(AFP) – Jun 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Countrywide Financial, the largest mortgage lender at the center of the US housing crisis, regularly gave loans on favorable terms to prominent lawmakers and former cabinet members, according to US media.
The preferential treatment for senators including Democrat Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a recent presidential candidate, was approved by Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of Countrywide Financial, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
CondeNast Portfolio magazine first broke the story on Wednesday, saying the recipients of the favorable terms were known as "Friends of Angelo" in internal company documents and e-mails.
"Make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator," Mozilo wrote in one e-mail obtained by the magazine, referring to a loan for Kent Conrad, a Democratic lawmaker from North Dakota.
The other officials who allegedly received special attention from Mozilo included President George W. Bush's former housing secretary, Alphonso Jackson, and two senior figures from former president Bill Clinton's administration -- former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke and former Health and Human Services secretary Donna Shalala, the magazine wrote.
Mozilo made no effort to conceal his special favors, Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance Publications, told the Washington Post.
"It was something he handed out like party favors. He was fairly forthcoming with it," Cecala said. "As long as I can remember, he was offering that."
Dodd and Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, denied they had sought out or received any special deals.
"I was never told I was given preferential treatment. I didn't ask for it, didn't seek it, and as far as I know, I didn't get it," Conrad was quoted as saying by the Post.
Dodd, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick, said: "As a United States senator, I would never ask or expect to be treated differently than anyone else refinancing their home."
The reports come shortly after former Fannie Mae chief executive Jim Johnson was forced to resign as an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama following a report in the Wall Street Journal alleging he received favorable treatment on loans from Countrywide.
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