U.S. Wants To Add $1.23 Billion To Bank Of America’s Tab For Countrywide Scam



Back in October, a federal jury found Bank of America liable for a Countrywide Financial program that deliberately sold piles of worthless loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the housing bubble went kaflooey. At the time, prosecutors had only sought $864 million in penalties, but now the Justice Dept. claims that number should be $2.1 billion.

The subject of the government’s lawsuit was a former Countrywide program dubbed the High Speed Swim Lane (better known as the “Hustle”), which removed many of the existing roadblocks and safety checks of the loan underwriting process in order to approve as many home loans as possible in a short period of time. The DOJ alleged that Countrywide’s motive for the Hustle was to issue these loans then quickly sell them off to Fannie and Freddie without disclosing that some of the mortgages weren’t worth their value in Monopoly money, let alone U.S. currency.

The original estimate of $864 million presented by the feds was an estimate of actual losses taken by Fannie and Freddie on these toxic loans. But then the judge in the case asked the DOJ to think about its penalty request not in terms of loss, but in terms of Countrywide’s ill-gotten gains.

Reuters reports that during the trial, the DOJ’s evidence showed the Countrywide only made a profit of $165.2 million from these loans, but the number presented in yesterday’s court filing bases the $2.1 billion number on the failed lender’s gross gains rather than the net.

The DOJ, which has not exactly been bullish about seeking maximum penalties from the nation’s largest banks and its executives, is asking the court for the higher amount “punish defendants for their culpability and bad faith, and to deter financial institutions and their executives who would engage in similar fraudulent mortgage schemes.”

Yesterday’s filing also seeks a $1.1 million penalty against former Countrywide exec Rebecca Mairone, accused of running the Hustle program for Countrywide. Hopefully she’ll be able to afford it, as she later moved on to work for JPMorgan Chase to run its foreclosure review department.

Bank of America continues to deny its liability in this matter, saying the Hustle was over and done with before it swooped in to save the collapsing Countrywide — a move that has already cost BofA at least $40 billion in penalties, settlements, loan adjustments, and legal fees. The bank has previously said it would consider appealing the jury’s finding.

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