Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of Countrywide Financial, wants everybody to stop being so mad at Angelo Mozilo.
Mozilo recently took a break from golfing and tanning to respond to reports the U.S. government plans to sue him over bad mortgages his company sold before the financial crisis. Frankly, he doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
“You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’” he said to Bloomberg reporter Max Abelson, expressing amazement that people might want to sue him or anybody from the now-defunct mortgage machine Countrywide Financial. Countrywide was once America's biggest mortgage company -- and one of its biggest sources of toxic mortgages, cranking out $41 billion in subprime loans in 2006 alone, at the peak of the housing bubble.
Since the crisis, Mozilo has expressed nothing but pride in Countrywide, which Bank of America bought in 2008. Mozilo has declared he has "no regrets" about anything he or Countrywide did. And why should he? Until now he has barely been bothered by the financial crisis, aside from ponying up a $67.5 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that he misled investors about the risks piling up at Countrywide before the collapse.
“There is no sound or fair basis, in law or fact, to pursue any claim” against Mozilo, his lawyer, Los Angeles attorney David Siegel, has said in statements sent to many news outlets. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here, in no particular order, are five of the most amazing things in Abelson's thoroughly amazing interview, which you should read in its entirety:
1. Angelo Mozilo talks about himself in the third person. A lot. “No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” he told Abelson when asked about his role in the financial crisis. “Countrywide or Mozilo didn’t cause any of that.”
2. Angelo Mozilo hands out money on the street. A friend told Abelson that Mozilo "gives a $5 bill to each homeless person he sees on New York’s Fifth Avenue" whenever he's in town. (He currently lives in a 12,692-square-foot house in Santa Barbara).
3. Angelo Mozilo thinks he's Jeff Bezos, basically. Mozilo told Abelson that Countrywide was basically Amazon.com. Both were "the biggest in their space," which is apparently the only thing Mozilo thinks makes people mad about Countrywide. "What’s wrong with that?” he asked. “Should Amazon be condemned for being the biggest in their space?”
4. Angelo Mozilo maybe has no memory of the past decade. “Go back and you’ll see that Countrywide was one of the most admired companies in the country,” he told Abelson, referring to approximately the year 2003 -- when, yes, people did nothing but praise Countrywide and Mozilo. That was before Countrywide's billions in toxic mortgages. That was before Bank of America bought Countrywide in the middle of that crisis, starting a legal nightmare that recently ended with a record-breaking $17 billion settlement with the U.S. government over bad mortgages, most of which were Countrywide's.
5. Angelo Mozilo has a college building in Italy named after him. The Mozilo Center, "overlooking a 16th-century Medici garden" in Florence, is home to Gonzaga University's Italian branch, Abelson wrote. Mozilo recently spent a couple of weeks there, teaching students "the basics of finance based on my own experiences." I'd love to see the notes from that.