Will Countrywide 'VIP Program' details ever be revealed?

If Republican Representative Darrell Issa gets his way, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will issue a subpoena to get the records of Countrywide's "VIP Program," also known as the "Friends of Angelo" program. While Bank of America (BAC) said it's ready to release those records as soon as it gets a subpoena, some key lawmakers on the committee don't appear ready for that themselves.

Potential embarrassment of Congressional leaders most likely is behind their reluctance to investigate the program, which has given some people home loans on attractive terms. Two Democratic Senators, Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad are known to be among them. The Wall Street Journal reports that "Both men, subjects of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, have denied wrongdoing and said they didn't do any favors to Countrywide." Sen. Dodd has said his mortgage was at a market rate and he was not aware of any special treatment.
Issa says investigations have shown that loans also went to influential Republicans, saying "[t]his is a bipartisan problem." Issa believes it's important to know the full details of the preferential program and the politicians who benefited.

In a letter to Bank of America requesting the documents, Issa said, "According to documents obtained by the Committee, when evaluating whether or not to offer preferential treatment to a potentially influential borrower, Countrywide officers openly weighted the value of developing a strategic relationship with that borrower against the cost in dollars that would be forfeited by the company to establish that relationship."

The Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Edolphus Towns, did not co-sign the Issa letter to Bank of America, indicating the investigation of the "VIP Program" is not at the top of his priority list. A vote of the full committee would be needed to issue a subpoena. Right now, that doesn't look like it's going to happen.

If you think it's important to know who benefited from being a friend of former Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo, then write your Congressman and ask that a subpoena be issued requesting Bank of America to release those records. The bank takes the position it cannot release details of the program unless it receives one from a law enforcement body or Congress.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including Reading Financial Reports for Dummies.
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