Angelo Mozilo Has No Idea Why People Still Want To Talk About Countrywide, He’s Yet To Be Inducted Into The CEO Hall Of FameBy Bess Levin
In June 2008, at the last Countrywide shareholder meeting after the company had been bought by Bank of America, founder Angelo Mozilo made a bold statement, telling those assembled, “[Bank of America] will reap the benefits of what we have sowed.” While one might quibble over the definition of the word “benefit,” the bank was unquestionably on the reaping end of what Mozilo and Co had sowed, namely a lot of predatory lending and mortgage messiness that ultimately grew and blossomed into approximately $71 billion worth of fines and BofA CEO Brian Moynihan’s near-nervous breakdown. Though mum when Bank of America was writing checks to resolve issues it inherited from CFC, Mozilo did deign to pick up the phone and chat with Bloomberg last week, following the news that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles intends to sue him over the not-so-great job he did. And thank god he did, because there is a lot we needed to be filled in on re: what Ang has been doing/thinking/feeling these last 6 years.
- Like, his plans to build an old-timey Western town: “…a project in Templeton, a small Southern California town where he’s requested permits to build a two-story retail and office building on a vacant lot. Architectural sketches show a style suited for a quaint Western main street. ‘It’s a throwback to a century ago,’ Mozilo said. ‘I love America. I love everything about America.'”
- His belief in, if not consumption of, Taco Bell: “One investment is a stake in a building that houses a Taco Bell outside Phoenix. Mozilo said he hasn’t eaten there because he stays away from chicken and beef.“
- His work giving the next generation a crash course in Finance 101: Mozilo Style: “Mozilo decided to teach undergraduates what he knows about finance last year. The former trustee of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, said he spent about two weeks in Italy at Gonzaga-in-Florence, housed in the Mozilo Center overlooking a 16th-century Medici garden. ‘I taught them the basics of finance based on my own experiences,’ he said. ‘I really enjoyed being among them. It was very refreshing for me.'”
The most interesting development, however, is probably his newfound penchant for speaking in the third person when denying any and all blame re: what went down at Countrywide. In short, Mozilo thinks those pointing fingers should go home and take a good look in the mirror.
“You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’” he said in a 30-minute call with Bloomberg News before Labor Day, one of his few interviews since the firm’s downfall. “Countrywide didn’t change. I didn’t change. The world changed.” [...] He remains a defender of Countrywide, even after Bank of America Corp., which bought it in 2008, agreed last month to pay more than $16 billion to end probes into mortgage-bond sales on top of about $55 billion in fines that came before. Mozilo doesn’t understand why he and his firm, blamed by lawmakers and authorities for lax underwriting and predatory lending, have been seen as villains. “No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that a real estate collapse was the root of the crisis. “Countrywide or Mozilo didn’t cause any of that.” [...] “Go back and you’ll see that Countrywide was one of the most admired companies in the country,” he said. Mozilo added that he has “no idea” why the government is going after him again. “It’s unfortunate, but I try to make the best of it.”
Unrelated, if any Gonzaga students will be in Italy next semester, please do not wait to register for Mozilo’s Predatory Lending 201 class, as seats will fill up quickly.
Angelo Mozilo Speaks: No Regrets at Countrywide [Bloomberg]