US suit alleges 'brazen' fraud at Countrywide
Taxpayers have spent $170 billion to keep Fannie and Freddie afloat, and it could cost $260 billion more to support the companies through 2014 after subtracting dividend payments to taxpayers, according to the government.
The lawsuit says that Fannie and Freddie suffered $1 billion in losses because they had to pay for Countrywide’s defaulted loans. The lawsuit also complains that Bank of America is refusing to buy back mortgages ‘‘even where the loans admittedly contained material defects or even fraudulent misrepresentations.’’
Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide originally earned it plaudits from lawmakers because Bank of America was viewed as stepping in to eliminate a bad actor from the mortgage market.
But the purchase, instead of padding Bank of America’s mortgage business, has drawn a drumbeat of regulatory fines, lawsuits and losses.
Bank of America reported last week that while it is issuing more mortgages — $21 billion worth last quarter, up 18 percent from a year earlier — its mortgage unit is still losing money as the bank works through crisis-era problems.
For at least two years, Bank of America and other banks have been sifting through so-called repurchase demands from Fannie, Freddie and other investors who bought its mortgages. The repurchase demands contend that the bank should buy back mortgages that have since gone bad.
Bank of America has bought back mortgages from investors but has also said it’s not going to honor demands unless they’re valid, and won’t buy back loans that went bad simply because of the bad economy.
In 2010, Countrywide’s former CEO, Angelo Mozilo, agreed to pay $67.5 million to settle the Securities and Exchange Commission’s accusations that he had misled investors and engaged in insider trading.
He was also permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company. In 2011, federal prosecutors shelved a criminal investigation of Mozilo, saying his actions did not amount to criminal wrongdoing.
Bank of America had planned to put Countrywide’s president, David Sambol, in charge of the mortgage unit, but reversed course before it bought Countrywide. At the time, Bank of America said it wanted one of its own to run the unit because of how much was at stake.
In the past year and a half, Bharara’s office has settled lawsuits against CitiMortgage, Flagstar Bank and Deutsche Bank over mortgages. Its lawsuits against Wells Fargo and Allied Home Mortgage are pending.