Lisa Myers & Amna Nawaz
October 30, 2008
The wide-ranging criminal investigation into wrongdoing at Countrywide – once the nation’s largest mortgage originator – now includes serious scrutiny of a loan program that provided special mortgage deals to the well-connected and powerful, including two U.S. senators.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
NBC News has learned that Robert Feinberg – a former Countrywide loan officer who handled what were known as the “VIP” mortgages – spent six hours last Thursday with a six-person team from the Justice Department. The team included prosecutors from the Public Integrity section, which handles investigations of possible public corruption.
“The Justice Department is making very serious inquiry into any possible wrongdoing that may involve (former Countrywide CEO) Angelo Mozilo, other Countrywide employees, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kent Conrad, (former Fannie Mae CEO) Franklin Raines or other public officials,” said Feinberg’s lawyer, Anthony Salerno. “Robert has always cooperated thoroughly with authorities and is strictly a witness in their investigation.”
‘Friends of Angelo’s’ Salerno said the prosecutors and FBI agents seemed focused on whether the preferential treatment given to VIP customers was part of an effort by Countrywide to buy influence – as well as on the conduct of each public official who received a mortgage from Countrywide.
Feinberg says that Countrywide’s clients in this program were known by a nickname.
“We called them F.O.A.’s,” Feinberg told NBC News, “which were Friends of Angelo’s.”
“Angelo” is Countrywide’s then-CEO, Angelo Mozilo, who once called an ordinary borrower’s plea for help on his mortgage payments, “disgusting.”
But Mozilo seemed to have a different attitude toward people of influence. In fact, Feinberg says part of his job was to hammer home to the VIP clients that they were getting special deals.