It's an OP-ED but the gist is still the same....big donors get bigger breaks and return on their money no matter what letter is after the name.
More article...less opinionCountrywide Financial Corp.'s "friends of Angelo" program provided sweetheart loans to key banking players in Washington, D.C. They included former Fannie Mae chief executive Jim Johnson, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.).
The growing scandal surrounding the "friends of Angelo" loans (so-called by company employees, referring to Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo) should serve as a political wake-up call. Yet the Senate appears intent on pushing forward legislation, co-authored by Sen. Dodd, that would bail out the worst actors in the subprime mortgage banking industry.
Campaigning in Lancaster, Pa., on March 31, Sen. Barack Obama blamed Countrywide's CEO for "infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis." Yet Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) and Mr. Dodd have crafted a bill to provide $300 billion in new taxpayer loan guarantees to Countrywide and others. The bill will allow troubled financial institutions to foist the riskiest mortgages in their portfolios onto the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) -- ultimately putting the American taxpayer on the hook for their bad bets.
Right now, nearly a third of Countrywide's mortgage portfolio is composed of an especially chancy loan called a "payment-option ARM." Also known as negative-amortization loans, payment-option ARMs allow borrowers to pay less than the interest owed each month, with the shortfall added to the principal balance. At set intervals the loans are recalculated, or recast, to be fully amortizing. The new payments -- based on current interest rates and a higher balance -- rise dramatically.
Hundreds of thousands of payment-option ARMs are scheduled to recast next spring, which everyone expects to cause a wave of delinquencies. The Dodd-Frank plan would allow Countrywide and others to cherry-pick their worst loans and roll them over to the FHA. The bill has been advanced in the name of homeowners, but it's all too clear who is being rescued.
The FHA cannot handle a Dodd-Frank wave of $300 billion "in-distress" loans. The loan volume alone will nearly double the size of the FHA. Yet last week the agency, floundering under its existing portfolio, announced $4.6 billion in new losses. These losses destroy 22% of the FHA's entire capital reserves and raise doubts about the agency's solvency.
On June 9, FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery told reporters that he opposes the Dodd-Frank approach, saying that the FHA "is not designed to become the federal lender of last resort, a mega-agency to subsidize bad loans." Last week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that banks will use the program to offload their "highest-risk loans" to the taxpayer, and that a stunning 35% of all of the loans refinanced through Dodd-Frank will eventually default on the FHA.
Unsurprisingly, Countrywide executives have testified in support of expanded FHA refinancing. The company itself is a longtime and significant contributor to Messrs. Dodd and Frank. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics' opensecrets.org, Mr. Dodd raised more than $6.3 million this election cycle -- 76% of his total war chest -- from banks, finance and real estate companies.
As for Republicans, most members of the Senate Banking Committee voted for the Dodd-Frank bill in exchange for reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The reforms, part of a deal brokered by Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), create a new regulator to establish tougher standards for the portfolio holdings of Freddie and Fannie.
While both of these agencies are in dire need of reform, this deal is still a mistake. By foisting this compromise on their Republican colleagues, Democrats are holding the reform of Fannie and Freddie hostage in order to increase bipartisan support for a bailout of reckless mortgage lenders.
Moreover, the bill creates a new tax that will create a permanent "affordable housing trust fund" -- a $500 million per-year slush fund designed to funnel money to left-wing activist groups like Acorn. Freddie and Fannie must pay into this fund even if they are not profitable, compromising their already overextended capital base.
In a free market, businesses take risks and reap either profits or losses. But markets only work when businesses are held accountable for their bad decisions. The message this proposed legislation sends to the market is clear: Big lenders like Countrywide who make bad bets can count on generous bailouts -- and responsible renters, homeowners and taxpayers who pay their bills on time can count on getting stuck with the tab.
Two U.S. senators, two former Cabinet members, and a former ambassador to the United Nations received loans from Countrywide Financial through a little-known program that waived points, lender fees, and company borrowing rules for prominent people.
Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, refinanced properties through Countrywide?s ?V.I.P.? program in 2003 and 2004, according to company documents and emails and a former employee familiar with the loans.
Other participants in the V.I.P. program included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. Jackson was deputy H.U.D. secretary in the Bush administration when he received the loans in 2003. Shalala, who received two loans in 2002, had by then left the Clinton administration for her current position as president of the University of Miami. She is scheduled to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 19.