The People Vs. Federal Bank Settlements And Liquidity Rules

Last week, in an interview with Bloomberg News, former Countrywide CEO, Angelo Mozilo gave the nation the middle finger. He expressed zero remorse or culpability for his very personal (and personally lucrative) role in the subprime crisis that catalyzed a global economic recession. Apparently baffled by a potential lawsuit that could be levied by the Los Angeles US Attorney’s Office, he said, ““Countrywide didn’t change. I didn’t change. The world changed.” After blaming the world, he ended his segment by stating, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

To him, the culprit was the real estate collapse itself.  The same excuse was used by Big Six bank CEOs before multiple Congressional hearings and business news hosts. “OMG, how could we have known prices could GO DOWN?” By placing the blame on the ‘market’, they spun their actions as reactive or ancillary to its apparently random whims, as opposed to proactive on practices leading to crisis events.

The more temporal distance from those events and airtime given to the bankers that inflated the market before crashing it, and Treasury Secretaries that did ‘what they had to do’ in an emergency, the more the Mozillian narrative is cemented in the main annals of history and the plight of the public is rendered a footnote.  Yet, it was not just the loans themselves, but more so, the immense and profitable re-packaging and global re-distribution of those loans in a pyramid of toxic assets wrapped with credit derivatives that blew up in the face of the nation and the world, The economic implosion that followed ignited by the weight of such epic fraud and CEO directed salesmanship, impacted initial borrowers with conditions beyond their control, on top of initial fraud and voracious pushing of those loans to begin with. Thus, banks concocted $14 trillion worth of assets using $1.5 trillion of high-interest loans, compounding and adding to each bit of fraud, instability and risk along the way.

Forbes ranked Mozillo one of the top ten highest paid CEOs in 2006. By 2009, the SEC charged him with fraud for lying about the quality of the loans he sold to Bank of America and insider trading for pocketing $140 million from selling his stock when he knew those loans, and his company, were crumbling. He wound up paying a $22.5 million fine to settle the charge of misleading investors and $45 million for the insider trading charge – leaving him a cool $72.5 million.

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