U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) attempted to deflect any hint of wrongdoing a few days ago over the Countrywide “sweetheart” loans he received by releasing some documents that said, hey…my judgment wasn’t all that bad, I just made a political boo-boo:
We did not seek or expect any special rates or terms on our loans,” said Dodd, who was joined by his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, at a tense press conference in his Hartford offices. For a story that Dodd last July said “there ain’t much to,” Monday marked another curious, bizarre chapter.
There’s actually a whole lot to this, thanks to the senator’s stalling.
We waited seven months for Dodd to say largely the same things he said last June, when Portfolio magazine broke the story about politicians getting special treatment from Countrywide.
The Dodds met with the media for 25 minutes and then allowed us to look at — but not copy — mundane loan documents and communications with Countrywide, including an independent review of the loans that Dodd commissioned last July and internal Countrywide documents marked with “VIP” and “FOA,” for the “friends” of CEO Angelo Mozilo who were taken care of.
We learned that Jackie Clegg Dodd, a former executive with the Export-Import Bank of the United States, handled the loan negotiations, and that when she asked what “VIP” meant, she was told it was only “enhanced customer service.” And we learned that when Dodd was publicly saying there was nothing there last summer, he hired a firm do an independent analysis of the loans. And then said nothing for another six months.
We did not learn why it took months for Dodd to sit down and talk publicly in detail about these apparently benign loans and why he resisted demands from newspapers, magazines, television personalities and citizens of Connecticut that he just come clean.~~~
If the Dodds, indeed, only negotiated loans “widely available in the market when we refinanced” and that they had no idea they were on the special “Friends of Angelo” list and that they thought being an official “VIP” meant only a friendly voice on the telephone, what on earth have the last 192 days been about?
I called Robert Feinberg, the former Countrywide executive who blew the whistle on Dodd last summer, but he declined to speak on the record. What he said to me last October is still relevant.
Dodd “got the best of the best,” Feinberg told me in the fall, saying that the deal would have saved the Dodds about $77,000 over the life of the loan. It means, for example, that Dodd got a free-of-charge “floatdown” to a better interest rate and that he paid no points.
“There isn’t one person that was in my pipeline during that four and a half years that didn’t know they were getting VIP service,” Feinberg said.
We must all remember that Countrywide was a big part of the subprime mortgage collapse and that Dodd was a member of the Senate Banking Committee at the time he received these loans. A pretty powerful person to give a sweetheart deal. Of course, he and his wife didn’t understand what the VIP service was [/sarcasm]
Executives at Countrywide, on the other hand, clearly intended to give the Dodds a good deal. The couple were told they qualified for the company’s “VIP” program. Documents for both loans were scrawled with the letters “FOA,” a reference to Friends of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s chief executive at the time.
Countrywide wasn’t handing money to the Dodds. But the waived fees and free “float-down” to very favorable interest rates made for an extraordinarily attractive package that was designed for a select and influential few.
And still the MSM doesn’t care. No R beside his name so it’s all good.