Recently, the Justice Department informed former Countrywide Financial chief executive Angelo Mozilo that he was no longer under investigation in connection with civil mortgage fraud. New York Times staffer Gretchen Morgenson takes a look back at the role Countrywide played in the "mortgage meltdown" as well as the effects which still linger today.
While the Justice Department has cleared Mozilo, Countrywide's practices and overcharging of their clients cannot be ignored. The company was vertically integrated to collect fees from clients at every stage and could mark up the cost of its services:
The strategy was intended to increase Countrywide earnings from default-related services during an economic downturn, the commission said. In other words, if profits from home loan originations fell, Countrywide could make up for it by increasing the burden on its most troubled customers. A choice statistic from this case: Countrywide charged some borrowers in foreclosure $300 to mow their lawns.