Inquiring minds are looking once more at how crime DOES indeed pay. Anthony Mozilo, the crooked former CEO of now-defunct Countrywide Mortgage will keep nearly all of his ill gotten fortune:
The former head of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial was once among America’s best-paid CEOs. But on Friday, he agreed to settle fraud charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that will see him pay a record $67.5 million fine — the highest ever for an executive of a public company.
The son of a Bronx butcher who embodied a rags-to-riches success story, Mozilo became the burned face of the mortgage meltdown when the subprime crisis surfaced in 2007.
Mozilo was dubbed “Tangelo” by the business media because of his rich tan. He also sported a flamboyant wardrobe and earned a reputation for aggressive risk-taking as he built Countrywide Financial into the top U.S. home lender.
In just one year (2007) he made almost twice the fined amount:
In 2007, Mozilo took in $121.5 million from exercising Countrywide stock options and was awarded another $22.1 million of compensation.
Forbes magazine in 2006 ranked Mozilo the 10th highest paid chief executive, with total compensation of $68.95 million.
But Mozilo lost his aura as Countrywide Financial’s role in the subprime mortgage crisis was exposed.
Got that? In 2007 he made almost $150 million in compensation. However, the profits for the company in that timeframe were an illusion:
And U.S. regulators accused Mozilo of making more than $139 million in profits in 2006 and 2007 by exercising 5.1 million Countrywide stock options and selling the underlying shares.
The sales were under four prearranged stock trading plans Mozilo prepared during the period, the SEC said in the lawsuit.
Mozilo also took heat for what was known inside Countrywide as the “Friends of Angelo” loan program, which granted favorable mortgages to political officials and others including former CEOs of housing finance giant Fannie Mae.
But even at the height of the crisis, Mozilo did his best to deflect blame.
In 2008, with the housing market in a shambles, he told executives at a mortgage bankers’ conference, “You’ve got to be careful here about blaming ourselves too much.”
The real culprits, he argued, were the Federal Reserve raising interest rates for too long, crooked real estate speculators, falling housing prices and regulators’ attacks on interest-only and other risky subprime mortgages.
A country has major problems when it can not protect itself. We haven’t been protecting our boarders from illegal aliens or terrorists. And we seen once again that we refuse to protect ourselves from criminals.
This just shows how upside down this country’s thinking has become.
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