Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

The voices in Angelo Mozilo's head

February 10, 2011: 4:37 PM ET

'A great story to tell'

Think you've got problems? Stop whining. Think for a second what Angelo Mozilo has been through.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission today released more documents and interviews backing the 550-page report it released last month. Among those is a March 2007 email in which Mozilo reminds himself of the points he will make at a board meeting that day.

Mozilo, of course, built Countrywide into the nation's biggest mortgage lender, in part by making loans that were so unsound no one else would bother. These loans made Countrywide look like a profit machine, which it wasn't -- but who cares, that point was lost on almost everyone till Mozilo raked in more than $100 million in stock sale proceeds.

At the time of this email, the market was starting to wake up to the scale of the losses that would swamp the company in the event of a prolonged housing downturn – though few understood the depth of Countrywide's problems, and some fans were still talking up the stock.

Even so, Mozilo shows in the email that his skin is not only orange, it is thin. And it conceals, naturally, a heart of gold.

We have a great story to tell but my guess is that this will be mean spirited political theater in which we will be painted as the bad guy. In fact one of the advocates is bringing in a 77 year old woman who is claiming the she has been duped and abused by Countrywide. We will attempt to bring our the fact that his woman was in foreclosure with another lender and we saved her from foreclosure, consolidated her massive delinquent credit card debt and lowered her overall debt payment by approximately $300 per month. She went ahead and defaulted on our loan and is claiming foul. This is a loan we would make today under the tightest of guidelines and we will do everything possible to get that story out.

Countrywide, with $172 billion in assets, is getting dragged through the mud by, um, a 77-year-old deadbeat? Yes, that is quite a story all right.

Of course, the story the market came to take more interest in was the one about the bad loans and dependence on market borrowing that were pushing Countrywide inexorably toward insolvency.

In the an early sign of the meltdown that was to come, Bank of America (BAC) eventually bought Countrywide for a fifth of its March 2007 price – though it is still paying for that deal, and how, years later.

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About This Author
Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for Fortune.com since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for TheStreet.com, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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