VIP list, nor that they got preferential treatment.
The committee has no jurisdiction over actions that may have occurred over six years prior to the current Congress which began back in January 2011.
Questionable emails sent
As part of the investigation, although staff members on the alleged VIP list were unnamed, emails were uncovered that reveal they reached out to Countrywide lobbyists for assistance with their personal mortgages, but again, those particular actions were not recent enough to be within the Committee’s jurisdiction, but had they been, the members would have faced discipline.
Bank of America acquired Countrywide in 2008, and The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s July report revealed that hundreds of discount loans were given by Countrywide to purchase influence with Congressional staff, Congressional members, executives of Fannie Mae, and other top government officials. In this particular report, six members of Congress were named as having received discounts.
Even with inclusion in the VIP program, whether solicited or not, the Committee said there were no ethics violations, as these discounts were commercially available elsewhere.
“They are not the kind of ‘gift’ which would be, in and of itself, outside the realm of reasonable market rates for commercially available loans,” said the statement issued by The Ethics Committee Chairman Jo Bonner (R-AL), and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez (CA).