Sen. Dodd Took Up to Six VIP Countrywide Loans, Says Oversight Committee
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) received up to six sweetheart home loans from Countrywide Financial, even though he has only publicly admitted to accepting two special deals, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The revelations were brought to light by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, raising questions about a previous Senate ethics committee investigation into Dodd’s dealings with Countrywide that just disclosed information about two of the loans.
In 2008, Dodd was accused of accepting two very favorable home loans in 2003 from Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo, through the bank’s “Friends of Angelo” program. The program offered VIP mortgages to “influential” individuals, like Dodd, a five-term senator and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
While Dodd admitted to accepting two favorable home loans from the now-defunct Countrywide, he said he did not believe the dealings were improper or in violation of Senate ethics rules.
But Countrywide loan officer Robert Feinberg said that Dodd knew he was receiving preferential treatment from the bank. “People are referred into that [‘Friends of Angelo’] department as ‘very important people.’ You're told that your loan is priced from Angelo…[the department] has to give them a sense of importance and explain the reduction of fees and the rate as a result of being a ‘Friend of Angelo’,” Feinberg told the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 10, 2008.
After a year-long investigation into Dodd’s acceptance of below market-price home loans, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics dismissed the complaints against Dodd in 2009, saying that there was “no substantial credible evidence” that the senator had violated any ethics rules.
The committee admonished Dodd to use “more vigilance in your dealings with Countrywide in order to avoid the appearance that you were receiving preferential treatment based on your status as Senator.”
However, neither the committee nor Dodd revealed that he had received well more than two preferential loans from the bank.
Investigators on the Senate ethics committee also cleared alleged “Friend of Angelo” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) of any wrongdoing in the same case, despite evidence that the North Dakota Senator and budget committee chairman had also received VIP treatment from Countrywide.
Alana Goodman is NLPC's Capitol Hill Reporter.