U.S. Senate to probe Countrywide loans

June 18, 2008 at 9:58 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) -- Two influential U.S. senators have denied knowledge they were receiving special gifts when Countrywide Financial gave them breaks on their mortgages.

In a conference call, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he had "absolutely no clue," the mortgage company's VIP program waived $2,700 in fees that others would have had to pay, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

In finding loans "at a competitive rate … I did what I was supposed to do," Dodd said.

On Tuesday, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the committee, paid off the $32,000 remaining on his multi-unit mortgage Countrywide loan and gave $10,700 to Habitat for Humanity to account for the breaks he received, the Post reported.

Countrywide, a debt-laden giant mortgage lender involved in the subprime crisis, shaved one point off a loan of more than $1 million to Conrad and financed the purchase of an eight-unit property, although their rules limit such loans to four-unit properties, the Post said.

Countrywide Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo e-mailed his staff the second loan should be approved "because the borrower is a Senator," the Post reported.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the ethics committee, said Tuesday that "a complaint has been filed and we are ... looking at that."

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